Given that this is a Michigan football website, it feels like this whole preview needs to come with one giant asterisk. Yes, it was only the first week of the season against a MAC team. Yes, everyone remembers what happened after a big Week 1 win last year. Sure, maybe Washington spent the whole offseason looking ahead to Michigan and fell into a trap game. No, we have no right to laugh at embarrassing upsets. And of course, nothing is ever as simple as it seems.
Nevertheless, all there is as evidence to inform how to feel about this upcoming matchup between two big name programs are the two games that were played on the field last weekend. There is no debate: the Wolverines did just about everything right, putting up points galore against an overmatched Western Michigan defense, while not allowing much on the other side of the ball in a clear improvement over last season.
The story was quite the opposite for the Huskies. In no universe should a game against Montana ever be close, but somehow the Grizzlies held Washington scoreless for the final 50 minutes of the game. The box score is a nightmare and the eye test is no different; everything went terribly for Washington. Odds are this Saturday will not be quite as bad, but the teams enter the primetime matchup on completely opposite ends of the spectrum.
Washington Huskies (0-1) vs. Michigan Wolverines (1-0, 0-0)
Date: Saturday, September 11
Time: 8:00 pm ET
Location: Ann Arbor, MI
Michigan should absolutely feel confident heading into Saturday night. To start, Cade McNamara did exactly what he was supposed to do last weekend, taking care of the ball and getting it quickly into playmakers’ hands. The Wolverines leaned on the run game as expected and ended the day with a stellar 7.8 yards per carry. Washington should offer a little more resistance than the Broncos, but with how Hassan Haskins and Blake Corum looked behind this offensive line, this unit should be able to again win the game for the home team.
Meanwhile, the Huskies offense was a mess. 2.4 yards per carry, 4.9 yards per attempt, and 291 total yards against Montana is not going to translate well in Ann Arbor. Quarterback Dylan Morris had a woeful game (0 TD, 3 INT) and nearly all of his starting receivers are dealing with some sort of injury. The secondary is easily Michigan’s biggest question mark heading into the year, but with the current state of the Washington passing game, the threat level becomes drastically lower.
Game script meant that McNamara did not need a throw a ton last week, so it will be interesting to see who he targets downfield without Ronnie Bell, who he hit on a couple deep shots (though one was ridiculously called back). Cornelius Johnson is the most prototypical downfield threat, but there are plenty of speedsters like A.J. Henning and Roman Wilson who can find some space against defenders. McNamara was successful using his back and tight ends, but his downfield accuracy will ultimately determine the offense’s ceiling this season.
The Wolverines secondary was able to handle Kaleb Eleby and the limited Western Michigan receiving corps, and it is looking like Washington will not offer many more big play threats. This should give Dax Hill another chance to blow up the screen game, pouncing on receivers at the line of scrimmage and racking up the open field tackles. Hill’s ability to roam around the field and cause havoc is a huge benefit from the change in defensive scheme, and he should frustrate Morris and company all night long.