Washington visits Michigan on Saturday night in a pivotal early-season matchup. Kickoff is set for 8:14 p.m. ET (ABC).
Both teams opened the season last Saturday at home. Michigan walloped Western Michigan 47-14. Washington, ranked No. 20 in the AP poll, was stunned by Montana, an FCS program, 13-7. The Wolverines insisted this week they’re not putting much stock in the upset.
Michigan is 7-5 all-time against the Huskies, with four of those games occurring in the Rose Bowl and the last meeting coming in 2002.
Michigan is a 6.5-point favorite according to oddsmakers. Here’s a look at what to expect on Saturday.
Michigan offense vs. Washington defense
Michigan totaled 551 yards in the opener, including 335 on the ground. Running back Blake Corum had a breakout game to start his sophomore year (14 rushes for 111 yards and a touchdown, plus a receiving score), displaying patience and quickness. Freshman Donovan Edwards (six carries) debuted a more aggressive style of running than he’d shown in practice. Hassan Haskins (13 carries, 70 yards, touchdown) was his usual productive self.
Michigan’s two quarterbacks were both efficient and, at times, electrifying. Starter Cade McNamara had two passes tipped at the line of the scrimmage; his other nine pass attempts were caught, including a 76-yard touchdown to Ronnie Bell. Five-star freshman J.J. McCarthy flashed a rocket arm and hooked up with Daylen Baldwin on a highlight-reel, 69-yard touchdown pass.
Bell was lost for the season with a knee injury. How Michigan replaces his production will be something to watch on Saturday. Baldwin, a transfer from Jackson State, was banged up leading into the season; he took the field after Bell’s injury and made a nice mid-route adjustment on his touchdown. Look for him to take on a bigger role. Cornelius Johnson will likely get more targets as well.
Moving the ball won’t be easy on Saturday. Entering the season, Washington’s defense was projected to be very good. For all that went wrong in the opener, the defense didn’t disappoint. Montana managed just 10 first downs and 232 yards.
The Huskies didn’t force a turnover and had just one sack, but Montana had three offensive holding penalties. Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh called linebacker Edefuan Ulofoshio (No. 48) a “tackling machine” and referred to two “elite” cornerbacks (Pro Football Focus ranked Trent McDuffie and Kyler Gordon as the seventh-best cornerback tandem in the country entering the season).
Washington offense vs. Michigan defense
Washington scored on its opening drive against Montana and not again the rest of the night. The offensive line play was poor, as the Huskies struggled to gain much on the ground (65 yards and 27 attempts) and protect their quarterback.
Dylan Morris, the returning starter at QB, often threw behind his intended targets and ended up with three interceptions. Washington head coach Jimmy Lake was asked this week about sticking with Morris over five-star freshman Sam Huard and said that Morris earned the job during practice. “Dylan Morris is our starting quarterback,” Lake said twice.
Huard was ranked as the No. 3 quarterback in the class, two spots ahead of McCarthy. His dad, Damon, and uncle, Brock, each held Washington’s career passing yards record upon graduating.
Michigan knows a change is possible, but assistant coach Steve Clinkscale said it won’t affect the defense’s preparation, as he doesn’t anticipate a significant schematic change to Washington’s offense regardless of who’s at quarterback.
Morris or Huard would benefit from a healthier receiving corps. Washington’s top three returning wide receivers — Terrell Bynum, Rome Odunze, and Jalen McMillan — all missed the Montana game with injuries.
They “are all week-to-week,” Lake said. “We will get them back at some point. We’ll see how those injuries progress.”
On top of that, Texas Tech transfer Ja’Lynn Polk hurt himself on his first catch and is likely out for at least a few months. Washington was forced to use wideouts who’d never caught a pass for the Huskies, including Michigan transfer Giles Jackson. Morris leaned on talented tight end Cade Otton (eight catches, 82 yards).
“We’ve got to give our guys a better plan to continue to run the football and also a better plan to protect our quarterback,” Lake said.
It will be a challenge against Michigan’s defense, which showed improvement from last season against Western Michigan. Having a game’s worth of tape to study will help Washington’s offense, but the Huskies have a lot of mistakes to correct after such a dismal performance.
Michigan kicker Jake Moody made both of his field goal attempts on Saturday, including one from 37 yards. The Wolverines were sold in kick and punt coverage. After Bell got hurt returning a punt, Michigan turned to Caden Kolesar. It seems Harbaugh would prefer to use Kolesar elsewhere on the unit and have one of his more explosive players (A.J. Henning, perhaps) returning the punts. We’ll see on Saturday if anyone else earned Harbaugh’s trust in practice.
Lake called Washington’s special teams play against Montana “solid,” though he wasn’t happy about two of Montana’s punt returns (27 and 18 yards). Kicker Peyton Henry missed his only field goal attempt, a 50-yarder in the second quarter. Jackson, who returned two kickoffs for touchdowns at Michigan, will handle that role for the Huskies.
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