Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Show me what you've got

Michigan has a tremendous record in its season openers (104-18-3) and has won seven in a row. Traditionally, but not always, Michigan opens at home against a decent but overmatched opponent. This year's opponent, the Vanderbilt Commodores, fits the bill perfectly. Michigan is usually able to use the season opener as a tune-up game as it works the bugs out before they hit the major roadblocks of Notre Dame and the Big 10 schedule. Michigan coaches will likely rotate in a lot of players into this game if the Wolverines build up any kind of lead. They do this for multiple reasons. First, it allows the coaches to evaluate certain positions under game conditions. It is one thing to see how players perform in practice but it is entirely another how they perform during a game in front of 110,000 fans. The coaches have not made final decisions on who will start for the remainder of the season at each position and it is possible for a player to play himself into (or out of) a job. Secondly, the coaches want to reward players who work hard in practice with seeing the field. Sometimes the first game or two are the only games all season that some guys have the opportunity to see action (e.g., Dan Moore and Marques Walton in 2005). Lastly, the coaches will rotate a lot of players into the game because the coaches do not want a starter to get hurt (especially in a blowout) and miss the rest of the season.

Michigan historically will not "show" much during its season opener. In fact, I think the offense will be pretty conservative until week 3 when the Wolverines play Notre Dame. Coach Carr and Offensive Coordinator DeBord are going to work out of basic offensive sets for the first two games so as to not reveal anything to the Irish coaches who will be studying game film. Besides, Michigan wants to re-establish its running game. Therefore, I think you will see a lot of pounding the line this Saturday. No matter how much DeBord calls for runs however, he probably will not be able to match what Bo did in his Vanderbilt match-up. In 1969, in Bo's first game as Michigan's Head Coach, the Wolverines ran for 367 yards against the Commodores in running to a 42-14 victory. Sophmore tailback Glenn Doughty led the way for the Wolverines that day rushing for 138 yards and a touchdown on only 15 carries. Quarterback Don Moorhead added 103 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns on 11 carries making Bo's debut a successful one.

As the Wolverines need to get back-up QB's Jason Forcier and David Cone some snaps as neither player has ever played a down for Michigan, I believe Henne should come out of the game after the first series of the 4th quarter if the Wolverines have a 3 touchdown lead. That will give an opportunity for both Forcier and Cone to take the field at least once each if not more during the fourth quarter so they can begin to get acclimated to running the offense at the Big House. They do not even have to pass the ball. They can just keep handing it off to the back-up tailback. They just each need to get some snaps under center under their respective belts.

As much as people want to see if DeBord will install a "new look" offense, I do not think you will see much of it on display in week #1 for the reasons listed above. Nevertheless, I am anxious to get the season started despite the fact Michigan will not be showing their whole hand until later in the season. Go Blue!


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