Utah Preview

Saturday, September 20th  • 3:30 ET • Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI (109,901)
TV: ABC/ESPN2  • Announcers: Sean McDonough, Chris Spielman, Todd McShay 
Line: UM -5 • Series: UM tied 1-1 • Last Meeting: Aug. 30, 2008: UTAH 25 UM 23

Utah by the numbers
     2-0 (0-0), Pac-12
Head coach: Kyle Wittingham
     Career: 78-39
     at UTAH: 78-39, 10th year
     Rush: Devontae Booker (20-145 yards, 2 TDs) and Troy McCormick (21-58 yards, 1 TD)
     Pass: Travis Wilson (24-38, 446 yards, 6 TDs)
     Rec.: Kenneth Scott (10-134 yards, 3 TDs) and Dres Anderson (7-195 yards, 2 TDs)
     Tackles: Three players with 14 tackles
     Sacks: ate Orchard (2.5-12 yards) and Hunter Dimick (2.5-15 yards)

Related MBN Game Week Content
Michigan vs Utah Stat Sheet
Week 4 B1G Preview
Week 3 B1G Power Rankings
Are You Not Entertained?
Reasons to be concerned
First and foremost, Utah is a talented squad, but we're not quite sure how talented or dangerous because they've played no one. If Michigan had played Appalachian State twice, that'd be roughly the equivalent of Idaho State and Fresno State which the Utes both dismantled in weeks 1 and 2. Either way, I do think Utah is better than the 5-7 record they put up a year ago.

Utah has playmakers, including (via MGoAce's FFFF)…
Dangerman: Wide receiver Dres Anderson is one of the best big-play threats in the country; he's coming off a junior season in which he tied for the lead nationally with seven receptions of 50+ yards and led the Pac-12 with 18.9 yards per catch. He torched Fresno State for a pair of scores...Yes, the Bulldogs had a hiccup in coverage, but that's all it takes against Anderson—one false step and he'll take the top right off the defense.
Obviously, Michigan's secondary will be tested by not only Anderson, but also Kenneth Scott who is Wilson's favorite target with 10 catches and 3 touchdowns so far this season.

As far as QB Travis Wilson. He's about as mobile Miami's Andrew Hendrix (translation: not very) who Michigan saw last week, but he's probably not quite as dangerous a passer. But with Michigan pass defense currently ranked 101st in the nation, a moderately successful passing offense can seem dangerous.

Michigan had success rushing Hendrix a week ago, but only tallied one sack. That number needs to improve.

One thing Michigan fans will notice immediately is Utah's offensive pace. They run plays very quickly…ala Indiana a year ago. Sometimes this benefits the offense, sometimes is doesn't. The crowd can really help Michigan's D in this department.

Speaking of defense, Utah's might be decent…but using Idaho State and Fresno State as a barometer, its impossible to really gauge.

Who to be concerned about? Once again, Ace
Dangerman: The standup DE, Nate Orchard, spent pretty much the entire game either harassing Fresno's QB or destroying outside runs. He does a nice job of holding the edge and his athleticism is tough to handle for offensive tackles. While he didn't record a sack, he was largely responsible for flushing the QB into the arms of his teammates, and Utah ended up with seven sacks on the day.
Other than that, I don't see any areas of concern for Michigan when the Utah defense is on the field. In terms of how much success Michigan can have offensively, I think that's honestly up to them. Utah has decent players that seem to lack consistency when it comes to being good at the football…but so does Michigan's offense at times.

The key for Michigan will be ball security…which has been a disaster in the previous two games.

Reasons to be confident
It may seem strange, but you…yes, you…Michigan blog reader guy…should be confident about tomorrow's game. At this point in the season, especially after putting Miami away last week, Michigan is in a good place mentally going into this game. Its a home game against a non-conference opponent…which Hoke has never lost.

Yes, Michigan has struggled. But they struggled and then overcame to look impressive again. Utah hasn't really been tested yet. And for a generally untested team going on the road against an opponent with 33.333333333...% more game experience, that's significant.

Don't look now, but Michigan has the #7 ranked defense in the nation.

Now Utah, on paper, seems pretty good. Like we said, using their first two opponents as a gauge doesn't really help us much. Last year, Utah started out 2-0, only to then finish 5-7 and 2-7 in the Pac-12 after QB Travis Wilson was injured. Their most impressive win, obviously, was 27-21 against Stanford on October 11th. But that was about it. Utah underperformed in their first season in the Pac-12.

Michigan should have a definite advantage running the ball. Utah's defensive front seems vulnerable. Should Michigan get their running game going, it could be a long day for the Utes. And with a sound running game, that only helps Gardner in the passing game. No word on the health of Funchess. But if Michigan can run to pass, Utah is susceptible to big plays in the secondary.

Another reason to be confident is that Michigan has to, eventually, get on the right side of the turnover margin. Right now, Michigan is ranked 126th out of 128 teams in FBS in turnover margin at -7. It can't get any worse than what it already is. Should that margin start to decrease, that only means that Michigan is doing something right. Turnovers can and will be a factor tomorrow.

Also a factor, will be special teams. Matt Wile is only 3 for 6 on the season, but was 2 for 2 last week including a 40-yarder at the end of the game. Dennis Norfleet, who we'd all hoped would be a bigger factor on offense, is a major factor as a kick returner…averaging 31.33 yards per return. Last week against Miami to start the game, he returned the opening kick 42 yards to give Michigan starting field position at the 50. They never kicked to him again.

5 Predictions
• Michigan wins the turnover battle…forcing at least 1 fumble and 1 INT.
• Green/Smith combine for more than 200 yards rushing.
• Gardner throws 2 touchdowns and no INTs.
• The offensive line continues to improve (gasp!).
• We'll know a lot more about 2014 Michigan Football after this game.

Michigan 35 Utah 24

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