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Michigan football vs. Washington roundtable: Staff predictions, storylines and more

The final predictions and player of the game picks are in for Michigan’s game vs. Washington.

NCAA Football: Western Michigan at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The Michigan Wolverines and Washington Huskies will do battle on Saturday in Ann Arbor. It will still be a difficult contest and a measuring stick for both teams coming off very different weeks.

We asked members of the MnB staff to weigh in on the game and some of the storylines leading up to the week. Here are their answers and game predictions.

How did Washington losing to an FCS school in Week 1 affect how you feel going into Saturday night’s game?

Jacob Shames: I didn’t watch any of Washington-Montana, but before Week 1, I thought the Huskies were a better team than Michigan. Now I’m obviously not so sure, but the Wolverines can’t afford to overlook them regardless.

Von Lozon: It’s an even bigger game now. Should Michigan lose this weekend, it’d be the equivalent of losing to MSU last year the week after they lost to Rutgers. Sound familiar? If they dropped it to a top 25 team that blew out their FCS opponent last week, it wouldn’t be as huge of a deal. Now, it’s a must-win game.

Scotty White: I still feel pretty nervous. This is just such a big game and starting 2-0 with the tough games Michigan still has ahead of them would be massive. Heading to Madison on October 2nd undefeated would be massive. Washington is fighting for their season as they can’t start 0-2, they’ll come to play.

Luke Ghiardi: I feel more confident in Michigan’s ability to beat the Huskies. But I’m also more worried that there could be a huge letdown for the Wolverines Saturday night.

Dan Plocher: I initially thought it was funny. Now I am upset that it happened. Michigan has to win this game now. A loss against Washington looks even worse after they fell to Montana. Washington’s a good team and I fear that players may overlook them despite the coaching staff saying otherwise all week.

Trevor Woods: Montana is a really good FCS school but they exposed an area of weakness on Washington — their offensive line. The unit was atrocious, and they tried different pairing along the line but they all played poor and QB Dylan Morris had no time to get anything done. If Montana can make Morris’ day a nightmare, Michigan may feast if Washington doesn’t get it together in a hurry.

Anthony Broome: I’ve always felt that if Michigan was a good football team, they needed to find a way to win this game. Washington losing to Montana only reinforces that. Don’t buy into your opponent’s Week 1 struggles. We saw what happened last year under these circumstances. Washington is going to be hungry and scrapping for a victory.

Stephen Osentoski: A bit more scared, honestly. A loss to Washington went straight from “that’s a tough loss to a ranked PAC-12 favorite” to “Washington??? They lost to MONTANA!!!”

But really, there were so many things Washington did poorly that I can’t imagine they correct ALL of them heading into Week 2. So it’s at least comforting that Washington needs to correct a lot of their own mistakes this early into the season.

What’s your biggest concern about Michigan heading into Week 2?

Jacob Shames: Michigan didn’t really show any flaws or major areas of concern in Week 1, so I think the biggest question is just whether they can bring it again against a better team than Western Michigan.

Von Lozon: How the other receivers play with Ronnie Bell being out for the season. They’ve got a lot of guys in the room, but I’m curious who will be the next go-to guy. It’s not a huge concern, but it’s still a concern for me.

Scotty White: I’m still concerned with the pass defense. Washington QB threw three picks last week and I think if he’s still their guy, he’s going to play a lot better this week to keep his job.

Luke Ghiardi: How do they replace Ronnie Bell? The receiving corps lacks experience, and Washington will most likely not let you simply run it down their throats for the entirety of the game.

Dan Plocher: How does Michigan respond without Ronnie Bell? Washington owns one of the better defenses in college football. Now the whole offense adjusts to life after Bell. The entire receiver room has to step up now to fill that hole.

Trevor Woods: Receiver, even though Michigan is relatively deep at the position — waiting to see who steps up and how Michigan fills that void.

Anthony Broome: Offensive playcalling and the defensive backs. Josh Gattis has to adjust, even if he feels like his team proved they can run the heck out of the football last week. Ronnie Bell’s absence makes that scarier. I’m not off the Gattis wagon, but he has a lot to prove still. I think the defensive backs will probably be an issue all season. They just don’t have the talent there (outside of Dax Hill) that they have in seasons before this.

Stephen Osentoski: Guarding the TE. It’s really the only thing Washington has as an offensive weapon given their lack of healthy WR options and a less than a great running team. So, how will the LBs do in coverage? That’s TBD and one of my keys for shutting down the Huskies.

Who is your pick to be the guy who steps up the most in the wake of the Ronnie Bell injury?

Jacob Shames: What about Mike Sainristil? Bell’s biggest strength was his ability to separate and gain yards after the catch, and I think Sainristil profiles as someone who can do the same out of the slot. Michigan has a couple of jump-ball type receivers and a couple of burners but could use someone dependable.

Von Lozon: Cornelius Johnson. He’s been on the verge of a breakout for some time now. I have faith he takes that step forward and leads the team the rest of the season.

Scotty White: I think Roman Wilson is going to step up the most.

Luke Ghiardi: Daylen Baldwin is the most experienced receiver in the WR room for Michigan. He played limited time Saturday, sounds like there might be some injury concerns, but he’s a guy that can take the top off the defense.

Dan Plocher: A.J. Henning needs to be the guy they recruited him to be. We’ve seen the burst explosion plays from him and if he can ascend to be the No. 2 guy on this team behind Cornelius Johnson it would help quite a bit.

Trevor Woods: It’s hard to say, it may be a few guys to replace one Ronnie Bell — Jim Harbaugh conveyed that message this week and I don’t think that’s just coachspeak, that is the reality of the situation and what Bell was able to bring (possession skills, route running, heart, shiftiness, good speed). However, with Bell out, I am highly interested to see how much more Jackson State transfer Daylen Baldwin will be used — a player who caught a long touchdown from J.J. McCarthy last week.

Anthony Broome: I think Michigan can Frankenstein itself a Ronnie Bell replacement in the form of AJ Henning and Roman Wilson. Both are track stars that are dangerous with the ball in their hands in the open field. Gattis has to find creative ways to get them both touches.

Stephen Osentoski: Mike Sainristil. He did an excellent job blocking last week, has a similar skillset to Ronnie Bell, and I think he’ll absorb a good number of the targets that Bell would have gotten. Think it’s his time to shine.

Predict how Saturday’s game goes with a score prediction and the performance of the game.

Jacob Shames: Michigan 27, Washington 17. Player of the game: Blake Corum.

Von Lozon: I expect Michigan to win under the lights in an ocean of Maize. The defense will make some plays while the offense stays steady under the leadership of Cade McNamara. 27-6 Michigan.

Scotty White: I think Michigan will win but I think it’s going to be a tight game the whole way. I’ll take Michigan winning 24-17. Blake Corum’s explosiveness last week impressed me and I think he has another big game.

Luke Ghiardi: Michigan wins 31-26 with Washington scoring late to close the gap. Washington will be able to exploit Michigan's pass defense to move the football and will keep it close in the first half. Michigan wears down UW in the 2nd half and pulls away in the third quarter before Washington gets that late score.

Dan Plocher: I’ve said Michigan wins this game all off-season. But, the closer we get the more concerned I am for some reason. I think Washington plays much better, but the Wolverines score late in a close game thanks to a full Big House cheering them on. Michigan 31, Washington 24.

Trevor Woods: Washington’s defense is solid, so don’t expect a complete annihilation. I expect Michigan to disrupt Morris plenty and Washington might not have a chance with their lackluster line and banged up receiving unit. 38-9 Michigan.

Anthony Broome: I’ll go Michigan 27, Washington 17. The Huskies were really, really bad on offense last week and they were not even pressured a ton. Mike Macdonald’s defense is going to be aggressive and come after them. I think we see a bit of an unleashed Cade McNamara, as he throws for 250-plus and three scores on Saturday.

Stephen Osentoski: Washington isn’t as bad as last week showed, but still not good. Michigan’s offense goes through some hiccups but wears down Washington as the game goes on. 31-17 Michigan