We are just hours away from the Michigan Football season opener against East Carolina, let’s talk about what a successful outing against the Pirates from Greenville, NC looks like.
If you haven’t paid close attention to what has happened in the past few weeks, Michigan will be without Head Coach Jim Harbaugh for the first three games after the University issued a self-imposed suspension in relation to alleged NCAA violations committed during the COVID-19 dead period. Offensive Coordinator Sherrone Moore will also miss the season opener for his alleged role as well.
Even with the absence of Harbaugh and Moore, Most sportsbooks still have Michigan football as at least a 35-point favorite. The Wolverines should win comfortably, but let’s take a look at what I want to see Saturday afternoon to feel good about the team going into the rest of the season.
With JJ McCarthy returning as QB1, I expect him to take a big jump in terms of production and limiting turnovers. The Fiesta Bowl left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth, especially the number of times the offense coughed up the ball (two interception returns for touchdowns and a fumble on the goal-line after a review overturned an explosive 50-yard TD grab by Roman Wilson). While the Michigan football quarterback only had 5 interceptions last season, three of them came in the Big Ten Championship Game and the Fiesta Bowl.
I want to see McCarthy play a turnover-free game against an inferior opponent. I also expect him to show the playmaking ability that he showed in the Ohio State game more consistently, although the opportunities will likely be limited due to the likelihood of a blowout. I also want to see the chemistry between McCarthy and the WRs and TEs after the losses of Ronnie Bell to the NFL and a number of other weapons to the Transfer Portal in TE Erick All and WR Andrel Anthony amongst other losses.
In a game where Michigan Football is a heavy favorite, I expect the running backs to have a huge day. Last season, ECU was 73rd in FBS allowing 27.2 points per game and they did not add anything game-changing via their most recent recruiting class or the Transfer Portal.
Even if the Pirates play a similar level of defense to last year, they haven’t had to play against a running back room at the level of Michigan.
Blake Corum returns for his senior year after a knee injury and he is atop most lists as a Heisman Trophy favorite. Corum was limited to a few snaps in the Ohio State game last season and did not appear in the College Football Playoff. The senior running back had an amazing season, totaling over 1,500 all-purpose yards to go along with 19 total touchdowns.
Donavan Edwards returns as well and is looking to have an even bigger year, especially if he can stay healthy. Last season, Edwards had almost 1,200 all-purpose yards last season in a backup role while also having 9 total touchdowns.
Last season, the Wolverines averaged 238.9 rushing yards per game. I expect the rushing total to be closer to 300 yards against ECU.
This season, ECU ranks 132nd of 133 FBS teams in returning production on offense, while Michigan ranks 16th in returning production on defense. With a strong returning defense, I expect the Wolverines to rack up multiple sacks in this game and force multiple turnovers. I also want to see the defense hold the Pirates to under 300 total yards of offense.
If you’re going to the game, don’t forget that it is a Maize Out. This season should be a memorable one, so let’s enjoy every moment!