and Ann Arbor is a whore.
It's Michigan week, and although I was disappointed at first with our performance against San Diego State, I rewatched the game and am actually somewhat encouraged by much of what I saw.
We made far too many mistakes against San Diego State, and that is what kept the game from being a blowout. A fumble inside the 5 (which I still contend was a bad call), an interception in the end zone, two muffed field goals, drive extending penalties. If not for shooting ourselves repeatedly in the foot, we could have won that game decisively.
Which brings us to this week.
We cannot afford to make those same mistakes against Michigan. Their defense is excellent, and it will be extremely difficult to move the ball, especially on the ground.
However, Michigan will likely struggle to move the ball as well, with their patchwork offense against our aggressive attacking defense.
I expect a low scoring affair which will be decided by who makes the fewest mistakes. My confidence level going into this game is far below what it was entering the season, but I still believe we are capable of beating the Skunkbears if we can limit our mental errors. This team is still young, but they have a lot of game experience, and that should begin to translate into a better football IQ eventually. Whether or not that will manifest this week remains to be seen.
Here are my keys to victory tomorrow:
Win the turnover battle
I'd be willing to wager a substantial amount of money that the team that wins the turnover battle tomorrow will win the game. In a defensive struggle, it's often the interception or fumble recovery that makes the difference between winning and losing. I want to see our running backs do a better job of holding on to the ball, and Jimmy be patient in the offense, as Michigan will not give him a lot of opportunities for big plays.
Be sound in the kicking game
This game could very well be decided by a field goal. I'm concerned about our long snappers, as we face a tough choice between a snapper who is inconsistent and one that is consistent but undersized. I'm gaining more confidence in our kickers, but they need a clean snap and hold to have a shot at success.
Our coverage units have been very good, and I think that Anello and Bruton may be the best gunner tandem in the country.
We've been very good at blocking kicks the last few years, but that was largely due to the presence of Trevor Laws inside. I'd like to see somebody step up to the plate and get some pressure on the kicker in crucial situations.
Play shutdown defense on first down.
Too many times last week we let the Aztecs gain substantial yardage on first down, setting up long drives. I'd like to see a more aggressive stance on first down, giving up the occasional longer play in favor of shutting down the Michigan offense more often than not. With the system that Michigan plays in, 2nd and 3rd and long situations really limit their options on offense.
Also, their lack of a mobile QB should let us really pin our ears back and go after the QB when we force them into passing situations.
We CANNOT let them establish a ground game.
If we can accomplish those three things, I think that we have an excellent chance of beating Michigan and giving this team some credibility going into Lansing next week (I'll be at next week's game!)
Notre Dame 17