The final non-conference opponent of the 2022 season is upon us — the UConn Huskies. The Michigan Wolverines are, yet again, an overwhelmingly large favorite at the Big House this weekend. The game probably won’t be too exciting, but the staff members here at Maize n Brew have some thoughts and bold predictions for this weekend’s matchup.
Let’s get right to it!
It’s UConn week! The final game of the non-conference slate is here. A lot of people, fans of Michigan and rival teams, have complained about Michigan’s non-conference slate this season. Where are you at with this topic?
Luke Ghiardi: I understand both sides of the argument. I’m on the side where a single good non-conference game is a good thing because it allows for a margin of error. If you lose the game, it isn’t a bad loss and you’ll be a contender for the CFP by winning the conference. If you win, it allows for a slip up in Big Ten play. Unless Michigan runs the table, they likely won’t get in with a loss, even if it’s at Ohio State.
Andrew Bailey: WHO CARES?! This is only the by-product of a 24-hour sports news cycle coupled with Michigan’s high ranking. Let’s take a live look in at the SEC trampling over FCS schools and only playing eight conference games where it just matters more. These criticisms are like a rocking chair, they give you something to do in the moment, but get you nowhere. If Michigan is 11-0 entering Columbus, none of this will matter and no one will remember it.
Remember 2019 LSU playing Georgia Southern (apologies, Nebraska fans), Northwestern State and Utah State? No, but you remember Joe Burrow raining touchdowns in the CFP.
Zach Breininger: Nobody’s going to care about how weak the non-conference schedule was if Michigan wins the Big Ten. Even if the Wolverines get locked out of the playoff because they lose to OSU and don’t have the resume to get in, I will still be content with the Rose Bowl. Wins and rings matter more than College GameDay exposure.
Dan Plocher: The top teams in the country usually play terrible opponents to start the year. Just check the non-conference play from Alabama and Georgia over the years. It has been putrid. So it doesn’t surprise me Michigan is taking a similar strategy.
However, everything that has happened these first few weeks I am taking with a grain of salt. They SHOULD be putting a pounding on three of the worst teams in college football. We aren’t going to truthfully know what this team is about until they head to Iowa in a couple weeks, and even they are looking worse for wear.
David Woelkers: I want to preface this by acknowledging a key fact — with how far in advance these games are scheduled, assuming they scheduled these games knowing their opponents would be historically bad cupcakes this year is a fallacy.
That being said, the fact of the matter is it’s simply inexcusable to not at least have one Power 5 team on the schedule every year. It helps the team get better playing competition that’s actually at their level, and it helps the fans actually care about what they’re watching on the field. Hopefully with the expansion of the playoff, we’ll see Michigan and other teams scheduling those Power 5 teams on a more regular basis again.
Von Lozon: I am perfectly fine with the weak competition to begin the season. I don’t even know why so many people are up in arms about this. The SEC — where it obviously just means more — has done this for years and I haven’t seen any Buckeyes or Spartans complaining about it. In the four-team era of the College Football Playoff, having an unblemished record is so important to the committee. It doesn’t matter where the loss came in the regular season, so why would you want to set yourself up for failure so early? Give me three cupcakes every year — even though I’m not much of a sweets guy.
With the Huskies coming to town and Maryland on the horizon, would you like to see some of the starters, especially a certain quarterback, get some extended playing time to tune up before the Big Ten schedule begins?
Luke Ghiardi: I would like to see more than a half at least. Was not a fan of the two’s beginning the second half last week, and hoping to see McCarthy and the offense get at least three quarters this week.
Andrew Bailey: Starters should play the entire first half, with a caveat that if they hit 50 points, the reserves can enter. This game is all about sharpening your tools for the Big Ten battles.
Last year, the Wolverines opened conference play with a sluggish performance against Rutgers before heading on the road to Wisconsin. This year, they play Maryland before heading to Iowa, and I would like to see the team more prepared for the raised level of competition exiting the non-conference portion of the schedule.
Zach Breininger: Would I like to see Michigan score 80? Absolutely! But the important thing now is just taking care of business and making sure everyone understands their role. The backups have the talent to handle UConn with ease, and the less film Big Ten opponents have for our starters, the better.
Dan Plocher: No. There is no point. With J.J. at quarterback, this team will likely be up 35 or more by halftime again. Why risk injury? Wait until Big Ten play before extending the playing time. That is when the playing field will be a little more level.
David Woelkers: Yes and no. I don’t want them to play the entire game, especially if (when) it’s a blowout, but the fact of the matter is these guys only get better with reps. Maryland is a sneaky good team, and there are still a couple points of concern that if this team doesn’t get sorted out, will become a much bigger problem when the competition level starts ramping up.
Von Lozon: I think it’d be nice if McCarthy and the guys played the first half and then sat the rest of the game. Bring in Cade McNamara and the reserves and let the starters rest up for the long Big Ten schedule that lies ahead.
What is one thing you hope to see during this game on Saturday?
Luke Ghiardi: I hope to see pass protection, particularly from the tackles.
Andrew Bailey: J.J. McCarthy walk on water ? Oh wait, he already did that. But seriously, I would like to see the Wolverines clean up the little stuff. Example: see the offensive line at full strength and take a step forward in pass protection. There have been a few missed assignments the first two weeks and the bar is too high for this unit to continue to have miscues against inferior opponents.
Besides that, a decisive win and a healthy team entering conference play.
Zach Breininger: A pick six! Interceptions and big plays are a bit lacking this year, so that would be nice to see.
Dan Plocher: The same level of play from McCarthy. I don’t want him to get comfortable now that Harbaugh has named him starter. He should have no problem carving up this defense just on talent alone. I would like to see him continue to make the right reads and progressions.
David Woelkers: The offensive line desperately needs to shore up the “leakage” Jim Harbaugh talked about in his Monday press conference. J.J can scamper all day long, that doesn’t mean he *should* be scampering all day.
Von Lozon: I’d like to see a bounce back performance in terms of getting to the quarterback. The Wolverines got to Colorado State’s quarterback seven times two weeks ago, and only got one sack last week against Hawaii. I expected a bit more out of Mike Morris and that group, so I’d love to see UConn’s quarterback get pressured and sacked a bit more than Michigan was able to do last Saturday.
Give me a bold prediction, and I mean BOLD, for the game this Saturday.
Luke Ghiardi: Michigan scores a touchdown on all three phases — offensive, defensive, and special teams touchdowns.
Andrew Bailey: You want BOLD?! How deep in the bag do I got … Hmmm… Alright, I have a few:
1) CJ Stokes rushes for 150 yards (warm)
2) Peyton O’Leary scores a touchdown (hot)
3) Jake Thaw returns a punt for a touchdown (hellfire)
Zach Breininger: UConn doesn’t gain a first down until late in the fourth quarter.
Dan Plocher: Ronnie Bell ties the single-game receiving touchdown record scoring four first-half touchdowns. He was McCarthy’s favorite target last week and the connection is only going to continue to grow. If McCarthy keeps showing out, I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw some passing and receiving records broken this year.
David Woelkers: The only really bold predictions I can give are if the Wolverines do something they shouldn’t do — and those wouldn’t be predictions so much as they’d be throwing stuff at the wall and seeing what sticks. It’s freaking UConn. J.J. McCarthy could throw six touchdowns and 500 yards and I wouldn’t be shocked.
Von Lozon: I am going to say Tyler Morris scores a touchdown late in this one. He hasn’t played a ton of ball the first two games — in fact, he collected just one catch over the first two weeks. I was high on him coming out of high school, but an ACL tear slowed him doing heading into college. This weekend, he gets his first touchdown.
Alright, it’s prediction time. Give me the result, some stats and the final score!
Luke Ghiardi: Michigan wins 62-7. J.J. McCarthy goes 17-of-19 for 315 yards and five touchdowns.
Andrew Bailey: Michigan takes this one easily, 49-10. The Huskies don’t cross the 50 until reserves are in, and Michigan coasts into conference play amidst a swarm of whiny “journalists” clinging to the weak schedule narrative for at least another week.
Zach Breininger: Michigan 63 - UConn 6. McCarthy throws three touchdowns and runs for two scores. Will Johnson gets his first pick, and the defense scores twice.
Dan Plocher: Michigan 56 - UConn 10. McCarthy throws for five first-half touchdowns, four to Bell. Michigan takes a 42-0 lead into halftime.
David Woelkers: J.J has another electric performance in the first half, only to see limited or no playing time at all in the later parts of the game. The defense has their way with the Huskies, but UConn still scores a couple points once the third- and fourth-stringers come in. Michigan wins but doesn’t cover the gargantuan spread, 49-7.
Von Lozon: I think Michigan wins easily, 53-7. The defense will give up a late touchdown, like it did last week, and the Wolverines will cruise into conference play with a 3-0 record.