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Finding ways Texas can limit Michigan’s effectiveness in Week 2

The Texas Longhorns again face a blue blood in a premier nonconference matchup in Week 2. This season’s matchup features a road battle against the Michigan Wolverines.

Michigan won a national title last season. It did so under the radar despite consistently making close battles seem out of reach.

The Wolverines are comfortable in close matchups. Perhaps the confidence comes from their ability to play suffocating defense just long enough to break an explosive run on offense. Michigan head coach Sherrone Moore discussed how the team gets those explosive runs.

One of Moore’s first stated goals is to get a light box. The Wolverines lose all five offensive lineman but presumably the unit would fare well in run blocking with an advantage in the box this season.

The first way to make life difficult on the Wolverines is not to give Michigan a light box. Texas defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski might be more likely than usual to add a defender to the box in this game. Whether he does or not could indicate how much his philosophy has evolved since Arkansas gutted Texas in the run game in 2021.

Projected Michigan starting quarterback Alex Orji has not yet earned benefit of the doubt in allocating extra defenders to cover more ground in the secondary. Certainly, one career college passing attempt isn’t going to do that. Kwiatkowski’s ability to take away the run could be the key to stopping the Michigan offense. The question is how the defensive play caller will attempt to do that.

By extension, Kwiatkowski can help the defense make life difficult by taking away throws within 10 yards. Such throws will likely be Michigan’s bread and butter as it tries to get its quarterback in rhythm. Texas doesn’t have to let Orji get in rhythm. It will need to trust its edge rush to get to the quarterback before receivers can get open downfield against tight coverage. The Longhorns have the edge rush to get there.

How much stock does Kwiatkowski put in a receiver room that loses half of its touchdown receptions in just one departing receiver in Roman Wilson? Michigan’s potential projected starting receiver group of Fred Moore, Tyler Morris and Semaj Morgan combined for 39 catches, 433 yards and three touchdowns in 2024. Texas wide receiver Isaiah Bond alone went for 48 receptions and 668 yards a season ago.

Still there is the possibility that Kwiatkowski goes with his 2023 approach in which defensive backs play off the ball even in short yardage plays and the Longhorns deploy two deep safeties. I think the approach could change for Michigan.

The weapon to watch for Michigan is tight end Colston Loveland who caught 45 passes for 649 yards last season. Texas should be able to limit Loveland with players like nickel corner Jahdae Barron and former Clemson safety Andrew Mukuba. If it can, the pressure ramps up on an inexperienced Alex Orji.

In summary, the path for the Texas defense to stop the Michigan offense is straightforward: Pack the box. Keep Orji from getting in rhythm by taking away easy throws and bringing pressure. Make an inexperienced quarterback defeat you from the pocket with difficult throws.

For more Michigan news, previews and analysis visit Wolverines Wire.

Story originally appeared on Longhorns Wire