For the 3rd straight year, Western Michigan will open on the road, at a Michigan Big Ten school. While they haven't been in the games for the most part (the 2009 opener was just awful), this could be the year that Western actually is able to hang with their opponent. Even Bill Cubit said it himself, "If we don't turn the ball over, we can hang with anybody."
While that may be a stretch (i.e. Alabama), for the Broncos' schedule, it is very true. And with 6 road games against BCS teams and top MAC opponents, they'll need a good start to show they mean business this year.
So what do we know about this team from Ann Arbor. Well thanks to ESPN, we know they have a new coach, with a familiar face. This Brady Hoke character. We all know him from his 2008 season when he coached Ball State to a 12-0 season, only to go to the MAC Championship and have everything fall apart to Buffalo. That's the last we saw him, because he went out west for 2 years, and is now back, and leading his alma mater to what Wolverine fans hope to be a turnaround season. (Can I PLEASE go throw up after that last line?)
Their players? Well they have this QB. I can't seem to remember his name, but he's fast apparently. Like really fast. And has a slight arm, but it needed work, and has had an entire offseason to work on it. Meh, maybe it'll come to me later. We'll see if Western can stop him, because he will be the primary key to this game.
Their other players? Well, see, I don't know much. MaizenBlueDave was supposed to help me out on this, but probably is out partying in front of wal-mart in his $5 Go Blue t-shirt. I do know that one of their top WRs got "suspended" for drunk driving, and by suspended I mean redshirted. Big schools these days. . . .
Ok, so I'm going to cheat for the rest of this preview. Michigan's offense was amazing last year. Passing wasn't their strength, but out of the spread with that QB character of theirs, they could do whatever. Their defense on the other hand. Well, 108th in Points Against screams horrible. But new coaching system, should see improvement. The offense I think will regress a bit, but only because it's not the "Let Denard Make Plays and Hope We Win" show anymore. The defense will be remarkably better, or at least that's what Wolverine fans hope.
So the keys to the game:
- STOP DENARD AT ALL COSTS - I should be more descriptive. Stop him if you think winning this game is the most important goal of the year, which it isn't. Quite frankly, the only reason I want to see Western win this game if they sustain a major injury is to gloat to ALL of my UofM fans and family, and not catch crap from them. This game is, in my mind, the lowest important road game on the schedule this year. Big team, "Big House", early game, just closer competition to try to beat.
- PROTECT CARDER - This new line will be tested early and often, and must give Alex Carder time to throw the ball if Western wants to hang with UofM. Carder DOES have experience in Michigan Stadium. Yep, and he's 100% throwing the ball there. 1-1 FOR 4 YARDS BABY!!!!! He wont do either of those Saturday, but if he has time, he should test that shaky secondary and keep WMU in it.
- ESTABLISH A RUN - Western has a hidden gem in their run game, and if the passing game wants to be successful, they have to keep more Wolverines in the box than in coverage. Again, the line must make some holes, so we'll see what happens with that.