Welcome back! The bye week is always the roughest part of the season for fans, but we dragged through it once again to enter conference play. This year, the Wolverines will open things up on the road against an underrated Purdue team that is off to a 3-1 start.
The past is in the past, so we should probably leave it at that. Denard Robinson has promised more of himself for the rest of this season, and I don't have a reason to not believe him. As for the other woes, hopefully a week off gave Brady Hoke and his staff enough time to sharpen things up.
Remember, Brady Hoke said he wants to win the Big Ten Championship. Two losses in the non-conference schedule does not count for a single thing from this point on.
Without further adieu, here are the top keys for both teams on Saturday. Michigan
The Wolverines, coming off a bye week, have many reasons to be thankful that the non-conference schedule is over with. Now, they turn their eyes to a weakened, not dead, Big Ten Conference that is sure to get going here in October.
1) Take Care Of The Football
I don't know about you guys, but I'm getting pretty tired of seeing fumbles and interceptions. It's the easiest and most effective way to beat yourself, and this Wolverine team is scaring me with how well they are doing with that. Granted, they've been playing some of top defenses in the nation. But that's beside the point.
If Michigan wants to start their conference run at 1-0, the absolute most important key to this game is to be able to take care of the football. Brady Hoke isn't the type of coach to take away opportunities from struggling players, so we will get a great chance to see exactly how well the development is coming.
Take of care of the football.
Plain and simple.
2) Stay Balanced On D
I know Greg Mattison likes to take his risks throughout the game, and -- believe me -- I'm all for that. But Purdue is coming into this game with a very balanced attack that seems to be working for them. If Mattison becomes blitz happy, we can probably expect to see damage through the air. And vise versa.
Another reason I think it will important to stay balanced is because the Wolverines defense seems to have a knack for getting off the field on third down and making plays when they matter. I've actually been very impressed with the defense as a whole this season (although I wouldn't mind seeing the front 7 get a little better), and they simply make plays.
I put full faith in that unit to get off the field on anything more than 3rd and 4, and anything less than that will of course be a challenge, too.
The Boilermakers step into conference play at 3-1, and Danny Hope looks to finally have this team heading in the right direction. In past years, teams would see Purdue on their schedule and sigh in relief. Now, I think they'll be surprising more teams.
1) Get After Denard
What's the best way to welcome an opposing quarterback who just had the worst game of his career? Get after him, of course. The Boilermakers defense has to make Robinson prove that he is not the same player we all saw two weeks ago.
The number one goal when blitzing Denard Robinson can't be to come up with a sack. The goal is to rattle him; get him to throw off his back foot; make a mistake; create for himself. Make him do anything that takes him out of his comfort zone.
2) Keep A Balanced Attack
You should never fix something that isn't broke. I said that about Notre Dame last week, too. But the Boilermakers are doing a terrific job with their balanced attack of run and pass because that's the way this offense is designed. Caleb TerBush is not a quarterback who can drop back and pass 50 times a game, and Akeem Shaves is not the type of running back that will carry the ball 25 times a game.
But together, those two compliment each other very well, and they have the ability to do some damage this season in the Big Ten.
Keeping things balanced needs to be top priority on defense, but I would definitely try to take some chances down field against Michigan. This is a Wolverines defense that tends to give up a couple big plays when they go on the road, and Purdue would not be smart at all to try to get their share of that.
Michigan is 29-1 in conference openers since 1982. I'm no genius, but that's a pretty solid winning percentage. I don't expect much to change on Saturday. I take Michigan, 24-17. Go Blue!