It’s here. The Michigan Wolverines open the season on Saturday afternoon in Ann Arbor in a cross-state showdown with the Western Michigan Broncos. Michigan enters the game as a 17-point favorite, but fans are hoping for more as they look for reasons to buy into the supposed second wind of the Jim Harbaugh era.
Here are the game predictions and storyline members of our staff are looking at this week.
What would constitute a successful season opener in your mind?
Von Lozon: I think covering the spread (17 points) would be a successful way to start the year. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a blowout, but a convincing win with a brand new defense playing moderately well would go a long way in my mind.
Kellen Voss: If we dominate so much that the game broadcast doesn’t show highlights from the Appalachian State upset, I’m happy. Plus seeing a packed crowd.
Scotty White: I want to see Michigan win and comfortably cover the spread. Good teams take care of business easily against MAC schools.
Andrew Bailey: A three-score victory where the Wolverines quickly shake off some rust in the first quarter and assert their dominance in the last three.
Stephen Osentoski: Three main things I’m looking at:
1) Comfortable win (21+ margin)
2) Garbage time for back-ups in key roles (QB, OL, DL, LB)
3) Consistent push on both offensive & defensive lines throughout the game
Jacob Shames: A win of a couple of touchdowns or more would be fine. I don’t see any reason to freak out unless the game is in doubt in the final five or so minutes. Western Michigan is a good team with a super-efficient quarterback and a lot of returning offensive talent to go along.
Anthony Broome: Look sharp, beat the point spread. There are going to be natural growing pains that come with a season-opener, as well as some jitters. I think a best-case scenario for Michigan is a 49-14 type of victory where things are sharp on both ends of the field and they can leave the Big House with their first win at home in almost two years.
Dan Plocher: A successful season opener for Michigan would be taking care of business against Western Michigan. They shouldn’t hang around. The Wolverines should win by at least three touchdowns. Anything less than that, and I’m concerned heading into next week.
What do you hope *not* to see during the game on Saturday?
Von Lozon: I hope we don’t see Cade McNamara and the offense struggle. They need to get off to a hot and fast start, as Harbaugh has alluded to. I definitely don’t want to see the Wolverines have a quick three and out or a turnover early on. They need to move the ball down the field efficiently and put points on the board more often than not.
Kellen Voss: I don’t want to see Michigan stick to one thing. I want to see them try stuff out for later on in the season, all while keeping a sizable lead on the Broncos
Scotty White: Turnovers and injuries. Bad turnovers to start the year are extremely frustrating and seeing people go down in week one is also a terrible way to start the season.
Andrew Bailey: “And we are back here in Ann Arbor for the start of the fourth quarter, with the Broncos giving the Wolverines all they can handle in this one. It’s 13-13 with 7 minutes to go. Dan Villari has struggled in relief for Michigan whose starting two quarterbacks were taken out of the game due to injuries.”
Stephen Osentoski: A slow start. The defense is going to take some time to warm up this season, and the offense needs to establish itself immediately. Similarly, I hope not to see either offensive or defensive line struggling. Mistakes will be made, but how much push each line for Michigan generates will speak volumes if they struggle against Western.
Jacob Shames: Michigan’s secondary getting completely torched by WMU quarterback Kaleb Eleby (194.8 passer rating last season) and weapons like Skyy Moore (25 catches, 388 yards) and Jaylen Hall (12 catches for 323 yards and seven scores).
Anthony Broome: A tight game. WMU is going to be one of the better teams in the MAC and they have the ingredients to hang around. The offense is potent and they like to create havoc defensively. Anything less than covering that 17-point spread would be stressful.
Dan Plocher: Dysfunction on the offensive end. Whether it is “trick plays” that throw off the flow or puzzling play calls that halt good drives, I hope to see an offense that roles on Saturday with identity and purpose.
Give me a score prediction and pick your player of the game
Von Lozon: 45-17 Michigan. The Player of the game is David Ojabo, collecting 10+ tackles and multiple sacks/TFLs. Ojabo is a guy who I think will flourish in his new role under defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald, so this will kickstart his season.
Kellen Voss: 41-14 and three touchdowns for Ronnie Bell.
Scotty White: I like Michigan to win this one 38-13. I think the player of the game will be Hassan Haskins. Michigan loves establishing the run, especially against lesser opponents, so I think the running back room will have a good day.
Andrew Bailey: 41-16. Hassan Haskins, don’t overthink it.
Stephen Osentoski: 49-28 Michigan. Blake Corum snags a few TDs and gets player of the game, but Haskins plays very well, too.
Jacob Shames: Michigan wins 41-21. Western Michigan’s strength on defense is more against the run — they ranked fifth in FBS in tackles for loss per game last season, while they were just 78th in passing yards allowed — so I’ll go with Cade McNamara putting up over 300 yards, 3 or 4 touchdowns and a player-of-the-game performance.
Anthony Broome: I’m going to take the Wolverines in a 38-17 win. This group has something to prove and questions aplenty. Many of them will take longer than Saturday to answer, but I’m buying the culture change and the idea that they have turned the page from last year. Hassan Haskins will have a pair of touchdowns for Michigan.
Dan Plocher: I say Michigan wins 45-14. The Wolverines running game is just too much and Hassan Haskins takes care of business with over 100 yards on the ground and two scores.