Behind enemy lines: Michigan vs. Colorado State

·5 min read

It’s just about gameday in Ann Arbor. Michigan finally opens up its season on Saturday with Colorado State. The two teams have played each other just one time, that being back in 1994 during the Holiday Bowl where the Wolverines came out on top 24-14.

The Rams had a bad season last year after they went 3-9. Steve Addazio was fired after just two seasons in Fort Collins.

The Rams hired their new head coach Jay Norvell away from a conference foe in Nevada. Between transfers and recruits, Colorado State has 59 new members to its roster from the 2021 season.

To get some better input on Colorado State and its new roster, we spoke with Jeremy Mauss with Mountain West Wire to get some insight on what Michigan fans can expect from a Norvell-led team on Saturday.

The game will take place at noon EDT and it will be aired nationally on ABC.

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Three keys to a Michigan victory vs. Colorado State

Colorado State hired Jay Norvell, who coached for Nevada for the past five years, what can Michigan fans expect from a Norvell-coached team?

He is an offensive coach and he wants to sling the ball around. Just look at what he did the past few years at Nevada when he finally got his quarterback in Carson Strong. Three offensive players from last year are getting a look in the NFL. Wide receiver Romeo Doubs was drafted in the fourth round and is making noise with the Green Bay Packers, tight end Cole Turner was a fifth-round pick with the Washington Commanders, and Strong signed a big undrafted free agent deal but was cut from the Eagles for an odd reason that isn’t relevant in explaining Norvell. Offense is his thing. Expect for them to spread it out to multiple players and it does help that a good number of Nevada players came with him to Fort Collins and know the system and that includes wide receiver Tory Horton who is starting alongside the potentially explosive Dante Wright.

Norvell brought quarterback Clay Millen with him. Will he start? What kind of game does he have?

He was named the starter in the depth chart released. He is one of the many that followed Norvell to Colorado State. He is a redshirt freshman with two games played with one competition in two attempts as he was the third-string quarterback at Nevada. He is a former three-star recruit and we named him the preseason freshman of the year. He will have all the opportunities to throw the ball and put up some decent numbers. That is the expectation but beyond that he is an unknown quantity with basically no tape in college, but the attributes that make him fit well in this spread scheme is his ability to throw it downfield and expect for him to take a few shots. Plus, playing QB is in the family, his dad Hughe played in the NFL for 12 years and his brother Cale is currently a quarterback on the Oregon Ducks roster. His inexperience will show at some point playing in front of upwards of 100,000 fans at Michigan Stadium and facing a top 10 team.

What is the biggest strength of the Rams?

It has to be the offense — but only if they can click right away — as was that is what Norvell does with guys like Dante Wright who put up good numbers but was poorly used last year under Steve Addazio so he could have a breakout season once he and Clay Millen get on the same page. If that starts early vs. Michigan then that is a good sign for things to come if there are a few breakout plays. The defense lost a huge player on the defensive line in Scott Patchan however the unit that is likely to be the best and provide the most resistance and make plays earlier is the linebacking unit. The two best players are Cam’Ron Carter and Dequan Jackson. The two have combined for 450 tackles in their career in Fort Collins and also 44 career tackles for loss heading into their season year.

What players should Michigan fans keep an eye on?

Wide receiver Dante Wright. I have mentioned him a few times and for good reason. He is dynamic in the passing game, gets a handful of carries and can return kicks. Addazio underutilized him and it showed he had 17 rushes for two touchdowns as a true freshman on 12.6 yards per carry to just 12 total touches in two years under the former coach. His pass-catching ability is a solid 13.8 yards per catch over his career. He has the chance to make plays with his speed, Norvell being a smart guy should try to get him the ball in creative ways and see what he can do in space. The two defenders I noted are in Cam’Ron Carter and Dequan Jackson could get behind the line of scrimmage and cause some for the offensive line and quarterback play.

Michigan is a huge favorite in this game. Do you think Colorado State covers? Final score prediction?

The line is massive at 30.5 and I think the Rams can cover because of how much passing I expect them to do. The only concern about covering is that with Michigan playing one QB this week and another next week, Jim Harbaugh and the Michigan staff might push it a bit to see what Cade McNamara can do for a full 60 minutes. I’ll lean a cover for the Rams with a final score of Michigan 42, Colorado State 17

Story originally appeared on Wolverines Wire