Who: Miami (OH) RedHawks (0-2)
Time: 3:30 ET (BTN)
Date: Saturday, Sept. 13
Place: Michigan Stadium--Ann Arbor, Mich.
Retribution is the word of the day.
Rather, unsatisfying retribution. At some point during every blowout, a fan will cross a certain threshold. It's 21-0, but it's still early. A break here, a break there, and it could be a game. Hey, it's happened before: why not again?
Then doubt sets in, like a creeper vine climbing up and obscuring a mural. The mural is covered, and you've forgotten what it looks like. What does a comeback look like? Is it possible?
No, no it's not. It's over, don't you know. The game is over and what's left is a long, slow waste of time, dragging its feet toward an inevitability. Maybe the switch in your brain turned off when Matt Wile missed his second field goal -- maybe then you knew the Wolverines were cooked.
Or maybe you waited until the end of the third quarter. Or maybe you waited until a few minutes before the very end, unbelieving and hopeful, looking for another miracle to materialize from under the lights, because precedent is a deluding and intoxicating thing.
Whenever it happened, you stopped thinking about that game and starting thinking about the next one. Not Miami (OH), but the next one. It could have been anyone, really; the RedHawks just happen to be the next name down on the schedule.
And so, whatever the result may be, the RedHawks unknowingly became the target of ire and frustration. They did nothing wrong, but here they are, at the nexus of maize and blue disappointment and its cousin: petty retribution.
Nothing that happens Saturday will erase the Saturday before. But, for a time, it will feel good. To put points on the board, and to prevent them from being scored, against a hapless opponent is an exercise in self-hatred, like a trip to a buffet.
It feels so right at the time, and yet, you eventually push your way away from the table, in a daze, realizing that what you've just done has been the product of a misplaced, unquenchable feeling.
Then again, what's done is done, you know?
When Michigan has the ball
In home losses against Marshall and Eastern Kentucky, the RedHawks gave up 42 and 17 points, respectively. Miami was a very, very bad football team last year on both sides of the ball, and that seems to be the case again this year under former Notre Dame offensive coordinator Chuck Martin.
Marshall's Rakeem Cato passed for 261 yards, completing 20 of 32 passes and tossing three touchdown scores. Five Marshall receivers reeled in passes of 15 yards or more. On the ground, Devon Johnson toted the rock19 times for 151 yards, with a long of 55. Excluding that long romp, he still averaged 5.3 yards per carry.
Returning ends Bryson Albright and J'Terius Brown combined for a rock-solid 17.5 tackles for loss but were the size of outside linebackers, averaging 233 pounds. The top three returning tackles, meanwhile, average 275. Size isn't everything, but there is still a minimum threshold, and Miami didn't meet it in 2013. And unless the RedHawks are doing some serious eating and weight work in the offseason, the problem isn't going to be rectified in 2014. Miami will have to hope that quickness plus extra experience is an equation for improvement.
When the U-M defense is on the field
Yes, Michigan outgained the Notre Dame offense -- winning the yardage battle got old many, many moons ago.
Michigan's aggressive press coverage was exposed with startling ease last Saturday, seemingly throwing into question the entire offseason. Competition caveats aside, Michigan's defense went from looking like a formidable unit to an utter sieve in the span of one week.
Raymon Taylor and Jabrill Peppers are day-to-day; based on last week and the performance of Blake Countess and Delonte Hollowell, Michigan will need Peppers to learn, and learn fast, which, of course, is an incredible amount of pressure for an already dinged up true freshman. But so it goes.
In good and bad news, Miami will run a similar offense to ND's, what with Martin being their former OC. Nick Baumgardner on that:
Michigan struggled to stick with any of Notre Dame's wide receivers on the outside last week, and Irish quarterback Everett Golson was surgical. Miami-Ohio basically runs the same offense as Notre Dame. The RedHawks are coached by Chuck Martin, Brian Kelly's former offensive coordinator. Their quarterback is Andrew Hendrix -- a Notre Dame transfer who has thrown for 677 yards, four touchdowns and four interceptions in two losses this season.
Yes, that Andrew Hendrix will stand behind center for the RedHawks. With that said, the similarities in style are not equaled in content. Hendrix has completed just 48.5 percent of his passes so far this season, with four interceptions to four touchdowns and nine sacks. Everett Golson he is not.
More importantly, he has attempted a whopping 101 (!) passes in two games; as such, Michigan's secondary and linebackers will once again need to be ready to play ball in pass coverage, both when the ball is in the air and in the prevention of YAC department.
Tailbacks Spencer McInnis and Spencer Treadwell average 4.9 and 4.9 YPC carry, respectively, but on just 21 combined carries. Hendrix leads the way in carries with 36 (without sacks taken into account). McInnis is 5'9'', 185 pounds, while Treadwell checks in at 5'10'', 208 pounds. Regardless, they don't seem to be a huge part of Miami's offensive gameplan, despite their small sample size success.
At wideout, the 6-foot-1, 180-pound David Frazier leads the way with 13 receptions for 205 yards. The similarly sized Rokeem Williams has reeled in nine balls for 204 yards (one touchdown). They have longs of 47 and 41 yards, respectively, but if they're getting behind the Michigan defense like ND's receivers did, it's time to truly panic.
Another thing that might not immediately come to mind, especially after a loss like last week's: Michigan's defense has yet to force a turnover. Will this be the game that they get on the board in that department? Marshall and EKU picked Hendrix off a combined four times and sacked him nine times. If Michigan can't get on the board, well, it's time to dial back those pre-season/post-Appalachian State defensive expectations several notches.
The ideal scenario is this: Michigan blows them out in the first half, trots the first team out for a couple series in the third, then Shane Morris takes over the rest of the way. Somehow, I get the feeling that the start of this game will feature the term "hangover" on a few occasions.
Miami (OH) is a very bad football team. With that said, Michigan is banged up and in a moment of doubt regarding its defensive raison d'etre and even its leader at quarterback (the latter of which I am not saying is warranted). An early turnover in Miami's favor that leads to points is not an inconceivable event.
I'm envisioning the 2006 Vanderbilt game, in which Michigan sort of trudges along against a vastly inferior team, never really in danger but with the score far less impressive-looking than it should otherwise be. Michigan will coast, eventually, but it will probably take longer than most fans would like. When all is said and done, Michigan fans won't have learned anything about this team from this game, but a win is a win, I suppose.
Michigan 38, Miami (OH) 13.