Last year, the UConn football team made the trip to the ACC’s Death Valley to take on the Clemson University Tigers. Newly hired head coach Jim Mora attended that game and after a 44-7 blowout loss, aimed to turn the program around. Mora hopes to prove that true as the Husky Revolution treks to the Big House to play the No. 4 University of Michigan Wolverines. Like the trip to Death Valley, this is the Huskies’ hardest game of the season.
UConn needs a bounceback game after an embarrassing 48-14 home defeat under the lights against Syracuse University, one that saw the Orange score on eight out of their first nine drives. Every part of the team needs to play better, from the defense that allowed over 465 yards to the offense that had only 10 first downs.
Ta’Quan Roberson transferred from Penn State University and would have loved to play in the Big House. With him out for the season, this will be the most hostile environment that true freshman Zion Turner has ever faced as over 100,000 fans will scream against him on every play. He will make mistakes, but Turner aims to tune out the large crowds and make a major impact.
The running game defines the Huskies’ offense. Nathan Carter ranks third nationally in rushing yards with 384 and he hopes he can reach the century mark for the third time this season after coming up short against Syracuse. The big issue lies in the backup position. Losing Brian Brewton for the season is brutal, but expect Devontae Houston to step up like he did last week and have another career game.
The receiving corps has their work cut out for them. Aaron Turner has the most yards with 160 and is always off to the races once he has the football. Expect Kevens Clericus and Russell Dixon to step up in the absence of both Keelan Marion and Cameron Ross.
Jackson Mitchell is the anchor on defense with his 39 tackles leading the entire country. In addition, he also exceeded his career high in sacks with 1.5 and has forced two tackles for losses. Look for Mitchell to have another career performance as he plays in a facility notorious for producing strong linebackers.
Behind him are both Ian Swenson and Brandon Bouyer-Randle, who have 44 tackles and one interception between them. Look for them to cause problems in the backfield while ferociously ending plays.
Their opponent, the No. 4 Wolverines, need no introduction. Michigan went 12-2, beat the Ohio State University Buckeyes for the first time in 10 years and made the CFP before bowing out against the University of Georgia in the Orange Bowl.
The Wolverines started the season ranked eighth before climbing to number four after a 51-7 beatdown of the Colorado State University Rams and a 56-10 pummeling of the University of Hawaii Rainbow Warriors, both of whom rank in ESPN’s Bottom 10. This is the third of four straight home games for the Wolverines and their last before Big Ten play begins.
After two weeks of “tryouts” under center, head coach Jim Harbaugh has chosen J.J. McCarthy as the starting quarterback for the foreseeable future. McCarthy competed with Cade McNamara, Michigan’s starting quarterback last season, for the role.
Against CSU in week one, McNamara went 9-18 for 136 yards and a touchdown; but that and a 4-6 no-touchdown and one-interception performance in week two could not satisfy Harbaugh. Against Hawaii, McCarthy went 11-12 for 259 yards and three touchdowns. McCarthy’s time as the heir apparent to McNamara came a lot sooner than expected, but he could etch his name into the annals of great Wolverine quarterbacks with the right development.
The running game is more balanced than UConn’s. Michigan has three players who have rushed for over 90 yards in Blake Corum (164), freshman CJ Stokes (96) and Donovan Edwards (90). They have five touchdowns between them as well, highlighting their lethal three-headed attack.
The Wolverines have a mix of weapons in the air. Roman Wilson is the top receiver with 107 yards and two touchdowns, but Ronnie Bell has the most catches with seven for 85 yards and a touchdown. In the middle is Cornelius Johnson, who has 90 yards on four receptions and a touchdown. Look for McCarthy to target all of them at some point during the game.
Michigan has allowed 17 points over their first two contests, and they have done it without some big names who have gone pro such as Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo. Stepping up in their place are Junior Colson and Michael Barrett. Colson leads the team with 12 tackles while Barrett has eight tackles and a sack. They are not alone as Mazi Smith leads the team with 1.5 sacks and Rod Moore has the team’s lone interception. Combined, this Wolverine defense causes problems for the opponent.
Despite the clear talent disparity between the two teams, the deciding factor in this contest will be the defense. UConn has seven sacks and Michigan has eight while both each have 13 tackles for losses. Both teams have a scary linebacker armada, and whichever one can pressure the quarterback and running back to make more mistakes will come out victorious.
More importantly, this is a battle of the coaching minds. Both Mora and Harbaugh have had head coaching jobs in the NFL and the PAC-12. Both have reached the NFC championship game with a scrambling quarterback. Although the two coaches have never worked on the same sidelines, expect this game to be tactical warfare as one head coach tries to outwit the other.
Kickoff between the two schools known for their historically successful basketball programs is scheduled for 12 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 17 on ABC. This will be the Huskies’ only game on the network this season.