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The Washington Huskies come to Ann Arbor on Saturday for a primetime affair with the Wolverines in the first meeting since 2002 between the two ball clubs. Michigan won the last matchup — the season opener — in comeback fashion, 31-29, on a Phil Brabbs field goal.
The Wolverines and Huskies were scheduled to meet in 2020 in Seattle, but it was canceled due to COVID-19. The maize and blue hold a slight 7-5 lead in the all-time series.
Michigan is looking to capitalize off of last week’s 47-14 win over Western Michigan. The Wolverines were able to defeat the Broncos due to all three facets of the game, but the run game was particularly explosive. The maize and blue accumulated 335 yards on the ground in Week 1, and Blake Corum stole the show running for a career-high 111 yards and a touchdown. Hassan Haskins added 70 yards of his own while also finding the endzone.
On the other hand, Washington is hoping to make people forget about their upset loss at home in Week 1 to FCS school Montana. The Huskies — who were ranked No. 20 in the AP Top 25 going into the first game — had an abysmal day on offense, only mustering 291 total yards against a much weaker team, throwing for2 26 yards while rushing for a meager 65 yards.
With it being a big, nationally televised contest, here are three keys that Michigan needs to do to come out with a victory.
Don't let Washington's loss to Montana fool you
Photo: Isaiah Hole
Things couldn't be worse for the Huskies right now. They just lost to an FCS school after being favored by 22.5 points, and they lost yet another receiver, Ja'Lynn Polk, who will miss the rest of the year. A few departures and injuries could have been a significant reason that Washington played so horrible on offense. The top three receivers on the depth chart were all out -- Terrell Bynum, Rome Odunze, and Jalen McMillan -- and they are now listed as day-to-day. If none of them play against Michigan, then the Huskies are down to just four scholarship players at the receiver spot. The biggest thing is, Michigan can't come out overconfident and take Washington lightly. They are still a big program, who should be fighting for a Pac-12 title this season. The Huskies have plenty of experience back as well with Dylan Morris at quarterback, and they returned all five of their starting offensive lineman. Jim Harbaugh said it best when asked about the loss to Montana: "It's not relevant." Just last season, Washington was ranked as the 8th-best overall team in terms of efficiency, according to PFF. They also ranked 23rd and 27th on offense and defense respectively from PFF. This once big-time matchup may have lost some luster, but it's still a big game to both programs. The coaching staff needs to make sure that the Wolverines are fully ready for a Washington team that is coming into the Big House wanting to avenge that opening loss.
Run to set up the pass
Photo: Isaiah Hole
It should be safe to assume that Cade McNamara will need to throw the ball more than 11 times to win the game on Saturday. Michigan's game plan was to get back to running the ball, and it worked to perfection against Western Michigan last week. The maize and blue ran for 335 yards on the ground, and the offensive line did anything they wanted against the Broncos. The run game will be up to a new challenge this week when Washington comes to town. Montana was able to rush for 127 yards on the ground as a team this past weekend, but it only averaged 3.7 yards-per-attempt. Just last season, the Huskies had the 48th best defense against the run with a 71.4 grade, according to PFF. The Wolverines have to utilize the run game once again this week, especially if they want to pass the ball. I would assume the game plan for the Huskies this week will be to stop the run and put more defenders in the box, forcing McNamara to beat them. If Michigan can get the run going early, then that will be a good opportunity to let McNamara sling the ball. The Wolverines will need some receivers to step up in Ronnie Bell's absence, and getting the run game going early can be a good stepping stone to do just that.
Maintain pressure on the QB
Photo: Isaiah Hole
The biggest disappointment to me in the win against WMU was the lack of sacks against Broncos QB Kaleb Eleby. The lone sack of the game went to Aidan Hutchinson. In the early part of the game, Eleby was releasing the ball fast, and not allowing much time for the edge rushers to get pressure. As the game went on, Michigan still couldn't get to him, but the rush started to rattle him more and more. Against Washington, Michigan needs to finish. The experienced offensive line the Huskies will deploy allowed three sacks to Montana this past weekend, and it appeared that the FCS school bothered their young quarterback. Dylan Morris threw three interceptions in Week 1, and a lot of it was due to the pressure he was under most of the game -- as well as the lack of experienced receivers. This could be a game that Michigan's defensive front could thrive in if it can maintain adequate pressure upfront. If Hutchinson, Mike Morris, or David Ojabo could get some pressure off of from that edge spot, or if the big boys up front like Chris Hinton or Mazi Smith can get in the backfield, the Wolverines could look very intimidating to Morris. Michigan and Washington will kick off this Saturday, Sept. 11th at 8:00 pm EDT on ABC.