Michigan (1-0) takes on Cincinnati (1-0) in the 2017 season opening game at the Big House. And though this game is expected to be a blowout for the Wolverines (per Vegas), this is still a game to watch closely as UM has plenty of things to workout and is still a young team that could give an underdog a shot.
Here are four main things to watch during the game today:
Harbaugh vs. Fickell
We all know that Jim Harbaugh is one of the best coaches in football, and he proved that again last week in Michigan’s dominant season opening win over Florida. It was a game where his team, once again, was the most prepared team on the field, showing off what him and his coaching staff can do during game week preparation. But what about Luke Fickell? Fickell spent the last 18 years on the Ohio State coaching staff, many of which were as the defensive coordinator. He has now moved onto to his first head coaching role down the road from Columbus. And he still knows a thing or two about beating Michigan. Fickell’s time under Jim Tressell and Urban Meyer has him prepared to take on a blue blood like the Wolverines, which is why I think this game c ould be a little closer than people think.
The Quarterback Situation
Has Wilton Speight proven himself as a starter? Will Jon O’Korn receive more meaningful snaps? Will Brandon Peters finally receive a look later in the game? These are all important questions that the fans are asking and questions that will be answered by 3pm today.
Speight looked unsettled at times during the season opener vs Florida, especially during the 2nd quarter when he threw back-to-back pick six interceptions. But, outside of the turnovers, it wasn’t like O’Korn was much better. He did a good job calming things down but struggled moving the offense down the field during his limited snaps. Like the Florida game, I expect Speight to re-cement himself into the starting role for Michigan today against the Bearcats. But expect to still see O’Korn and possibly Peters, as this thing could get out of hand in the 2nd half.
The Defensive Line
The defensive line seemed to take things to another level during the Florida game. As a whole, the defense recorded six sacks, as the front three or four guys were in the backfield and quarterback’s face all day. Watch to see how dominant the line can be today against Cincinnati and if it can take advantage of a far inferior opponent that struggled with Austin Peay last week, a team who hasn’t won a game since 2015. I fully expect the defensive line to rack up much more than six sacks against UC. The team speed was clearly noticeable in both the spring game and against Florida. That, along with Don Brown’s aggressive blitzing style from the back seven, should have Rashan Gary, Chase Winovich, Mo Hurst, Bryan Mone, and the backups in the Bearcat backfield all day long.
After Tarik Black showed off his camp hype against Florida, fans are clamoring for the rest of the freshmen to show off their talents in the maize and blue. And it should happen today. I expect WR Donovan Peoples-Jones to be a much bigger part of the offense against Cincinnati, while also making some big plays in the return game. But it won’t stop with him. Look out for several freshmen to possibly see the field, if it gets out of hand, including WR Oliver Martin, WR Nico Collins, RB Kareem Walker and QB Brandon Peters.
What are the things you’ll be watching closest during the Michigan-Cincinnati game? Let us know in the comment section below!
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