RUSHING OFFENSE vs. WMU RUSHING DEFENSE
Senior running back Karan Higdon (21 carries, 72 yards, 1 TD) dominated the carry count last week against Notre Dame; the only other running back to carry the ball was Chris Evans (2 carries, 1 yard). The offensive line’s blocking was okay against a solid Notre Dame front, but they weren’t getting to their second-level blocks and Higdon didn’t do the team many favors by missing a gaping hole and failing to break tackles. His longest carry went for 9 yards. Michigan’s line will likely remain the same as last week, meaning left tackle Jon Runyan, Jr. and right tackle Juwann Bushell-Beatty will still have something to prove. Western Michigan’s defensive line consists of light defensive ends (240 and 235 lbs.), a decent sized nose tackle (converted offensive lineman Wesley French, who’s 6’5″, 295), and a light 3-tech (Ralph Holley, who’s 6’2″, 270). Free safety A.J. Thomas led the team in tackles last week against spread-happy Syracuse, but junior linebacker Alex Grace (6’1″, 220) is the front seven’s most effective tackler. Syracuse allowed 334 rushing yards to the Orange last week.
Hit the jump for the rest of the preview.
PASSING OFFENSE vs. WMU PASSING DEFENSE
Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson had a rough week against Notre Dame, but it wasn’t all bad. He completed two-thirds of his passes for a decent average, and his only truly bad throw came when Cesar Ruiz/Higdon combined for some really bad pass protection. The Wolverines have potentially discovered a new star receiver in sophomore Nico Collins (3 catches for 66 yards), while presumed star Donovan Peoples-Jones (6 catches for 38 yards) still hasn’t really lived up to his potential. Meanwhile, the offensive line allowed pressures on 50% of the passing plays last week, and left tackle Runyan was very bad in pass protection. Both tackles had better improve quickly if they don’t want to be replaced in the coming weeks. Redshirt junior defensive end Antonio Balabani (6’2″, 235) led the team in sacks last season with 4.0, along with 7.5 tackles for loss. The Broncos were #8 in the MAC last season with 222.4 yards/allowed per game through the air. Of WMU’s 10 interceptions on defense last year, only 2 return . . . from backup defensive back Obbie Jackson. Syracuse completed just 11/26 passes last week, but they went for 226 yards and 2 touchdowns.
RUSHING DEFENSE vs. WMU RUSHING OFFENSE
Michigan is #31 in rushing average allowed after one week (2.81 YPC), which came against a solid running team in Notre Dame. While the interior defensive line will likely take a step back this season, the defensive ends and linebackers as a whole are excellent. Defensive end Chase Winovich had 8 tackles and 3 tackles for loss, and middle linebacker Devin Bush, Jr. had 6 tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss. Western Michigan was led last week by junior running back Levante Bellamy (5’9″, 185) with 11 carries for 120 yards and 2 touchdowns, and in fact, the Broncos had three running backs average 10.0+ yards per carry; starter Jamauri Bogan had 6 carries for 68 yards. The offensive line averages 6’4″ and 300 lbs., so it’s a good-sized offensive line. Last year they were #83 in Adjusted Line Yards, so while they had a good performance against Syracuse, that may not be indicative of how they will fare against Western Michigan. The Broncos have some speedy running backs, but Michigan will hold them in check better than Syracuse did.
PASSING DEFENSE vs. WMU PASSING OFFENSE
Overall, Michigan has been excellent at pass defense, and they were pretty good last week, except for a couple early blips. Notre Dame quarterback Brandon Wimbush has a cannon for an arm and took advantage of backup safety Brad Hawkins, Jr., who should be back to backup safety again this week, since Josh Metellus will be back from his targeting disqualification. Backup cornerback Brandon Watson notched an interception, and the two starters were two of the best in the country last year. Meanwhile, Michigan’s pass rush is elite, especially from edge rushers Winovich and Rashan Gary. The team notched just 2 sacks last week, but they were in Wimbush’s face all night. Western Michigan was #87 in Adjusted Sack Rate last season. Junior quarterback Jon Wassink (6’2″, 200) was 19/36 last week for 379 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions. Junior wide receiver D’Wayne Eskridge (5’9″, 185) had a monster game against Syracuse, catching 8 passes for 240 yards and 2 touchdowns. Eskridge will be a tough matchup for Michigan’s safeties, but it might be tough for Wassink to have enough time to get him the ball downfield. Former Michigan receiver Drake Harris (1 catch for 12 yards) starts for the Broncos, too, and so does freshman Jayden Reed (6’0″, 170), who had 7 catches for 121 yards and 1 score.
- Former Michigan WR Drake Harris (1 catch for 12 yards this season) is on WMU’s roster
- WMU QB Griffin Alstott is the son of former Purdue FB Mike Alstott
- WMU safety Justin Tranquill is the younger brother of Notre Dame safety Drue Tranquill, who played against Michigan last week
LAST TIME THEY PLAYED . . .
- On September 3, 2011, Michigan beat WMU, 34-10
- Michigan LB Brandon Herron had the longest INT return for a TD in program history (94 yards)
- Herron also set a school record with 2 defensive touchdowns (he added a 29-yard fumble return TD)
- Fitzgerald Toussaint ran 11 times for 80 yards and 2 TDs
- Brady Hoke jumped out to a 1-0 career record at Michigan!
- Chase Winovich makes 2.5 sacks
- Karan Higdon runs for 140 yards
- Shea Patterson throws 2 touchdowns (to Nico Collins and Zach Gentry)
- Michigan 37, Western Michigan 7
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