We’re finally here. Saturday at 3:30 the Western Michigan Broncos will take the field against the Michigan Wolverines in the opening weekend of college football. The Broncos will open at a Big Ten venue for the fourth time under Coach Bill Cubit and is looking for its first season-opening win since 2004. For the Broncos to capture their first victory against Michigan here are 5 keys to the game.
1. The Broncos must survive the first quarter. If there is any chance for the Broncos to win on Saturday they must get off to a hot start. On paper the Broncos are clearly outmatched by a superior Wolverine Team. With 110,000 plus in attendance the last thing the Broncos can afford is too allow the crowd to become involved in the game. Last season when the Broncos took on Michigan State and Notre Dame, the Broncos allowed them to put up points early and never found a way to come back. Stop the big play and survive the first quarter and anything can happen.
2. Force Shoelace to be a passer. Denard Robinson might be the most dynamic player in college football. Robinson set an NCAA record in 2010 for rushing yards by a quarterback with 1702. His speed and quick acceleration puts fear into any defense. But under new Head Coach Brady Hoke’s more pro-style offense, Robinson will be asked to be more of a pocket passer. The Broncos need to spy Robinson at all times and keep him in the pocket. If the Broncos can stop #16, it’ll go a long way in being able to upset the Wolverines.
3. Limit turnovers. Anytime you are an underdog, the most important key to a game is limiting turnovers. Last season, the Broncos lost crucial games due to late game turnovers. Michigan was 3-0 in 2010 when winning the turnover battle while the Broncos were 0-5 when losing the turnover battle. Limit turnovers and this game could be a lot closer than most experts are predicting.
4. Win the special teams battle. The Broncos have maybe the best punter and kicker in the MAC with Ben Armer and John Potter. When 4th down does arise, the Broncos must pin the Wolverines deep in their own territory. Broncos return man Dervon Wallace has the potential to take any kick return to the house and will be relied upon heavily to get the Broncos good starting field position.
5. Offensive line must protect Alex Carder. With 2 key members of the offensive line out with injuries, it is imperative to stop the Wolverines dominate front 4. Starting guards Kasimli Uitalia and Deon Cammock and both junior college transfers who have never faced an opponent as strong as Michigan. If Carder is giving time to find his receivers, the Broncos offense has the ability to make big plays.
Matchup to Watch: WMU Center Terry Davisson vs. UM Defensive Tackle Mike Martin. Davisson started 3 games at right tackle and was moved to guard at the beginning of training camp. However, with the injury to Kevin Galeher, Davisson has now been moved to center and has struggled with the adjustment. He has been rotating with junior Josh Hadel during practice and has yet to solidify the starting center spot. Mike Martin is a beast in the middle of the Wolverine’s D-Line. At 6’2 and 300 pounds, Martin was named as Michigan’s top defensive lineman and was All-Big-Ten Second Team in 2010. Martin is also ranked as the second best defensive tackle in the country by ESPNs Mel Kiper. Keeping Martin quiet will allow the Broncos run game to gain yardage and give Alex Carder plenty of time in the pocket.
Prediction: If the Broncos can eliminate mistakes on both sides of the ball, I see them keeping it closer enough to cover the 14 point spread, but not winning. MICHIGAN 35 WESTERN MICHIGAN 24