Michigan Wolverines: Appalachian State — What May Happen
Appalachian State and Michigan — Round Two — Final Game Preview
The long, not-so-hot summer is nearly over. The temperature is predicted to be warm at the Big House this Saturday. The blue faithful, and all college football fans, have seen the end of the dark territory, that period of months of canned highlights and practice reports. The football season is short and every Saturday is precious.
The opening opponent is Appalachian State: the Mountaineers. This is the first season of FBS Division 1 status for the long-time FCS (Division 1AA) power. Last year was no storybook season for Appalachian State, or Michigan for that matter. Appalachian State made great progress the second part of the season, whereas, Michigan did not.
Revenge has not been entrenched within much pregame discussion. That would be embarrassing. Simply put, Michigan has many other matters far above the “greatest upset ever” to deal with this season. But as Head Coach Brady Hoke mentioned at a recent press conference when asked about the upcoming game and the past result “We’ve talked about it.”
Because Appalachian State limped in last year with a 4-8 record, many assume a massive massacre Saturday. But as the anti-Confucius, Lee Corso, is want to state: Not so fast!
Appalachian State’s excellent running back, Marcus Cox, has been listed as probable to play Saturday, this after recent reports of missing two games with a torn meniscus. He is an excellent back and provides a great weapon on the inside series as well as having the ability to hit the edge. His presence will draw the attention of Michigan defenders. The nose tackles must respond by at least containing the inside series and prevent runs of double-digit yardage.
The Appalachian State offensive line contains veterans who have banked well over 100 starts as a unit. That is a blessing for any offense. The entire offense appears to be very well coached.
Marcus Cox is only a sophomore and already a beast of a running back. He set many freshman offensive yardage records. Marcus will be the featured back and may someday be a candidate for significant awards. One thing that is impressive is how well Cox hits the hole on the dive that drives the inside series.
The second major cog in the Mountaineer offense is quarterback Kameron Bryant. After a rough start to the season, Bryant was inserted as the starter and the season immediately turned around. Cameron set accuracy records for a sophomore completing over 70% of his passes. He has decent mobility and throws nicely out of the pocket when the rush is well contained. He has success with middle seam patterns.
What the Appy State offense will attempt to do is probably not much of a mystery. The inside series will be used and the stretch to the outside will be used. The passing game will feature several quick patterns that are attempting to find a weakness in speed and tackling ability. Look for Bryant to roll out often, especially if the blitz is smelled out.
The Michigan defense likely will place the number one priority on plugging the middle. There is a nice combination of fast, beefy types at the NT and solid guys at the 3-tech tackle. Add in the fact that Jake Ryan will be looking to get of to a fast start at middle linebacker and it is a reasonable assumption that Michigan will not get gashed in the middle. If the inside game goes south, then look for Appy State to go outside read and use a group of short outs and hit quick seams. The linebackers and the nickel will be very important in slowing down this part of the spread offense.The Appalachian State offensive coaches are in turned probably concerned about how well the Michigan blitz packages work. Against a spread, with the 4-3 defense it makes sense to expect a nickel back blitz now and then. So, be ready. Mattison may send the linebackers and hope the safeties cover the hot reads.
Michigan may spread formations some against a three-man Mountaineer front. This may give Gardner more protection time and spread the linebackers out. Michigan has been working on recognizing hot reads if blitzed and hopefully Gardner executes. It is less likely that Michigan just lines up and floods an area with a wideout, tight end, and H- back most of the game.
On offense it makes sense for Michigan to actually throw quite a bit. UM’s receivers and quarterbacks will need to keep in mind that Appalachian State defensive backs jump routes. This group can be had deep and on quick outs. Funchess should present major problems if Gardner gets protection and has accuracy.
Who knows what Michigan will get out of the running game? If Kalis does not go, then essentially Michigan is playing the game with little starting experience. Appy State has a 325 pound converted offensive lineman, Tyson Fernandez, at nose tackle. His experience is minimal, but he showed skills at the end of last year and during spring practice. This is not what Michigan needed with Glasgow in the one-game doghouse. However, if Fernandez is neutralized by the center-guard pods, then good things can happen.
Michigan should have opportunities for Devin Gardner to cash in and get nice yardage on planned perimeter runs and scrambles. That is not what Michigan may want to do, but that is what Michigan may do best with the current state of the offensive line. Nussmeier has mentioned on several occasions that the offense will use the weapons available, and Gardner’s feet are still a weapon.
How well the defenders of Appalachian State wrap up and tackle will be important, as conversely how well the Michigan backs can make extra yardage after the initial hit. Another consideration is how well Michigan can get open deep. This has to concern the defensive coaches of Appalachian State.
And now back to a familiar theme: Michigan will be judged by how well the rushing game clicks, as an assessment, to some degree, of offensive line play. The backs need vision and the linemen need leverage and position. Will this happen?
Prediction – Michigan 41 Appalachian State 17
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Written by GBMWolverine Staff — Doc4Blu
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