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The season is finally upon us, and there are questions abound as to how Michigan football will perform in 2021.
Season opener opponent Western Michigan also only played six games in 2020 and went 4-2, winning its first four before dropping contests against Eastern Michigan and Ball State. The Broncos figure to have a prolific offense, and while the defensive front is of the attacking variety, the defense as a whole does surrender a lot of points.
The Broncos return a lot of production and are the second-most experienced team the Wolverines will face behind only Rutgers. Quarterback Kaleb Eleby is a proficient, 65% passer, having thrown 18 touchdowns to two interceptions last year. He’ll be targeting junior Skyy Moore and senior Jaylen Hall, the wide receiver duo who combined for 10 touchdowns in six games last year. Running backs La’Darius Jefferson and Sean Tyler will be running behind a veteran offensive line, all comprised of fourth-year players and up. Jefferson ran for 5.57 yards-per-carry and five touchdowns a year ago whereas Tyler managed 6.58.
On defense, the starters are all in at least their third year, but veteran linebacker Treshaun Hayward has departed. Safety Bricen Garner is the most experienced returner, as the fifth-year had the third-most tackles in 2020 for WMU with 45. Corvin Moment and Ralph Holley are also standouts at linebacker and defensive tackle, respectively. Last year, the Broncos were not adept at forcing turnovers but they did manage 19 sacks and 51 tackles for loss in just six games. The red zone defense, however, can be exploited and Western was middle-of-the-road when it came to scoring defense in the MAC.
Now that we’ve got some of the names out of the way, here’s what the WolverinesWire staff anticipates will happen in the game on Saturday.
How to watch, listen or stream: Michigan football vs. Western Michigan
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Prediction one: Erick All has a career day on Saturday
It shouldn’t be too hard since his previous career-high is 4 receptions for 27 yards against Rutgers last season. The talk this offseason has been centered around Luke Schoonmaker, but I don’t think we should count out All just yet. Harbaugh stated last year that All caught everything thrown his way in practices, but he obviously had severe catching issues last season.
I’m thinking All will catch for 80+ yards with a score.
Prediction two: Michigan secondary will intercept two passes
The Wolverines only had two total interceptions last season, and the weak spot on the team was the secondary. Michigan returns all of its starters in the secondary from last year, so experience will be on their side.
Western Michigan has a highly-skilled quarterback in Kaleb Eleby, who was third last year in the country for passer rating. Eleby is going to present a big challenge for the maize and blue secondary, but I’m predicting a couple of interceptions from a secondary that is ready to show the nation what they are capable of.
I think this game will be close for the first half, but the Wolverines will pull away in the second. Michigan has way too much talent to lose this game, or for it to even end relatively close. The Wolverines will have a solid ground game on Saturday, and McNamara will play like a true starting quarterback.
Michigan 42 – WMU 17
Michigan has spent the entire offseason talking about the renewed energy and culture change. With Cade McNamara starting, a cadre of potentially elite running backs, a solid offensive line and receiving corps, the offense is poised to take a step forward. We haven’t seen it yet, but all of it is there on paper. What I want to see — and expect to — is a more coherent attack, but one that’s quite methodical in its approach. Drive the field, make few mistakes, rely on the run game, finish drives.
Defensively, the new look under coordinator Mike Macdonald, I think, will yield some immediate results. Don Brown’s defense had been figured out to the point of predictability, and with a more multiple, unpredictable look, I anticipate we’ll see a lot more success on that side of the ball.
Expect Michigan to come out fired up and look much more like the Wolverines of old, in that it’s a cohesive team that is punishing like you would expect most Big Ten teams to do against the MAC.
Aidan Hutchinson gets two sacks.
The offense puts up 500 total yards.
Michigan 42, Western Michigan 10