GAME NOTES: The Michigan Wolverines are starting to make believers out of everyone following two straight wins to begin the 2010 campaign. Rich Rodriguez's 20th-ranked Wolverines will put their new ranking on the line this weekend, as they welcome one of the nation's top FCS programs to Ann Arbor in the Massachusetts Minutemen.
Behind the explosive play of quarterback Denard Robinson, Michigan has opened the season with wins over UConn (30-10) and Notre Dame (28-24) and looks to close out its non-conference slate with wins over UMass this week and Bowling Green next week.
Kevin Morris' Minutemen are not your average FCS program, as the team comes into this contest ranked 16th in the country. UMass has also opened the season with a pair of victories, topping both William & Mary (27-23) and Holy Cross (31-7) in Amherst.
This marks the first time these two teams have met on the gridiron.
The Minutemen pose a challenge to any defense thanks to their balanced offensive attack. The team is averaging 481.5 yards per game, moving the chains with ease both on the ground (223.5 ypg) and through the air (258.0 ypg). Senior quarterback Kyle Havens couldn't have gotten off to a much better start, completing 64.5 percent of his passes, for 516 yards, with three TDs and no interceptions. Havens' top target in the passing game has been senior Anthony Nelson, who has already grabbed 13 balls, for 181 yards and one score.
The ground game is fueled by a two-headed monster of Jonathan Hernandez and John Griffin. Hernandez is averaging 101.5 yards per game on 5.1 yards per carry. Griffin is netting four yards a clip and is putting up 77.5 yards per game. The pair have combined for all five of the team's rushing scores to date.
Thus far, UMass has been strong against both the run (76.5 ypg) and the pass (195.5 ypg), but that has had a lot to do with the competition, or lack thereof. The Minutemen with certainly have their hands full with the Wolverines this weekend. Mike Mele is the team's top tackler through two games with 17 stops. However, All-American LB Tyler Holmes has been this team's biggest playmaker, posting 16 tackles, 3.5 TFLs, one sack, two INTs and one forced fumble.
The Wolverines are undefeated on the young season because of the super human play of Denard Robinson. The young QB is way out in front in terms of the Heisman race, as he leads the nation in rushing with 455 yards, averaging 227.5 yards per game. Robinson is averaging a gaudy 8.0 yards per carry single-handedly led the Wolverines to victory in South Bend last week, with an astounding 502 yards of total offense. When he isn't running all over the field, Robinson is completing nearly 70 percent of his passes, for 430 yards, with two TDs.
It was a late drive capped off by a short plunge by Robinson that gave the Wolverines the win in South Bend.
"After the ball was snapped I started making my reads: from the tackle to the guard to the center. I didn't really focus on anything else. I saw everyone flowing over top and when I cut back it was wide open. It was me and one guy and we had to see who was the better guy."
Although he has been a one-man wrecking machine thus far, Robinson will eventually need help from players like WRs Martavious Odoms (nine receptions, for 114 yards) and Roy Roundtree (nine receptions, for 81 yards).
The Wolverines have some playmakers on the defensive side of the ball as well, led by veteran linebacker Jonas Mouton. The 6-2, 240-pound fifth-year senior has racked up 21 tackles in the first two games, along with one interception. Strong safety Jordan Kovacs isn't far behind in tackles (16) and also has one INT to his credit. Middle linebacker Obi Ezeh (13 tackles, one fumble recovery) is another veteran off to a fast start.
Six FCS schools have knocked off FBS schools this season already. While UMass is a solid program, the Minutemen aren't likely to add to that total, especially with the way that Robinson is moving the chains.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Michigan 36, Massachusetts 10