Michigan Football Preview 2015

2015 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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50 ■ THE WOLVERINE 2015 FOOTBALL PREVIEW TOP FIVE GAMES 1. Sept. 3 at Utah — Ohio State is, has been and always will be The Game for Michigan. However, there's only one first game of the Jim Harbaugh era, this one is it. The Utes thumped the Wolverines 26-10 in Ann Arbor last year, and boast a potential Heisman candidate in running back Devontae Booker (1,512 rushing yards and 306 receiving yards in 2014). This nationally televised contest will give fans a first glance of what to expect in Harbaugh's inaugural season. 2. Nov. 28 vs. Ohio State — The defending conference and national champions will be the heavy favorite to repeat as the Big Ten's best, shades of 1969 when Bo Schembechler first faced the Buckeyes. Harbaugh versus Urban Meyer, Episode I might be even more of a David versus Goliath than the '69 Michigan win (24-12), but there will be plenty of intrigue and interest. 3. Oct. 17 vs. Michigan State — Nobody has benefited more from Michigan's seven-year struggle than the Spartans. They've taken six of the last seven in the series, and many of them haven't been all that close. MSU returns veteran quarterback Connor Cook, and its defense will be typically strong — but it's past time for U-M to take back control of the series. It should be a battle. 4. Nov. 21 at Penn State — The Nittany Lions haven't been great in the past few years, but they've been good enough to capture four of the last five over the Wolverines after losing nine straight. Michigan leads the overall series 11-7, yet quarterback Christian Hackenburg and PSU will be tough to beat in Happy Valley, even if they have to replace some pieces coming off a 2-6 Big Ten campaign. 5. Oct. 31 at Minnesota — Head coach Jerry Kill and the Golden Gophers went 8–5 and were 5–3 in Big Ten play to finish in a tie for second place in the West Division last year. Though they've lost some talent (11 starters, including six on offense), this is a program on the rise. The Halloween night affair will be Michigan's chance to regain the Little Brown Jug, but the Gophers aren't going to give the nation's oldest rivalry trophy back without a fight. TOP FIVE FRESHMAN CANDIDATES TO PLAY Michigan didn't sign a huge recruiting class in 2015 — only 14 players — but there are more than a few who have the po- tential to contribute in games. Here's the list of most likely to see the field this fall. 1. Wide receiver Brian Cole — Cole gave himself a leg up by enrolling early, and some believe he has the physical talent to become Michigan's best receiver in his first year, assuming he takes care of business off the field. The 6-2, 200-pounder out of Saginaw, Mich., will spend most of his time in the slot, where he could become a game breaker down the road. 2. Placekicker Andrew David — Special teams coach John Baxter will have to replace Matt Wile, and the Massillon, Ohio, native David is the only scholarship kicker the Wolverines will have. It's possible a walk-on wins the job, but David was signed for a reason. 3. Tight end Tyrone Wheatley Jr. — Tight ends coach Jay Harbaugh expects to get the two-way standout to start his career, and he could use him. The Rivals.com four-star, and son of running backs coach and former U-M great Tyrone Wheatley, is 6-6 245 and was the top-rated tight end in the state of New York. 4. Safety Tyree Kinnel — The 5-11, 197-pounder out of Huber Heights, Ohio, is physically ready to play and could provide needed depth at the safety position. Rivals.com's No. 15 safety nationally held offers from Alabama, Notre Dame and others, but stayed true to his U-M commitment when Jim Harbaugh was hired. 5. Cornerback Keith Washington — The under-recruited three-star out of Prattville, Ala., comes to Michigan as an athlete, and he'll start out as a 6-2, 175-pound cornerback. Senior Blake Countess' departure opens the door for some potential early playing time. Road Openers Against Ranked Teams Michigan opens the season at Utah Sept. 3, and it's very possible the Utes will be ranked in the preseason top 25 after finishing No. 20 last year. The Wolverines have not fared well in road openers over the last four decades, especially against ranked opponents. Here's a look at their results against the latter in that time frame: 1978: No. 5 Michigan 28, No. 14 Notre Dame 14 1980: No. 8 Notre Dame 29, No. 14 Michigan 27 1982: No. 20 Notre Dame 23, No. 10 Michigan 17 1983: No. 16 Washington 25, No. 8 Michigan 24 1985: No. 19 Michigan 34, No. 11 South Carolina 3 1988: No. 13 Notre Dame 19, No. 9 Michigan 17 1989: No. 5 Michigan 24, No. 24 UCLA 23 1990: No. 1 Notre Dame 28, No. 4 Michigan 24 1992: No. 6 Michigan 17, No. 3 Notre Dame 17 (tie) 1994: No. 6 Michigan 26, No. 3 Notre Dame 24 1995: No. 13 Michigan 38, No. 25 Illinois 14 1996: No. 11 Michigan 20, No. 5 Colorado 13 1998: No. 22 Notre Dame 36, No. 5 Michigan 20 2000: No. 14 UCLA 23, No. 3 Michigan 20 2001: No. 15 Washington 23, No. 11 Michigan 18 2002: No. 20 Notre Dame 25, No. 7 Michigan 23 2003: No. 22 Oregon 31, No. 3 Michigan 27 2006: No. 11 Michigan 47, No. 2 Notre Dame 21 2010: Michigan 28, No. 22 Notre Dame 24 2012: No. 2 Alabama 41, No. 8 Michigan 14* 2014: No. 16 Notre Dame 31, Michigan 0 * at Arlington, Texas Overall Road Opener Record Since 1975: 20-19-1 Record vs. Ranked Opponents: 8-12-1 The first game of the Jim Harbaugh era will take place at Utah Sept. 3 and feature the Wol‑ verines seeking to avenge last year's 26‑10 home defeat to the Utes. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL

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