Preview and Predictions: Michigan football vs. UConn

·6 min read

Preview

The No. 4 Michigan Wolverines will square off with Connecticut on Saturday for the third-straight home game to start the 2022 season. After his nearly flawless performance against Hawaii, sophomore J.J. McCarthy has the keys to the kingdom in Ann Arbor after Jim Harbaugh named him the starter for the Wolverines.

The maize and blue are heavy favorites once again this week against an up-and-coming UConn team. The Huskies have one of the smallest rosters in college football, but UConn made a splashy hire after Randy Esdall stepped down from the program midway thru last season. His replacement was Jim Mora, who has an NFL coaching pedigree to his name along with coaching at UCLA.

After going just 1-11 last season, the Huskies have already tied their win total from 2021. Connecticut is 1-2 this season after losing to Utah State and Syracuse and beating Central Connecticut.

Offensively, UConn has the 107th-ranked scoring offense that averages 20.7 points per game and the 104th-ranked total offense that generates 337.3 yards per game.

The Huskies will have their work cut out for them going up against a Michigan defense that allows 8.5 points per game and the 13th-ranked defense that allows 236 yards per game.

Jim Mora brought in over 40 transfers when he was hired and one of those transfers was former Penn State quarterback Ta’Quan Roberson. Roberson became the starter, but he will miss the rest of the season after an injury in Week 0. This week, Michigan will go up against a true freshman quarterback, Zion Turner. Turner has thrown for 373 yards and four touchdowns in three games. But he has thrown three interceptions as well.

What UConn does well is run the football. The Huskies are the 34th-ranked rushing attack in all of football gaining 205.3 yards per game. Sophomore Nathan Carter is the lead back — he is the eighth-leading rusher in football — and he has 384 yards thru three games. Carter averages 6.5 yards per carry and he has one touchdown credited to his name. Pro Football Focus is extremely high on the UConn rushing attack. PFF says that the Huskies are the 11th-ranked rushing attack and gives them an 83.8 grade. UConn also has a 77.6 run-blocking grade, which ranks them 13th according to PFF.

The UConn strength is also the Wolverines’ strength on defense. Michigan has the third-ranked rushing defense by PFF with a 92.9 grade. The maize and blue allow 111 yards per game on the ground.

At receiver, UConn has already lost its top two pass catchers. Cam Ross broke his foot in fall camp and Keelan Marion was injured in Week 0. Sophomore Aaron Turner has emerged as the go-to guy. Turner has 11 receptions for 161 yards and one touchdown.

The UConn offense has a minus-five turnover margin. The Huskies have eight turnovers in three games, and the Huskies have allowed plenty of pressure to their quarterbacks. UConn allows a little more than one sack per game, so this is a game set up for the Michigan edge defenders to get their hands on the quarterback.

Defensively, UConn has the 101st-ranked defense. The Huskies allow 418 yards per game and they also give up 27.3 points per game.

But what’s unusual about UConn is it doesn’t have a defensive coordinator. The Huskies had Lou Spanos as the defensive coordinator, but he took a personal leave of absence in August. That leaves Jim Mora collaborating with his defensive position coaches on the defensive side of the ball.

The Huskies allow 165 yards on the ground and 253 yards thru the air per game, so the Michigan offense should be able to do what it wants to do. It could be another game where J.J. McCarthy has a good tune-up before Big Ten play begins next week.

The leader of the UConn defense would be junior linebacker Jackson Mitchell. Mitchell leads the entire country with 39 tackles. He also leads the Huskies with 1.5 sacks. The other linebacker, Ian Swenson has 25 tackles.

There are four other players on the team that has one sack credited to their name.

UConn has recorded one interception this season. Linebacker Brandon Bouyer-Randle has it.

With how prolific the Wolverines’ offense looked last week against Hawaii, Michigan just may be able to replicate the same results this Saturday against UConn.

The game can be seen on ABC at noon EDT.

See the next page for our staff predictions.

STAFF PREDICTIONS

WolverinesWire staff writers Isaiah Hole and Trent Knoop will share their thoughts on the game, two soft predictions, one bold prediction and the final score.

Isaiah Hole:

It’s weird to say, but UConn might be Michigan’s toughest test, yet.

It doesn’t really say much, considering it’s still very much an overmatched team, but the Huskies have gone from being the worst team in college football — with four wins in the four seasons previous to 2022 — to looking mildly competitive in the first three games, which includes a win over an intra-Connecticut directional school.

Jim Mora is a really good coach, but not good enough to upset the Wolverines. There just isn’t enough talent on the roster, and maybe it would have looked different if Penn State transfer QB Ta’Quan Roberson hadn’t been injured in the season opener. This is another game where Michigan should be able to play deep into the bench if it wants to, as the defense is overmatched, while the offense could potentially challenge the Wolverine run defense.

Could.

What will be interesting to see is if Michigan does like it has in the past two games, emptying the bench in the second half. Or, will the Wolverines play this as a warm-up for Big Ten play starting next week and keep the starters in? Either way, it should be the third-straight bloodbath, otherwise something has gone horribly wrong.

-Soft predictions

  • J.J. McCarthy completes 75% or more of his passes again

  • Michigan gets five sacks

-Bold prediction

  • Michigan’s starters hold UConn to under 100 yards of total offense

-Final score prediction

  • Michigan 52, Connecticut 10

Trent Knoop:

I like Jim Mora a lot and I like how he took on one of the biggest challenges in all of college football, coaching UConn.

While the Huskies already have one win and matched last year’s win total, this still isn’t a good team and I don’t know when it will be. There is a reason the maize and blue are favored so high — for the third straight week.

There is a huge gap in talent level between the two teams. Both teams are on their backup quarterback from the first week of the season, but for two entirely different reasons. Michigan has a five-star sophomore in J.J. McCarthy who won the job outright from Cade McNamara. On the other hand, UConn lost its starter due to injury, so the Huskies are trotting out a true freshman that is turnover prone. Not a good matchup for UConn.

I’m guessing this game is over by halftime, and McCarthy will not see many snaps in the second half. As long as the maize and blue can get out of this game injury free I would say everything was a success.

-Soft predictions

  • J.J. McCarthy throws over 200 yards

  • Michigan forces two turnovers

-Bold prediction

  • Braiden McGregor has three sacks

Final score prediction

  • Michigan 56, Connecticut 7

List

Predicting every Big Ten college football game in Week 3

 

Story originally appeared on Wolverines Wire