Michigan won't be playing on quite the same stage as last week. There weren't weeks of anticipation for the "Air Force game." College GameDay isn't setting up outside of the Big House ready to break this one down for us. You get the point. However, for the Falcons of Air Force, they don't get too many opportunities to step on a big stage like Michigan Stadium. It's a chance they are looking forward to seizing.
This is a game Brady Hoke and the coaching staff have really been looking forward to because of the tradition both programs bring to the program and the respect the nation has for Air Force. While the Falcons aren't known to be a football power house, this will not be an easy rebound game for the Wolverines.
Here are Michigan's keys to the game:
The Wolverines are desperately looking to bounce back after a Week 1 embarrassment against Alabama last Saturday, and their chance is finally here. However, they head into this game short-handed, despite getting Fitzgerald Toussaint and Frank Clark back from suspension. Blake Countess suffered an ACL tear that has ended his season.
1) Establish A Run Game
Michigan really missed starting RB Fitzgerald Toussaint last week, but he will be back against Air Force, and it's a return everyone is looking forward to. The Falcons have a stronger run defense than a lot of people give them credit for. They are physical and won't just push over for the Wolverines offensive line.
It would also be very encouraging to see Denard Robinson have an impact on the ground, something he did not do last week. Al Borges is really trying to cut down on the number of times Robinson's number is called upon on the ground, but he will still get some opportunities to make noise with his feet.
2) Win The Battles Up Front
The number one thing everyone noticed about last week's game against Alabama was how Michigan was dominated up front on both sides. We have to keep in mind that Alabama is much more talented on the line, but the success of the Wolverines this year begins and ends up front.
Air Force is known for having a solid running game and will be looking to take advantage of a young Michigan defensive line. Offensively, it will be vitally important to open holes for Toussaint and Robinson on the ground, but it will also be a priority to protect "Shoelace" in the backfield. He was knocked around last week, and the last thing Michigan needs is to lose their number one play maker to injury.
The Falcons are primed and ready to step onto the big stage against the Wolverines, fresh off of a convincing win last week. They saw the Wolverines exposed last week and are looking forward to their shot to prove where they belong.
Here are Air Force's keys to the game:
1) Make Denard Pass
Robinson did not prove last week that he can consistently deliver the ball to Michigan's talented wide receivers, whether his fault or that of the receivers, and Air Force needs to stick to the same basics as Alabama: contain Denard in the pocket, and make him become a passer. If he starts beating them through the air, that is when you back off. But to begin the game, they need to contain Robinson and not let him run at will.
The Falcons don't have the greatest pass defense, and Michigan has a lot of size and speed out on the edges. If this what they stick to, it could prove costly. But, judging from last week, it is a risk worth taking.
2) Run, Run, Run
Air Force has made a name in the game with their ability to run the football, primarily using the triple option attack, which is what ran them to victory last week against Idaho State. It's really their only hope against Michigan this week, and they do have an advantage in the fact that the Wolverines don't face very many option teams.
Michigan will bounce back in Week 2 and get their first win of the 2012 season, 35-14. I'm expecting a big game from Toussaint in his first action of the year. While Denard may not have his break out game against the Falcons, it will certainly be a step up from last week and set the tone for the rest of the season.