Utah Preview: August 27, 2008

Michigan begins a new era of football with a new head coach, coaching staff, philosophy, schemes, etc. at home with a stadium under reconstruction. Michigan is favored by 3 points, and ranked 32nd in the AP poll and 24th in the USA Today/Coach's Poll; Utah is ranked 29th and 28th respectively.

Utah went 9-4 in 2007, and defeated Navy in the Poinsettia Bowl game. The Utes are predicted to win the Mountain West Conference this year; last year, they finished 3rd in the MWC with losses to archrival, BYU, UNLV, Air Force and Oregon State. They defeated Louisville, UCLA, TCU, Wyoming and New Mexico impressively. They ranked 44th in rushing offense of 119 NCAA teams, 81st in passing offense, 79th in total offense and 68th in scoring offense. Rumors in Fall practice are that their offense has struggled. Senior Captain Brian Johnson is their returning quarterback. Johnson will throw to three seniors, Brian Casteel, Freddie Brown and Bradon Godfrey. Casteel missed last season with injury, but was outstanding in 2006. Senior Darrell Mack is an outstanding, big tailback who averaged over 100 yards a game last season. Matt Asiata and Frosh Sausan Shakerin will also see action at running back. Ben Joppru's brother, Chris, is a backup tight end for the Utes, and the only Michigan player on their roster, Neli A'asa, is from Big Rapids and also a backup tight end. Captain Robert Conley anchors thier offensive line; the Utes allowed 67 sacks last season. Our defense needs to send a message early in this one.

Their defense is solid! They ranked #1 in pass efficiency defense, 5th in scoring defense, 11th in pass defense and 18th in total defense. They have a big Somoan influence with 4 starters on defense. Butkus candidate and Junior Captain Stevenson Sylvester is probably their best player at Rover Linebacker while Junior Sean Smith is probably their best defensive back although Brice McCain is also a Captain. Paul Kruger was a Frosh All-American at defensive end. We may struggle against this solid group early, and turnovers against this group would take away our home field advantage.

Special teams features two of the nation's best punters. Senior Louie Sakoda ranked 11th nationally with a 44.26 yard average; Zoltan Mesko averaged 41.09. I would expect many punts in this first game. Sakota will also kick field goals from inside the 40 and extra points; he is consistent. Ben Vroman handles kickoffs and long field goals. Jerome Brooks is their punt and kickoff returner along with Casteel and David Reed.

It should be a defensive struggle unless one team commits a lot of turnovers with first game "gitters." We need our defensive line, and seniors on defense to "step up" to thwart the Utes experience on offense. I'm picking:

Michigan 24 Utah 13
Position Michigan Utah
QB Sheridan, Nick Johnson, Brian
Slot McGuffie, Sam Clifford, Brad (TE)
RB Minor, Brandon Mack, Darrell
X Mathews, Greg Casteel, Brent
Y Odoms, Martavious Brown, Freddie
Z Savoy, Laterryal Godfrey, Bradon
RT Schilling, Steve Hensel, Dustin
RG Moosman, Dave Conley, Robert
C Molk, Dave Taylor, Zane
LG McAvoy, Tim Seiuli, Corey
LT Ortmann, Mark Beadles, Zane
PK Loptata, KC Sakoda, Louie
P Mesko, Zoltan Sakoda, Louie
DE Jamison, Tim Misi, Koa
DT Johnson, Will Talamaivao, Lei
DT Taylor, Terrence Eliapo, Kenape
DE Graham, Brandon Kruger, Paul
OLB-SAM Evans, Marell Sylvester, Stevenson
ILB-MIKE Ezeh, Obi Wright, Mike
ILB-WILL Panter, Austin Fotu, Nai
LCB Trent, Morgan McCain, Brice
RCB Warren, Donovan Smith, Sean
SS Harrison, Brandon Dale, Joe
FS Brown, Steve Johnson, Robert

Coach Jackson and Shafer preview Utah

Game Day

Michigan Press Release

Utah Press Release