Sep 8, 2012; Foxborough, MA, USA; Massachusetts Minutemen running back Michael Cox (5) runs the ball against the Indiana Hoosiers during the first half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-US PRESSWIRE

Michigan Football: Coach's Corner -- What May Happen -- UMass Minutemen vs. Michigan Wolverines

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Posted at 4:00pm — 9/14/2012

Michigan Football: Coach’s Corner — What May Happen — UMass Minutemen vs. Michigan Wolverines

Usually when writing such articles about predicting Saturday’s game flow, one takes into consideration key match-ups: strengths versus weaknesses; what has worked for both teams, and some common sense getting into the skulls of the coordinators type of thinking.

For this game the above line of thought may not matter. Both teams have simple needs for this game. First off here is a capsule version of what UMass may envision as major objectives on Saturday.

UMass has not forgotten what worked the last time the Minutemen came to the BIG HOUSE two years ago: running the ball, and running some more. But that was then and both Michigan and UMass have undergone significant change in staff, players, and mission statement.

With the offense that UMass is putting into place under Offensive Coordinator Mike Kruczek, UMass can run pro, or spread, or power. The question becomes what can the Minutemen run well? So far against UConn and Indiana the answer has been unanswered. So Coach Kruczek has some minor choices. Does he work on all aspects of the offense to continue to move forward with its development, or does he focus a game plan on what may be the perceived weaknesses of Michigan’s defense?

The latter choice seems to make sense, and if so, then expect the Minutemen to head to the edge. This could be power sweeps, quick screens, or backs coming out of the backfield attaching Michigan’s edge linebackers and corners. UMass has a big quarterback with upside potential, so Coach Kruczek may decide to isolate a route or two on the corners going deep and hope to hit the home run; probably on play action. UMass has some weapons to attack Michigan, but again this offense is new and while UMass has skilled players, the obvious aim is to recruit more by becoming competitive at the Bowl Championship level.

On the other side of the ball, Michigan Defensive Coordinator, Coach Mattison, is still slightly smarting from the minor sword wound the team took last week against the Air Force Academy, whereby the Falcons nearly destroyed the edge and beat Michigan’s defenders nearly the entire game. Coach magnanimously took the blame, but to even the most casual observer it is clear that speed and playing in space are deficiencies that still remain. And coaching can only go so far with such shortcomings.

Coach Mattison has more luxuries this week. He can bring the entire blitz package if Michigan gets ahead on the scoreboard. He certainly has worked on stopping the run, albeit in a much different fashion than against the Air Force option attack. Coach could save some of the blitzes and simply see how his players improve on the base package. The hedge here is Michigan will bring the pressure; as the team needs preparation for the future and also a convincing win.

The Michigan offense will be the most interesting part of what happens Saturday. Getting into the head of Michigan Offensive Coordinator Al Borges and predicting what the game plan will be for the upcoming games has proven to be an unsuccessful venture so far in 2012.

September 8, 2012; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines quarterback Denard Robinson (16) breaks past Air Force Falcons defensive back Brian Lindsay (31) to run for a 79 yard touchdown during the first quarter at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE

But again, the effort will continue somewhat unabated. Michigan will enjoy the athletic advantage of Denard Robinson. In game one against Alabama Denard was not used to great length. In game two against the Air Force Denard was the Michigan offense. Logic would dictate that Denard will be used, especially on important third down plays. But it is apparent Coach Borges must get the tailbacks in gear. So, the interior of the line will probably be asked to run the inside zone read very frequently.

When the box is loaded, Michigan can either wildcat Denard or work on the possession passing game. Denard did throw better last week, and in both games Denard has been willing to look downfield and stay in the pocket. It would seem to be a logical goal to involve as many receivers as possible Saturday. The two Devins from this viewpoint have the ability to become the go to guys by the Big Ten season. And Roundtree, if he gets rolling, and coupled with Gallon, provides a decent receiving corps if the route running improves and the ball gets to the receivers. The two Devins show that big and some speed is not a bad combination.

Two years ago Michigan fans were looking forward to seeing the back-ups play and contribute in the UMass game. That never happened. Michigan struggled mightily to win that game and could never really stop the UMass offense the second half. Time after time UMass hit the right edge for substantial gains with a pretty big and fundamental offensive line. So, in round two the fans will be hoping to see Russell Bellomy get some time behind center. On defense, the rotation of the young and the restless with the veterans will continue to evolve.

Boiling all of this down to basics, it is safe to assume that Michigan wishes to work on the mistakes of the past and put into place what is needed for the future. Fitz is needed, a passing game is needed, and controlling the run game on defense is needed. Not an illogical formula, and we will see how this pans out on Saturday.

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Written by GBMWolverine Staff

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