RUSH OFFENSE vs. AIR FORCE RUSH DEFENSE
Michigan is #47 nationally with 204 yards/game on the ground, and most of that (123.5 yards/game) is coming from fifth year senior running back Ty Isaac. Isaac (8.0 YPC) was expected to be the #3 back coming into the season, but he has overtaken sophomore Chris Evans (3.4 YPC) and junior Karan Higdon (3.7 YPC). The Wolverines usually try to hit a jet sweep or two per game, and those targets so far have been Eddie McDoom (4 yards), Donovan Peoples-Jones (44 yards), and Kekoa Crawford (uhh…a fumble). Michigan is #53 in rushing average (4.74 YPC) and only has 1 touchdown, so there are things to fix, mostly up front. There has been some talk that right guard Michael Onwenu is on thin ice, and redshirt sophomore Jon Runyan, Jr. is a possibility at that spot. Air Force is #10 in rush defense, although their only game so far was against VMI…except AF was also #10 nationally in 2016. They gave up 3.4 YPC, which was tied for #15 in the country. The Falcons run a 3-4 defense with undersized linemen, notably 263 lb. nose tackle Cody Gessler. The leading tackler so far this season is senior inside linebacker Jack Flor (8 tackles), followed by senior cornerback Marquis Griffin (5 tackles). Senior Grant Ross leads the team with 1.5 tackles for loss. Both inside linebackers are 225 lbs., and senior outside linebacker Ja’Mel Sanders is 6’1″, 200 lbs. They’re undersized but get to the ball quickly.
Hit the jump for the rest of the preview.
PASS OFFENSE vs. AIR FORCE PASS DEFENSE
Michigan is #75 in passing yardage (219.5 yards/game) and #78 in passer efficiency rating. Quarterback Wilton Speight is averaging 7.4 yards per attempt (tied for 61st) due to hitting some big plays over the top, but he has missed some shorter throws and had both of his interceptions returned for touchdowns. Fans have grown restless and are wondering what’s behind door #2 or perhaps door #3, largely because of Speight’s 51.9% completion rate. Slot receiver Grant Perry leads the squad with 8 catches and 112 yards, including a 33-yard catch-and-run against Cincinnati. The Wolverines are tied for 106th with 6 sacks given up, and the right side of the line has struggled in pass protection. Air Force sacked VMI just once, and that came from 283 lb. DT Santo Coppola. Ross was third on the team with 3.5 sacks last season. Last season the Falcons were tied for #40 with 30 sacks, so their blitzing defense can get to the quarterback, and they were tied for #22 with 15 interceptions. All of their interceptors do not return in 2017. Their defensive backs all have good size, except for junior corner Robert Bullard, who is 5’9″, 180 lbs. Air Force is #1 in pass efficiency defense but finished #83 in 2016.
RUSH DEFENSE vs. AIR FORCE RUSH OFFENSE
Michigan is #3 in rushing defense (39.5 yards allowed/game) and #1 in yards allowed per rush (1.39). Safety Tyree Kinnel (15 tackles), middle linebacker Devin Bush, Jr. (14), and sophomore Viper Khaleke Hudson (10) are 1-2-3 in tackles, and both Bush and Kinnel are tied for the team lead with 3.5 tackles for loss. The Wolverines are tied for #11 overall in tackles for loss. Michigan has been running a bunch of 3-3-5 looks despite a historical lean for…uhh…something else, and offenses still seem to be sorting out how to deal with it. Air Force is #1 in rushing offense and averaging 7.1 yards/carry, but that was against VMI only. Last year they averaged 4.99 yards/carry and finished #3 in rushing with their flexbone attack. Nutty fact: in the VMI game, no fewer than seventeen (17!) players carried the ball, while only ten ran the ball in the entire 2016 season. Senior Tim McVey (5’9″, 190 lbs.) plays slotback for the Falcons and has some solid straight-line speed, while quarterback Arion Worthman (5’11”, 201 lbs.) is a decent runner (674 yards, 6 TDs in 2016). Air Force’s offensive line averages approximately 281 lbs., but they play low, which negates some of the size advantage Michigan has. Air Force will probably get a good chunk of yardage, but Michigan has the size and speed to make up for bad decisions.
PASS DEFENSE vs. AIR FORCE PASS OFFENSE
The Wolverines are tied for #34 in pass defense (156.5 yards allowed/game) and are #11 in pass efficiency defense. They returned 2 interceptions for touchdowns last weekend against Cincinnati, and there hasn’t been a huge dropoff in production after losing their top six defensive backs from 2016. Michigan has also made 10 sacks, which is tied for 4th in the country. Hudson (3.0) and Bush (2.5) lead the team in sacks. Air Force is #98 in passing (190 yards/game) but #2 in passer efficiency on 10/14 completions for 190 yards and 2 touchdowns. The aforementioned McVey caught 3 passes for 77 yards, and sophomore receiver Geraud Sanders (6’3″, 210 lbs.) caught the 2 touchdowns, though he’s a backup. It was more of the same in 2016, when Air Force finished #8 in passer efficiency due to yardage, but had only a 14-to-8 TD-to-INT rate. Worthman is both a better runner and a better passer than 2016 starter Nate Romine. He can threaten downfield, but Michigan might have an elite defense.
- Players from the State of Michigan include: Clarkston RB Nolan Eriksen, Ada Forest Hills WR Adam Farah, Mason DE Stone Miller
- No Air Force players were recruited by Michigan
LAST TIME THEY PLAYED…
- Denard Robinson ran 20 times for 218 yards and 2 touchdowns
- Devin Funchess (4 catches, 106 yards, 1 TD) and Devin Gardner (5 catches, 63 yards, 1 TD) led the team in receiving
- Air Force slotback Cody Getz ran 26 times for 130 yards (5.0 yards/carry) and 3 touchdowns
- Michigan 31, Air Force 25
- Air Force runs for 260 yards
- Wilton Speight throws 2 TDs and 1 INT
- Michigan takes control of the game by the end of the first quarter
- Chris Evans leads the team in rushing with 90 yards
- Michigan 32, Air Force 14
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