The season opener is finally here as the Michigan Wolverines hit the field this afternoon to take on the East Carolina Pirates. The Wolverines are ranked No. 2 in the preseason AP Poll and a favorite to make it back to the College Football Playoff.
They come in as a 36-point favorite against the Pirates, but we have seen the Wolverines lose as a bigger favorite before. Granted that was two decades ago, but it has happened. This team is much more prepared to keep that from happening, but they still need to be ready to play.
Let’s take a look at what the Wolverines need to do to get a win against the Pirates.
1. Stay Focused
The offseason has been a weird one for the Wolverines, as assistants were fired and the NCAA investigation hung over Jim Harbaugh and the team. Harbaugh and the school self-imposed a three-game suspension, and Jesse Minter will be in charge for the first game.
There have been several distractions, but getting back on the field should help push that to the background. Harbaugh has done a great job keeping the Wolverines focused on the game at hand, and it needs to continue today.
The Pirates are not a great football team, but they aren’t going to be a pushover either. The Wolverines need to come out focused, ready to play and leave no doubt who the better team is.
2. Score Early
The Wolverines did a great job of scoring early and often in their non-conference games last year. They led at the half against Colorado State 23-0, Hawaii 42-0, and UConn 38-0. They didn’t give any of those teams a chance to feel like they were in the game and cruised in the second half.
It would be nice to see that trend continue. In the season opener last year, the Pirates nearly upset No. 13 NC State as they were a failed extra point away from tying the game with 2:58 left. They aren’t going to come to the Big House scared.
The Wolverines are much better than the Wolfpack, but they can’t afford to let the Pirates hang around early and feel like they can win the game. If that happens, all the pressure swings to the Wolverines.
3. Let McCarthy Throw the Ball
We know Michigan is going to run the ball a lot with Blake Corum and Donavan Edwards, and that will probably be enough to win the game. They don’t need J.J. McCarthy to throw much to win, but they still need to.
McCarthy didn’t have to do much to win games last year thanks to a great defense and rushing attack. That is great, but it also raised some doubts on what he could do.
This would be a great game to get him in a groove and find that rapport with the receivers that seemed to be lacking at times last year. He doesn’t need to throw it 30 times, but get him 20-plus attempts and let him feel good about the start of the year.