This week’s matchup will be the biggest test so far for the Wolverines. BYU, currently at #22, is coming off of a one-point loss to UCLA and looks better than Utah at this point in the season. 22-year-old freshman quarterback, Tanner Mangum, leads the Cougars into the Big House.
Rushing Offense against BYU
It’s safe to say that Michigan is a running football team. Transitioning from a mess of an offense to a downhill rushing attack is a breath of fresh air. The Wolverine running backs are solid, but could a lacking passing game hurt them?
One of the six returning defensive starters on BYU is defensive end, Brandon Kaufusi. At 6’7” and 280 pounds, he’s considered a lock to play on Sunday. Kaufusi currently sits at 14 tackles with two tackles for loss. Someone will also need to get a hand on linebacker, Harvey Langi. He leads BYU’s linebackers in stops with 20, including four tackles for loss.
After giving up 296 yards on the ground last week, tackling will be the main focus at BYU’s practice this week. Coach Bronco Mendenhall blames poor tackling for their loss to UCLA.
Running back by committee will continue for Michigan. De’Veon Smith is at the top of the depth chart, followed by Ty Isaac, Derrick Green and Drake Johnson. Even though Smith was ineffective last week, he will get first crack at the Cougar defense. If the running game remains stagnant; better believe Isaac will be itching to get his hands on the ball. Johnson should see his workload increase this week, as well. Green, seems looks like the odd man out. He needs to earn more playing time during practice this week or he could see even less playing time with the return of Johnson.
Michigan’s offensive line has another week under their belt and the way the season is going, expect another stellar performance from this group. They are really taking pride in the role they play and continue to improve each week. Guard, Kyle Kalis has turned the corner and the light is now on. He graded out as the best lineman last game. Maybe he just needed some coaching?
BYU gave up almost 300 yards rushing last week. Michigan will establish the run game early and hope it works for the duration of the game.
Passing Offense against BYU
BYU’s pass defense has been tremendous. With seven interceptions in three games, Jake Rudock must be very careful when testing the Cougar’s defensive backs. The secondary and linebackers are all extremely active in pass defense and will no doubt disguise looks to try to confuse Rudock.
The most imposing player is defensive back, Kai Nacua. In just two games this season, Nacua has four interceptions and three pass breakups. Three interceptions came against Boise State, and he took one of those back for a game-sealing touchdown.
The BYU defensive line has tallied six sacks so far this season. Although it’s not their most impressive stat, they are constantly applying pressure to the quarterback. Michigan’s offensive line has kept Rudock upright for the most part. This game will confirm whether or not they’ve stepped up their game in pass blocking.
Rudock and the pass catchers need to be more effective. While the receivers are getting open, the quarterback needs to hit easy targets and pick up first downs underneath to open up the deep ball. If Rudock can’t do this, it could be a long day.
BYU defensive backs are big and talented. If Rudock can’t get the passing game going, expect BYU to put eight defenders in the box and force Michigan to beat them through the air.
Rushing Defense against BYU
Chris Wormley must be rubbing off on the defensive line. Matt Godin, Ryan Glasgow and the rest of the defense teamed with Wormley to hold UNLV to 92 rushing yards.
The linebackers have taken some heat for blowing coverage and missing tackles in all three games this season. But, against UNLV, both James Ross and Ben Gedeon showed glimpses elite play. If Joe Bolden and Desmond Morgan continue to struggle in coverage, Ross and Gedeon are a solid backup plan.
Since losing quarterback, Taysom Hill, due to injury in the first game, BYU’s lost a bit of their rushing attack. Now it’s all up to running back, Adam Hine. Averaging 6.1 yards per carry, Hine has 279 yards and two touchdowns for the year.
The BYU offensive line has some depth to it. They feel comfortable using seven or eight guys along the line, most of which have received playing time in the last few seasons. Senior leader Ryker Matthews, has started 22 games during his career at BYU.
BYU is improving fast along the offensive line, but not fast enough to stop a hungry Michigan d-line. BYU will need to go to the air, if they want to make big plays.
Passing Defense against BYU
Tanner Mangum has an arm that makes him a good college quarterback. Taking over during the first game of the season, Mangum threw a Hail Mary pass to beat Nebraska on the final play of the game. Since then, he has thrown two touchdowns and two interceptions while getting comfortable in the offense.
Magnum also has the weapons that could make him a great college quarterback. Standing at 6 foot 6 and 6 foot 5 respectively, receivers, Mitch Mathews and Nick Kurtz, are long, athletic playmakers. Junior Mitchell Juergens is a bit shorter at 5 foot 10, but very capable of making big plays. Juergens leads the team in receiving yards.
The Michigan secondary has unlimited potential, but have yet to face the size BYU brings to the receiver position. Michigan’s best corner, Jourdan Lewis, is 5 foot 10’. He’ll use technique and speed to try and lock the Cougar pass catchers
BYU’s size has the potential to be a problem for the Michigan secondary. Consider this a test for the Wolverines. If they pass this one, they’re for real.
Special Teams against BYU
The Cougars have been aggressive on special teams. Against UCLA, they used a surprise onside kick to gain an extra possession. The onside kick didn’t result in points, but did set a tone to what type team BYU is.
The kicking game has not been a problem for the Cougars. Kicker, Trevon Samson is perfect on the year heading into Michigan Stadium.
Jabrill Peppers will return some type of kick for a touchdown this year. Could it could be this week? BYU allowed over 20 yards per return last week against UCLA.
BYU has an above average kicker but are open to allowing the big play. Michigan looks to win the field position battle and punter, Blake O’Neill has proven to be the real deal.
Prediction: Michigan 17, BYU 13
Michigan wins the battle in trenches this week. The Wolverines will use the same game plan that they used to defeat UNLV. Controlling the clock and field position is the best way to beat a talented team like BYU.
Photo credit: Toledo Blade/Lori King
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