The Wolverines play it coy on offense, but not on defense. If the defense dominates, Michigan fans have hope.
Michigan - 28,
Vanderbilt - 7.
Michigan's offensive emphasis during the offseason was clearly placed on improving the running game, and today's opener should tell a lot about how Michigan plans to achieve that. It was evident last year that the Wolverines front couldn't consistently blow defenses off the line of scrimmage. With the question marks still present on the right side of the line, and the significant weight loss among the entire unit, I believe they will employ a different strategy to open things up on the ground. I anticipate Mike DeBord using scheme to generate some seams in the running game. I think we'll see him try to spread team's out and force the opposition to defend the whole field and play disciplined football. Understand that this is saying something altogether different from running a spread offense…because I don't think Michigan will do that. But I do believe we will see them utilize different formations to open things up on the ground.
That being said, Michigan should be able to keep the Vanderbilt defense off balance. I expect a heavy dose of running, so I don't look for them to score over 40 points, but they should be effective enough to hang 30+ on an overmatched defense.
Defensively for the Wolverines, heat on the quarterback will be the name of the game. The front four has a significant advantage and should be the story of the game. With Nickson's inexperience, English will force the youngster to beat Michigan with his arm…something which I don't think he is capable of doing. If the Commodores are able to move the ball effectively against the starters, it will be a disappointment. Look for Michigan to hold Vanderbilt under 100 yards rushing and keep the visitors in the teens.
Michigan - 38
Vanderbilt - 13
This should be an interesting game for the Wolverines. They face a Vanderbilt team beat Tennessee last year and also played very tough against Florida and some other SEC schools. However that was with first round draft pick quarterback Jay Cutler who leaves some huge shoes to fill for Chris Nickson. The big question is how much have the Commodores lost in Cutler? Will the offense still be able to have a productive passing game? We know they have some quality wide receivers, namely Earl Bennett but it falls on Nickson to get them the ball.
One thing is for sure, in-game adjustments will be a big key for both sides. With the loss of Cutler and the introduction of a very mobile quarterback in Chris Nickson, I anticipate some scheme changes on Vanderbilt's part that will take advantage of the speed at quarterback. Michigan has new offensive and defensive coordinators who will bring their own changes to each side of the ball. Michigan’s defense will likely run multiple fronts and is expected to be more aggressive. Mike DeBord has stated some of the changes on offense would be “significant” and there will be more commitment to running the football effectively.
A few things to keep an eye on during the game:
-The match up between Michigan cornerback Leon Hall and Vanderbilt wide receiver Earl Bennett. Both will be huge test for the other and will likely gauge where they are on a national level.
Vanderbilt could challenge Michigan in several areas but I don’t see this being a close game as Michigan has more talent at seemingly every level.
Why to Watch: It seems like years ago since Michigan tight
end Tyler Ecker just missed getting in the end zone on an improbable kickoff
return in the Alamo Bowl loss to Nebraska, and now head coach Lloyd Carr are
on double secret probation needing a big year or else more major changes will
be made. The Wolverines seem to be everyone's sleeper team in the BCS race
with enough talent and experience to do some big things, but they have to prove
they can be more consistent on both sides of the ball. Vanderbilt is in the
first year after the Jay Cutler era and no one is expecting more than a lousy
year. This is still a plucky team with most of the non-Cutler key pieces back,
especially on defense. It'll be a monster upset if the Commodores pull off
the win, but it should be more competitive than most Maize and Blue fans would
Why Vanderbilt Might Win: Call this a feeling out process for Michigan with new coordinators Mike DeBord and Ron English getting their feet wet. There's isn't one screaming Vandy weakness with a decent enough run defense to keep the slimmed down Wolverines from dominating on the ground. Consider the Michigan O line a big question mark early on. If it doesn't dominate, this might be close.
Why Michigan Might Win: Does Vanderbilt have enough big play playmakers to win a game like this in The Big House? Everything needs to go right for the upset, and that's asking an awful lot considering the Commodore quarterback situation is still up in the air. It's a three man race to replace Jay Cutler with sophomore Chris Nickson holding the slight edge. That's not a good thing when compared to Michigan veteran Chad Henne running a Michigan offense that has a healthy Mike Hart back. The Wolverines are 10-2 when Hart gets 20 carries or more.
Who to Watch: The NFL scouts will be watching with key interest how Michigan senior corner Leon Hall handles Vandy's burgeoning star receiver Earl Bennett. Many thought Bennett's breakout freshman season and unbelievable final four games (49 catches for 545 yards and nine touchdowns) was because Cutler was slinging it, but he's the real deal. If Hall is the best corner in the nation and a first round pro prospect, he keeps Bennett in check when matched up on him.
What Will Happen: Michigan will dominate. This isn't your button-down, corporate Michigan team that you're used to. This is a lean, mean, fighting machine that's looking to make an early statement.
CFN Prediction: Michigan 38 ... Vanderbilt 14 ... Line: Michigan -25.5
Must See Rating: (5 skip the birth of your first born - 1 Pants Off, Dance Off) ... 2.5