COMMENTARY | Let's start by saying that the Michigan Wolverines will not lose to Akron this Saturday, Sept. 14 when the Zips visit The Big House in Ann Arbor. Michigan enters the contest as a 34-point favorite for good reason.
But while the Wolverines should win by at least four touchdowns, that doesn't mean there isn't plenty of things for coach Brady Hoke's team to work on. Even though the game will essentially be a practice in front of more than 100,000 people, the Wolverines can use the game to prep some of the younger talent and fine-tune the technique of the regulars.
Here are five questions the Wolverines can answer during Saturday's game:
Can the pass rush finally get home?
Perhaps most intriguing will be how the pass rush responds to not being able to get pressure in last week's game against Notre Dame. A week after dominating Central Michigan at the line, the Wolverines managed only a single sack and one quarterback hit against the Irish. Obviously, Notre Dame is a much more talented team than Akron, but the Wolverines will need to get pressure on the quarterback as the season progresses.
The front four have recorded just one sack thus far this season and three quarterback hits. Those numbers have to increase this week against a weak Akron team.
Will Devin Gardner learn from his mistakes?
As impressive as quarterback Devin Gardner has been, he is the first to admit he has to clean up his mistakes. Aside from the horrendous pick-six he threw against Notre Dame, Gardner was intercepted twice in the CMU game on poorly thrown balls. He has shown a habit of staring down receivers and against more skilled teams -- those tendencies can lead to some major problems.
While mistakes through the air have to be cut down, he also has to learn that sometimes it's better to take a sack than run backwards when pressure gets to him.
How much can the backups learn from live action?
Since the game will likely be over at halftime, what the second-string players do once they hit the field will be very important going forward. Injuries will no doubt strike the Wolverines at some point and while coaches get an idea of what a backup can offer by watching him in practice, nothing compares to live action.
Nearly 30 players made their debut against CMU and getting those players more experience against Akron can help Hoke and his staff evaluate who they can count on if needed as the season moves along. Expect freshman running back Derrick Green to get plenty of work as the backup to starting running back Fitz Toussaint.
Which receiver steps up to compliment Jeremy Gallon?
Thus far this season, Gardner has completed 31 passes for 456 yards and five touchdowns. Twelve of those completions have gone to Jeremy Gallon, good for 231 yards and four touchdowns. No other receiver on the team has more than five receptions. As good as Gallon has been, the Wolverines need to find another receiving option to keep defense from loading up on Gallon.
Receivers Drew Dileo, Jeremy Jackson and Joe Reynolds will compete for those receptions along with tight end Devin Funchess.
How healthy will the Wolverines be after the game?
Above all else, the main goal is to leave without any injuries. The Wolverines already lost running back Drake Johnson for the season due to an injury suffered in the CMU blowout and want to avoid a repeat of that against Akron. The last thing Michigan needs is to lose one of its starters in what is a meaningless game just weeks before the start of Big Ten play.
Matt Durr is a reporter from Michigan who has covered University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan University athletics for Annarbor.com. Follow him on twitter @mdurr84.
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