Football season is officially upon us. If you've been looking for an excuse to crack one open, there it is.
Now, let's get right into the six-pack.
1. Jack Miller vs. Tyson Fernandez
Every last Michigan offensive lineman will be under the microscope Saturday, but this battle is the biggest of them all. Doug Nussmeier will look to establish some sort of rushing attack, and Miller has to seal off Fernandez in order for that to happen. Appalachian State runs the 3-4, meaning Fernandez is responsible for taking on two lineman to let the middle linebackers chase the ball. He's huge, coming in at 6'2", 330 pounds, so Miller is going to need help.
An outright win here is highly unlikely, which is where the zone kicks in..
2. Inside Zone vs. The 3-4
As previously stated, Appalachian state runs a base 3-4, requiring its front three to occupy blockers and hold the line of scrimmage, thus allowing the linebackers to flow and take down Derrick Green, DeVeon Smith and company. Miller will lead the attack, but it's up to the rest of the line to help seal off the world-eaters before taking off for the linebackers.
Don't expect too many gashing runs, if any. That said, this is an awesome opportunity for the line to work on combination blocking massive human beings and scraping off on linebackers. The downside? Michigan won't see much of the 3-4 front after Appalachian State leaves the building.
3. Michigan's Front Seven vs. An Experienced Appalachian Offensive Line
Appalachian State's offensive line is quite the experienced unit, making them a formidable unit for a low-end FBS team and a proper initial measuring stick for the Michigan front seven. Will the unit live up to the hype? They'll need to shut down the opposition's rushing attack and get more consistent pressure if we're to believe all of the talk coming out of camp.
This all starts with the defensive tackles. Ryan Glasgow will get the nod at nose tackle over former five-star Ondre Pipkins, but PIp and true freshman Bryan Mone will see their fair share of reps. Michigan would like to see a bit of dominance here, regardless of who plays.
The same goes for senior defensive ends Frank Clark and Brennen Beyer. Both have been good but not great in their own ways, but can either one of them show great progress straight out of the gates? The Frank Clark hype train has been building momentum throughout spring and fall practices, so a no-show would be a huge disappointment.
And what about the linebackers? We're all looking forward to seeing Jake Ryan on the field more often, but will he look comfortable? Appalachian State is going to do its best to take the group out of the game by stretching the field in all directions; don't expect to see a Big Ten battle between Joe Bolden and a fullback.
4. Devin Gardner vs. The Ghost of 2013 Devin Gardner
There shouldn't be too much pressure on Gardner to perform like an All Big-Ten passer in this contest. We also said the same thing about the opener last year, and he promptly came out and threw an interception. We would like to see him not throw an interception. Again, this comes back to positive quotes coming out of camp, which lead us to believe that DG is an improved decision maker. We'll believe it when we see it, which will hopefully be this Saturday.
5. Devin Funchess vs. Mere Humans
Okay, Michigan is going to win this battle by a wide margin, but it will be fun to see just how wide that margin is. Hoke stated publicly that he thinks Funchess is bound to prove his elite status at the position, and Nussmeier is always saying that he wants to throw the ball over the top of defenses. Well, you've got a 6'4" burner capable of making ridiculous grabs and jumping over tacklers, so it's time to make the defense-stretching game plan a reality.
6. ESPN vs. Replays of The Horror
You knew this was coming. You braced for it and assumed that it wouldn't hurt as much, but it's going to freaking hurt. Don't play a drinking game based on how many times The Horror is brought up, because the alcohol will win and you'll end up spewing chunks all over your television. Don't end up spewing chunks all over your television.
I'll be honest in this BONUS section and admit that I'm not exactly a beer aficionado, although I'm not exactly a Heineken fan, either. I promise to expand my brewing horizons and give you more on what you want to hear about.
I'm going with a classic in Founders' Dirty Bastard this week, and will be stocking up on their Breakfast Stout as well.
Drink up. Go blue.