Michigan football hosts Colorado State on Saturday for the season opener. The Wolverines enter the season ranked in the top 10 in both the USA TODAY Coaches Poll and AP Top 25: No. 6 and No. 8 respectively.
These two teams have only played one time, which was back in 1994 in the Holiday Bowl where Michigan defeated the Rams, 24-14.
Things didn’t go well for the Rams last season. Colorado State fired Steve Addazio after just two seasons in Fort Collins. In 2021 Colorado State had an abysmal year when it had a 3-9 record.
The Rams, who are essentially, a brand new team entering the 2022 season. Colorado State hired Jay Norvell away from a conference foe in Nevada where he coached for five years. Between transfers and recruits, there are upwards of 50 new players on the roster from 2021.
On offense, Norvell will want to implement the air raid offense that he used in Nevada. He coached Wolf Pack star Carson Strong who threw for over 4,000 yards last year in the offense. Norvell brought redshirt freshman Clay Millen with him to Colorado State this year, and he will be starting. The Rams have one of the youngest and inexperienced quarterback rooms in all of football in 2022. Millen has only attempted two passes in his career — one of which was completed — and his backup Giles Pooler is just a freshman.
Millen was a four-star recruit by 247Sports that bypassed going to some Pac-12 schools to play under Norvell. While the Rams will primarily throw the ball, they do have a couple of reliable runners in the backfield. A’Jon Vivens will be the starter on Saturday who ran for 324 yards on 90 attempts in 2021. Vivens’ backup will be another Nevada transfer Avery Morrow who has only carried the rock 25 times in his career.
What will keep Colorado State in games this year will be the three receivers on the roster. Norvell brought over Tory Horton and Melquan Stovall from Nevada. The duo caught for over 1,300 yards together last season with Strong under center. But according to Jeremy Mauss with Mountain West Wire, the receiver to know is Dante Wright. Wright is one of the few holdovers from last year’s Rams team. He averaged 13.8 yards-per-catch while being underutilized.
Norvell has four new starting offensive linemen. There is only one holdover from the 2021 Colorado State team. But the unit does have experience. The left tackle, Brian Crespo-Jaquez, has zero starting experience, the other four combine for 92 career starts.
In 2021, Colorado State allowed 28 points-per-game which ranked it 82nd scoring defense in the country. The Rams allowed 166.3 yards-per-game on the ground in 2021 which was the 87th-ranked rushing defense.
Michigan did lose Hassan Haskins, but the Wolverines’ offensive identity last year was rushing the ball. The maize and blue ranked 15th in 2021 with 214.4 yards-per-game on the ground.
The Rams will run a 4-2-5 base defense on Saturday. There will most likely only be two linebackers on the field at once against the Wolverines, but the key cog to the Rams’ defense is linebacker Dequan Jackson. The fifth-year senior was third on the team last year with 84 tackles and 8.5 tackles-for-loss.
While he isn’t listed as a starter, linebacker Cam’Ron Carter returns in 2022 as well after he led the team in tackles last year with 100.
Another player on the defense that Michigan fans should keep an eye on is Rutgers transfer CJ Onyechi. The graduate transfer has compiled 87 tackles and five sacks in his career.
In the secondary, Novell has three transfers that will start, but the two holdovers have plenty of experience at Colorado State. The starting nickel Tywan Francis was second on the team last year with 88 tackles. Safety Henry Blackburn started five games last year and had 42 tackles.
See the next page for our 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.
Michigan football opens its season with high expectations internally and perhaps less so to the outside world. The rival Buckeyes are expected to roll and these Wolverines, though anticipated good, are seen as an afterthought. Regardless of the outcome, it all starts on Saturday.
Colorado State was abysmal a year ago, but should be much improved under new coach Jay Norvell. With a bevy of transfers in tow, the question for the maize and blue will be how much and how soon? Still, this is a game that should be less about Nevada East and more about the Wolverines.
The likely air raid attack should challenge the Michigan front and pass defense. It’ll be a good barometer of where things lie after losing quintessential talents in Aidan Hutchinson, David Ojabo, and Dax Hill. The 4-2-5 defense will also challenge the Wolverine prowess through the air, but could likely give way to an again dominant ground game. But for QB Cade McNamara, he’ll need to push through the air to retain his job, so this could be a worthy test.
Of the three ‘preseason’ matchups, Colorado State presents the toughest, and it’s a game where we’ll learn a lot about what this Michigan team will be in 2022.
Michigan holds Colorado State to under 75 yards rushing
10 different pass catchers manage at least one reception
Donovan Edwards finishes with 300 yards of total offense
-Final score prediction
Michigan 51, Colorado State 13
The Wolverines won the Big Ten last season, but aren’t receiving too much love from the national media entering the 2022 campaign. Michigan did lose a lot of talent on the defensive side of the ball last year, but it does return plenty of experienced players on that side of the ball. The biggest thing is that the maize and blue basically return all of their skilled players on offense from last year, save for Hassan Haskins.
Colorado State went 3-9 last season, but you might as well forget last year because Jay Norvell is now the coach and he has a brand new roster thanks to transfers and recruits. I fully believe that the Rams will be competitive in the Mountain West Conference this season.
But unfortunately for Norvell and the Rams, they have to travel to The Big House on Saturday and play a top 10 ten that has a chip on its shoulder. Not only does the Michigan defense want to show that it can play ball without stars Aidan Hutchinson, David Ojabo, and Dax Hill, but Cade McNamara needs to show that he can lead this team as the starting quarterback in this game since J.J. McCarthy gets the start in Week 2.
Colorado State may challenge Michigan in the beginning due to the air raid attack, but I expect Michigan to settle in quickly on defense and it should be smooth sailing in Week 1.
Blake Corum rushes over 120 yards
At least one Michigan defender gets one interception against a pass-heavy Colorado State team
Braiden McGregor records at least two sacks
Final score prediction
Michigan 42, Colorado State 10