Western Michigan Preview 2011

Michigan's first home game under new Head Coach Brady Hoke promises to be a good one. Hoke used to coach at Western Michigan, and he has not only coached for many years in the MAC Conference, but he played in the conference as well. Hoke has defeated the Broncos in four of six meetings. Michigan has won 108 of 131 season openers, and is 5-0 against the Broncos after defeating them 31-7 to begin the 2009 season, and the closest game in the series was the first was in 1917 that was 17-13. The oddsmakers have installed the Wolverines as a 14 point favorite, and the 3:30 p.m. start will be televised on ESPN2 and ABC. Western Michigan was picked to finish 3rd in their Division by MAC sports writers behind Toledo and Northern Illinois; Michigan is picked to finish 4th in their Big Ten Legends division behind Nebraska, MSU and Northwestern.

The Western Michigan offense returns 8 starters from their 2010 team that was 6-6, and they are led at Quarterback by Junior Alex Carder. Sophomore Tyler Van Tubbergen is his backup. The Bronco offense averaged over 33 points and 400 yards of total offense per game in 2010 under his leadership, and he threw for over 330 yards and 30 TDs while completing 63% of his passes. His favorite targets are Seniors Jordan White, Robert Arnheim and Junior Ansell Ponder. In 2010, White had 10 TDs and over 1400 yards in receiving; he will be difficult for our DBs to contain. Senior Tight End Dallas Walker, Senior Chleb Ravenell and Junior reserve Alex Monette are other targets. Backup Tight Ends are Sophomore Clark Mussman and Junior Blake Hammond. Their offensive line is led by Senior Left Guard Anthony Parker. They also have former Wolverine Junior Dann O'Neill at Right Tackle, Junior Kevin Galeher is the Center, and Sophomores Greg Peterson and Terry Davisson were to start at Left Tackle and Right Guard; however, Galeher broke a bone in his foot and Peterson sprain his ankle so they'll be replaced by Junior College Transfers Kasimili Uitalia and Dean Cammock (Davisson has moved to Center). Two Rookie Offensive Guards Unfazed About Facing Michigan Sophomore Josh Hadel, Junior Tim Maka and Freshmen James Kristoff and Khaled Mheisen are top offensive line reserves. Carder can scamper, and he ran for over 400 yards in 2010. Sophomore Running Backs Tevin Drake and Brian Fields will probably get most of the carries. I noticed former Michigan walk-on candidate Calvin Smith is now a Redshirt Freshman Fullback on the Bronco Roster; I'm not sure how much he'll play. Backup Redshirt Freshman Defensive End Manny Diaz will come in to block on short yardage situations. Other running backs that may see action include Sophomore Antoin Scriven, Sophomore Daryeon Chance ("twin" of Vincent Smith) and Redshirt Freshman Michael Johnson. Rarely did the Broncos win the time of possession battles in their 2010 games, and they executed in the red zone 76% in scores and 63% in TDs which isn't all that great. I don't think Western Michigan will be able to run on us.

The Bronco defense is labeled Team Train Wreck. Their game plan includes stopping Denard first and foremost. Their defensive line is anchored by Junior Defensive End Paul Hazel. Hazel led the team with 8 sacks in 2010; he will give Lewan a real battle. The other Defensive End is Inkster Junior Freddie Bishop, Defensive Tackles are Sophomore Travonte Boles and Senior Drew Nowak. Sophomore Cory Sueing, Freshman Demetrius Anderson, Junior Deauntay Legrier and Senior T.J. Lynch are the DL backups. They also return 8 starters on defense, and the Linebacking corps is Senior Matt Zajac who led the Broncos in tackles in 2010. Sophomore Desmond Bozeman is also a starter at Linebacker, and Johnnie Simon is the Rover. Junior Chris Prom, Freshmen Trevor Ishmael, Devon Brant and Senior Keith Dixson will also see action at Linebacker. The cornerbacks are Sophomore Lewis Toler (1st Team MAC All-Conference) and Senior Aaron Winchester. Toler had 5 picks including one pick 6. Former Michigan recruit and Miami-FL transfer, Doug Wiggins, starts at safety; the other safety is Sophomore Demetrius Pettway. Junior Scott Hinds, Redshirt Freshman Jon Henry, Sophomore Raheam Buxton, Senior Dervon Wallace and Redshirt Freshman Garrett Smith will also see playing time in the secondary. One of the Bronco weaknesses has been the poor play in the defensive backfield allowing opponents megayardage in the air (221 yards per game and nearly 13 yards per catch). One could wager that Detroit Lion and former Bronco Safety Louis Delmas will be on the sideline offering the defense encouragement and support throughout this game. I think we will be able to pass the ball against this group.

Special Teams are led by Senior John Potter; he hit 50 of 50 extra points and 10 of 12 field goals in 2010. Punt Returns are handled by Senior Jordan White, and Sophomore Brian Fields, Senior Dervon Wallace, Freshman Rontavious Atkins (from Pahokee, FL) and Junior Ansell Ponder handle kickoff returns. Wallace runs a 4.36 40 yard dash, and Head Coach Bill Cubit believes he can be real special for the Broncos in 2011. Senior Ben Armer averaged 41.2 yards in 2010, and nearly 25% of his punts were 50 yards or better. Half of his punts were either fair caught or downed inside the 20; he did have one blocked though. Sophomore Kirk Nakama is their long snapper. The Broncos will be experienced on special teams with solid personnel so winning this phase will be a real challenge.

Michigan will be pumped to execute their physical game plan at home against a perceived weaker MAC opponent. If Michigan can run the ball for over 200 yards, and hold Western Michigan to under 100 yards rushing, it will be a successful day for the Maize and Blue. As a Michigan fan, I'll be pleased with an improved defense, better tackling, pass rushing and pressure plus team hustle to the ball. On offense, it would be nice to see Denard Robinson throw for at least twice the yards he rushes for. Red zone efficiency is also something to look for in the first game. Brady Hoke has emphasized forced turnovers and winning the turnover battle along with special teams play. His five points of emphasis are: 1)win the game 2)win the turnover battle 3)win on special teams 4)win on time of possession 5)win the physical battle at the line of scrimmage Pretty simple so now let's execute!

Michigan 45 Western Michigan 17

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