It's finally upon us.
After an offseason filled with crazy storylines and a lot of hype, the start of the 2015 football season is here and has the Michigan Wolverines and Utah Utes playing on Thursday evening with the eyes of the entire college football world upon them.
"Why is that?", you ask.
Well, in case you missed it, Michigan has a new head football coach in Jim Harbaugh, who signed on the dotted line in December in a move that shocked many national pundits and united a fanbase.
Often times at a big program like Michigan, a coach gets a chance to break in his new team with a cupcake opponent. Well, regardless of what Popular Mechanics has to say, the Utah Utes are not that.
Utah finished with a record of 9-4 last season after a few years of adjusting to life in the Pac-12 conference. Now, they have a look of a team that can keep building off of that and continue to make noise, led by head coach Kyle Whittingham.
Michigan had its quarterback battle in camp between Jake Rudock and Shane Morris, the former of which is expected to start on Thursday. In Salt Lake City, they had a battle brewing of their own between Travis Wilson, who has been named the starter, and Kendal Thompson. The scenarios seem to be similar, though. If either starting quarterback struggles, we may see the backups getting some time to try and right the ship.
Utah has a running back in Devontae Booker that some see as a potential sleeper for the Heisman trophy after rushing for over 1,500 yards in 2014. Stopping him will be a tough challenge for the Michigan defense.
On the offensive side of the ball, the guys up front will have their hands full with a Utah defense that led the nation in sacks last season with 55. Nate Orchard is gone to the NFL, but Hunter Dimick was a force in his own right last year with 14.5 tackles for loss and 10 sacks.
This could be a game that comes down to kicks, which could mean advantage Utah. Andy Phillips is a career 80-percent field goal kicker and will have his home crowd behind him. Michigan, however, has not settled on a kicker and we will see either Kenny Allen or Kyle Seychel kicking field goals and extra points on Thursday. Perhaps even both. The Wolverines had trouble getting the ball into the endzone last season, so if that problem continues to occur, they will have to capitalize on their chances in the kicking game.
Teams: Michigan Wolverines vs. Utah Utes
Date: September 3rd, 2015
Location: Rice-Eccles Stadium (45,807) in Salt Lake City, Utah
Time: 8:30 p.m. ET
Television: Fox Sports 1
Radio: 950 AM in the Detroit area, Sirius channel 137 and XM channel 203 nationally
Spread: Utah -5.5
- The Wolverines are 111-21-3 in opening games all-time
- This is only the 23rd road opener in the 136 season history of Michigan football. They are 16-5-1 in those games.
- Michigan is 44-23-1 against the Pac-12 all-time.
- Utah is 2-1 against the Wolverines, having won the last two meetings at Michigan Stadium in 2008 and 2014, respectively.
- Michigan coaches in their debuts have gone 14-3-1 all-time.
- Only two other Michigan coaches have started their careers on the road: Bennie Oosterbaan (W vs. Mich. St. in 1948) and Gary Moeller (L vs. Notre Dame in 1990)
- Harbaugh has a 9-2 record in openers between college and the pros. He went 2-1 at San Diego, 3-1 at Stanford and 4-0 with the San Francisco 49ers. Both of those losses came in his debut seasons at San Diego and Stanford, respectively.