When the Huskies kickoff the season against the Wolverines in Ann Arbor this Saturday, there is more at stake than a "W." Coach Edsall may downplay this particular games' significance in the scheme of the whole season, but don't let him fool you; this one means something.
In the current CFB landscape, the Big East struggles to remain relevant. Case in point, Nebraska's jump to the Big Ten this past summer saved the Big East as currently constituted. Temporarily. Of the BCS conferences, the Big East is the red-headed step child. Thanks to the previous defections of Miami, V. Tech and B.C. and an outdated, poorly paying television contract, viewership of the once powerful conference has fallen off. Some media and fans question the legitimacy and fairness of the Big East's receipt of an automatic BCS birth. Furthering this negative trend, Big East teams continue losing coaches to power conferences as if they were the WAC. All the while, the past four years the Big East teams have put up a 16-6 bowl record, best among the six major conferences.
Point blank, Saturday's game is about respect. UCONN is coming off three straight winning seasons and two consecutive bowl wins. Despite enjoying success, the Huskies are still not viewed nationally as a legitimate contender; a product of the "Big East" stigma. Last year Randy Edsall and company took great strides, toppling out of conference foes Notre Dame and South Carolina (Papa Johns.com bowl). Saturday provides a great opportunity to build off of last season's momentum. Michigan's football pedigree is unquestioned despite consecutive losing season (3-9, 5-7) under ex-WVU coach Rich Rodriguez. A week one victory at the Big House would keep the Huskies on the national radar. A loss would add fuel to the fire for the Big East haters, providing for them just another example of Big East mediocrity.
UCONN Offensive Line:
UCONN will win this game by winning the line of scrimmage on offense. The good news for Husky fans is that center Moe Petrus and guard Zach Hurd are two of the best offensive lineman in the Big East. Both are coming off 1st team Big East performances in 2009, and are joined by a monstrous crew that averages 6-5, 315 pounds. UCONN's size upfront matches up extremely well with Michigan who fields a relatively undersized d-line. Last year the Huskies o-line opened up holes for two 1,000 yard rushers in Andre Dixon and Jordan Todman, and I look for their continued success in the opener.
Jordan Todman (JR, RB, 5-9, 190 lbs)
Todman is an absolute stud, a year ago leading the Huskies in touchdowns (14) and rushing yards (1188). Todman split the load with Dixon in '09, but will be looked to as the feature back in the UCONN rushing attack when taking the field Saturday. Given UCONN's lack of depth and talent at WR, and an unproven passing attack, Todman's ability to get into the second level of Michigan's defense is paramount to the team's success.
Tate Forcier, Denard Robinson, Devin Gardner? The Michigan QB situation is a complete wildcard. Rich Rod is playing this one tight to the vest, not announcing his starter until game time. Personally, I never see the benefit in prolonging a decision such as this. Ultimately, I believe Robinson gives the Wolverines the best chance to win. His speed and athleticism adds an element that fits right into Rich Rodriguez's spread offense where Pat White once excelled, although some argue Devin Gardner fits the Pat White mold even better than Robinson.
UCONN 27 Michigan 21
UCONN's rushing attack will overwhelm Michigan's 3-3-5 or 3-4 alignment(whichever they show) in route to a victory for coach Edsall, his first in seven attempts against the former WVU coach. The Wolverines will miss departed Brandon Graham, and other than nose tackle Mike Martin, who should be handled well by Moe Petrus, nobody on the Michigan defense should keep Husky Nation up at night. Look for Todman to get 100 plus yards on the ground and two scores en-route to the W.
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