An in-state showdown.
Western Michigan vs. Michigan.
Do the Broncos have a shot against the Wolverines?
Sure, but not much of one.
While Western Michigan has a few talented playmakers on offense, they don’t have the depth nor the talent on defense to really make this a game for four quarters. There’s a high likelihood Michigan wipes the memories of 2020 away and gets fans excited heading into their Week 2 night game versus Washington.
Here are Michigan’s keys to victory vs. Western Michigan.
McNamara stays in control
McNamara doesn’t need to get off to a fast start, he needs to not make mistakes.
If McNamara can read defenses, throw an accurate ball, and not commit senseless turnovers, he’ll be more than a few pegs higher than what Joe Milton gave Michigan a season ago.
“I don’t think there’s any secret to it. He’s gotta do what he’s been doing all spring and all fall – go through his progressions, be true to the reads,” quarterbacks coach Matt Weiss told the media this week. “He doesn’t have to go out and win the game for us, he just has to go out and do his job. That’s been the focus when we talk to those guys and that’s what we expect him to do on Saturday at 12 o’clock.”
More will be asked of McNamara on a week-by-week basis depending on the talent of the opposing team, but coming out and playing a clean game is the desired outcome in this one.
Turn Kaleb Eleby into an inefficient passer
Eleby had a great 2020 — 18 touchdowns, just three interceptions, and ranked No. 3 in passer rating behind just Mac Jones and Zach Wilson. That’s good company to be in.
Michigan’s defense will be aggressive under new defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald, who was the linebackers coach for the Baltimore Ravens, a team that had the highest blitz percentage in the NFL last year.
It’s one thing to be aggressive, it’s one thing to dial up a blitz, but if the execution isn’t there the secondary is bound to get exposed. It would be refreshing to see Michigan get to the quarterback.
Arguably the unit with the most to prove heading into the season is at cornerback from Michigan, and they’ll have a major say in how efficient or lackluster Eleby’s day is.
The bottom line is Eleby is no slouch at the quarterback position, he can get some things done, and if Michigan is able to bottle him up, it’ll bode well for the defense moving forward.
Let the running game, o-line get cooking
Offensive coordinator Josh Gattis admitted that Michigan got away from the run far too often last year. However, Gattis promised to have a more balanced approach this season and lean on their playmakers — and they have some good ones at running back. Hassan Haskins and Blake Corum make up the 1A and 1B of the equation, with Haskins providing the brute force while Corum, who added muscle in his own right, is shifty and will contribute in the passing game. Behind Haskins and Corum will be speedy true freshman Donovan Edwards — who Jim Harbaugh said will have a role Day 1.
If Michigan can win this game just punching it down the throat of the Western Michigan defense, that’s precisely what they’d like to do in a Week 1 game where they’d like it to be out of reach by halftime.
Michigan’s offensive line would also benefit from success on the ground — get some live contact in to get the blood flowing. Pass protection usually takes a little to get cohesive. Further, the best thing for Cade McNamara will be for Michigan’s running game to be firing on all cylinders.