Originally written September 14, 2012 on Fox Sports Detroit:
When people think about Michigan playing Massachusetts in football, they probably remember the game two years ago where the Wolverines struggled to a 42-37 victory. This time is probably going to be a lot different. Not only has Michigan taken big steps forward in the Brady Hoke era, but UMass is a shadow of the team that came to the Big House in 2010. The Minutemen, then an FCS team, are now in their first season at the FBS level and are going through the struggles that every school faces during that transition period. So far, UMass has lost 37-0 to Connecticut and 45-6 to Indiana, and things aren't likely to get much better against the Wolverines. However, the reported 650,000 fee that they are taking home from the Michigan will make the pain slightly easier to bear. Michigan offense against UMass defense Obviously, UMass isn't having a lot of success on defense, having allowed 82 points in their first two games. However, things get worse when you take into account that their biggest problem is dealing with a mobile quarterback. Indiana's Tre Roberson rushed for 114 yards, including two long touchdown runs, and threw for another last weekend, and that was all before he broke his leg early in the second quarter. A defense that has that much trouble with Roberson is going to be in serious trouble against Denard Robinson. Toussaint Fitzgerald, Vincent Smith and Thomas Rawls should all get a chance to get their seasons back on track against the Minutemen as well. UMass has allowed 480 yards rushing and six touchdowns in two games, at an average of almost five yards per carry. If the Michigan offensive line, which has struggled against Alabama and Air Force, can't open holes on Saturday, there are much bigger problems than anyone expected. Defending the pass is something UMass has had a little more success with, although neither UConn nor Indiana were throwing much with big second-half leads. The Minutemen have intercepted three passes and only allowed two touchdowns through the air, so there aren't guaranteed big numbers coming for Roy Roundtree, Devin Gardner and the other Michigan receivers. Still, if the Wolverines do need to go to the air, they are likely to have a good amount of success. It should be interesting to see Russell Bellomy get his first extended playing time, as Robinson is more than likely going to come out of the game once the game gets out of hand. Michigan defense against UMass offense If you think that the Minutemen defense sounds bad, wait until you hear about their offense. Against UConn, they were not only shut out, they were embarrassed. The Huskies held them to 59 yards of offense, including just three on the ground. Massachusetts only managed three first downs, and both their leading rusher and leading receiver finished with just 17 yards. Things got a little better -- they scored their first FBS touchdown on a keeper by quarterback Mike Wegzyn -- but it was hardly a good performance against the hapless Hoosiers. They averaged only 2.2 yards per rush, but did manage to throw for 186 yards. Dedicated Michigan fans will understand part of the rushing-game problem when they learn that the Minutemen's starting tailback is Michael Cox. Yes, the same Michael Cox that made a few appearances while deep on the Michigan depth chart in the past few seasons. Having graduated from UM, he is now in grad school at Massachusetts and playing for the football team in his spare time. In two games, he leads the team with just 32 yards rushing, while Wegzyn has scrambled for 24. Wegzyn hasn't had a lot of success through the air, although he did go 18-26 against Indiana for 151 yards. His best receiver has been sophomore Marken Michel, who caught a 56-yard pass last weekend and leads the team in receiving. That was one of the few times Wegzyn has had time to throw the ball down the field, as his other 26 completions have averaged just 5.8 yards. PREDICTION This is a tough score to predict, because it mainly matters what kind of mood Brady Hoke is in. He's not the type of coach to put 75 or 80 points on a team, even though Michigan could probably do that if they wanted. Instead, I suspect the final score will be something like Michigan 55, Massachusetts 7.
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