Three keys to a Michigan victory vs. Colorado State

·6 min read

Michigan fans can rejoice. Football is back in Ann Arbor on Saturday when the maize and blue will host Colorado State for the home opener.

Michigan is coming off of a magical season in 2021 where it defeated rival Ohio State to make it to the Big Ten Championship game. The Wolverines beat Iowa with ease to make their first College Football Playoff appearance. Ultimately, the maize and blue ended the season ranked No. 3 in the nation.

The Wolverines enter the 2022 season ranked No. 6 in the USA TODAY Coaches Poll and No. 8 in the AP Poll.

The Rams will enter Ann Arbor after finishing 3-9 in 2021, but Colorado State hired Jay Norvell away from Nevada where he coached the past five years. Colorado State not only changed its offensive philosophy with Norvell at the helm, but the Rams bring 59 new players onto the team from 2021.

Michigan is a heavy favorite to win the game against the Rams and here are our three keys for a Wolverines’ win on Saturday.

The game will be aired nationally on ABC on Saturday at noon EDT.

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Big Ten power rankings after Week 0: Some things never change

Limit the Rams' passing game

CB DJ Turner. Photo: Isaiah Hole

Jay Norvell coached Carson Strong at Nevada, who threw for 4,186 yards in 2021, and he will be bringing the air raid offense with him to Colorado State.

Clay Millen is expected to get the start for the Rams on Saturday when they take the field in Ann Arbor. Millen is a redshirt freshman that came with Norvell from Nevada. He was a four-star recruit out of high school and was the starter-in-waiting at Nevada. Millen has thrown two passes in his college career.

The No. 3 and No. 4 leading receiver from the 2021 Wolf Pack roster is now with Colorado State as well: Tory Horton and Melquan Stovall. The duo combined for over 1,300 yards last year. They are going to be expected to be the go-to receivers for Millen in 2022.

In 2021, Michigan ranked 27th in the country in pass defense. The Wolverines gave up 204.4 yards-per-game thru the air last season. The maize and blue lost Vincent Gray, Dax Hill, and Brad Hawkins from the stout defense last year. Luckily, Michigan returns some key guys in the secondary like DJ Turner, Gemon Green, captain Mike Sainristil, Rod Moore, and R.J. Moten.

This is going to be a good game for the secondary to find its footing, and the defensive backs will need to in a hurry. The Rams will be slinging the rock on Saturday and the Rams have some playmakers that can catch the ball. It will be necessary for Michigan to not allow Millen to get confidence early. Turner and company will want to play some shutdown defense.

A big thing that DJ Turner said the defense has been focusing on this year is creating more turnovers.

“I would say get turnovers will be the main thing that we’ll be focusing on this year,” said Turner. “More interceptions and just play confident that’s the thing and I feel like that’s what we’re gonna do going into the season.”

The Wolverines intercepted eight total passes last season, so against an air raid team, this would be a good place to get an interception or two.

Set the tone with the ground game

By: Isaiah Hole

Cade McNamara will be starting Week 1 and we know that fans want to see Michigan start airing the ball out to all the incredible playmakers on the team. But Michigan needs to stick with whatever works to win games, and we would imagine the running game will be a big factor again this year.

The Wolverines lost Hassan Haskins, who was the leading rusher last year, but Michigan does return Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards. Due to the injury bug, Corum was just shy of 1,000 yards in 2021, he finished the season with 952 yards on the ground. Edwards became a serious threat thru the air from the backfield last year, he caught 10 passes against Maryland, but he was a five-star recruit for a reason. The duo of Corum and Edwards is sure to be explosive this year.

Guard Zak Zinter commented this week that Michigan was going to have the most physical offensive line in the country and that running the ball was still the identity of the Wolverines.

“We’re just going to be the most physical offensive line in the country this year,” Zinter stated. “We’re going to run the ball when we want to run the ball. That’s our identity and that’s not going to change. But we also have the ability with two great quarterbacks to pass when we want to. We have great receivers and great running backs, so we just really want to be a physical offensive line this year and really just finish guys.”

The Wolverines return three starters on the Joe Moore Award-winning offensive line from 2021. Michigan has a legit shot to be even better in the trenches this season with the addition of Olu Oluwatimi at center and Michigan loves what it has in Trente Jones at right tackle.

The Rams do have 59 new players this year, but Colorado State ranked 87th last year in run defense where it allowed 166.3 yards-per-game. It seems that this game could be a good starting point for the Michigan offensive line to gain some confidence and let the Corum-Edwards duo cook.

Just don't make too many mistakes

Photo: Isaiah Hole

While this may seem like a generic take, it does ring true. Michigan is a 30-point favorite against the Rams and the Wolverines should win big.

But there is a reason that games must be played.

The last thing that Michigan wants to do is turn the ball over and give Colorado State a feeling that it can play with the Wolverines. The maize and blue want to get out to a fast start and they will need to play a strong game for the entire 60 minutes.

The Wolverines were a top-25 team last year in giveaways-per-game. Michigan averaged giving up one turnover-per-game during the 2021 season. McNamara threw six total interceptions last year, which is something that Harbaugh loves about him — his decision-making ability.

It would be extremely uncharacteristic of this team to go out there Saturday and play carelessly, but it is the first game of the season. Even against a weaker opponent, the Wolverines can’t afford to play poorly on the offensive side of the ball.

Upsets do happen every week and turnovers are usually a key cog as to why those happen. As long as Michigan limits its mistakes and takes advantage of the Rams’ mistakes then the Wolverines should take care of business.

Story originally appeared on Wolverines Wire