KICKOFF: Saturday, 12 ET
SITE: Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, Mich.
TV: Big Ten Network
SERIES: First meeting
RECORDS: Michigan 2-0, Massachusetts 2-0
POLLS: Michigan (20 AP, 22 USA Today)
PREDICTION: Michigan 42-7
KEYS TO THE GAME:
-- Michigan is going to ride QB Denard Robinson's fleet feet as far as they will carry the Wolverines, so unless UMass takes a defensive approach to lock down Robinson at any cost, he should be off to the races again. Michigan cannot afford to experience a lapse against a team from a lower division, and with the humbling loss to Appalachian State still fresh in their minds, the Wolverines likely won't let that happen. They are riding some very positive momentum, and need to keep that ride going.
-- If Massachusetts needs any reminders of what they are capable of accomplishing, all they have to do is look at Appalachian State's game plan that led to their stunning victory in the Big House in 2007. The Minutemen have a nice one-two rushing attack keyed by Jonathan Hernandez and John Griffin. They likely won't find the holes like against foes in their own classification, but they still need to stay ahead of chains and stay out of long down-and-distance situations. Michigan has shown problems defending the pass so far this season and Massachusetts has little to lose if they occasionally exploit those problem areas with senior quarterback Kyle Havens. It will be important for the Minutemen to try and grab control early to keep the large crowd from becoming too much of a factor.
SCOUTING THE TEAMS:
It's just two games into the season, but nobody has been able to solve Michigan's offense that is based around the fact that Denard Robinson is the fastest guy on the field. Give him a couple blocks and some space, and see if anyone can catch him. Robinson's speed is no secret, but his passing has been efficient and effective, which makes Michigan a much tougher opponent to scheme against. The Wolverines spread the ball around when they throw, and that capability further increases the opposition's challenge defending this unit.
That same athleticism wasn't expected from a Michigan defense that was deemed a potentially huge liability when the season started. But after two games, the Wolverines have played well enough to win, and that meets or exceeds expectations. Fifth-year senior LB Jonas Mouton has emerged as the emotional leader with his aggressive play and vocal approach. Sophomore S Jordan Kovacs exemplifies the heart of this group as the former walk-on collected 10 tackles and an interception in the Notre Dame game. The Wolverines have been good at not allowing the home run, and they have also benefited greatly from the much improved production of the offense.
The Minutemen started the season unranked but have soared in the FCS polls after impressive victories over No. 4 William & Mary in the opener and Holy Cross last week. The major reason has been quarterback Kyle Haven, who passed for 293 yards and two touchdowns last week. Don't expect the Minutemen to be intimidated by "The Big House." They came close to upsets over Army and Navy in recent seasons and dropped a tight 21-17 decision at Kansas State last year. Those experiences should help steel them for the challenge of playing Michigan. Stopping Denard Robinson might be a different story, but the Minutemen are excited and prepared for the challenge of playing in the nation's largest college football stadium. They can't linger over mistakes and especially can't allow the special-teams busts that allowed two blocked punts last week carry over to this week's game.
Wolverines: Massachusetts becomes the 142nd different opponent that Michigan has faced in its football history ... QB Denard Robinson was named the Big Ten's Offensive Player of the Week and the Walter Camp Football Foundation's Offensive Player of the Week in each of his first games. Robinson needs 45 rushing yards and 70 passing yards to reach 500 in each category for the season. He leads the nation in rushing (227.5 ypg) and total offense (442.5 ypg). He broke his own school record and the Big Ten record for rushing yards by a quarterback with 258. He became the ninth quarterback in NCAA history to rush and pass for 200 yards in the same game and finishing by accounting for 502 of Michigan's 532 yards. He recorded an 87-yard run against Notre Dame, capping his huge day with a game-winning 2-yard TD run with 27 seconds left in regulation ... The Wolverines are among nine teams that haven't allowed a sack this season. They rank seventh nationally in rushing (287.5 ypg), seventh in turnover margin (plus-2 per game) and 14th in total offense (502.5 ypg) ... The Wolverines rank 90th nationally in tackles for losses (4.5 pg), 104th in total defense (439 ypg), 109th in pass defense (293 ypg) and tied for 109th in sacks (.5 pg). LB Jonas Mouton leads the Big Ten with 21 tackles after two games ... Michigan ranks seventh nationally in rushing offense and is 14th in total offense ... Nine Michigan players have made their first career starts in the Wolverines' first two games and 23 players have made their collegiate debuts.
Minutemen: Massachusetts is ranked No. 16 in this week's The Sports Network/Fathead.com FCS Top 25 and No. 15 in the FCS Coaches Poll. That is a jump of two and five spots, respectively, from last week ... UMass is 0-4 against Top 25 teams and 8-21 against FBS teams since 1978 when Division I-A teams split. The Minutemen's most recent victory came on Sept. 1, 1984, when they notched a home victory over Ball State ... UMass was strong in its most recent game, scoring touchdowns on four straight drives to blow open an eventual 31-7 victory over Holy Cross ... The Minutemen are averaging 223.5 rushing yards per game ... In the first two games, 29 players have made their debut for the Minutemen including seven transfers. UMass has eight players, including four starters that transferred from FBS programs ... Massachusetts plays in the Colonial Athletic Conference with James Madison, which stunned Virginia Tech last week. The Minutemen led all FCS teams last season with a 90.2 red-zone percentage last season with 25 touchdowns on 41 possessions inside the opposition's 20 ... QB Kyle Havens is hoping for a better game than in his first start against an FBS team. Havens completed 10 of 34 passes in last season's 21-17 loss at Kansas State ... The Minutemen played before a near capacity crowd of 16,352 last week. The crowd at Michigan Stadium is expected to be nearly seven times larger ... The Springfield Republican reported that UMass will receive a guarantee of $550,000 for playing at Michigan this week.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
-- DB Jordan Kovacs -- A walk-on who made the team last year, and then was starting by midseason, Kovacs has earned a scholarship. He is now one of the playmakers on the back end of the defense, as demonstrated by his 10 tackles and an interception against Notre Dame.
-- LB Jonas Mouton -- The Los Angeles product was everywhere in the win at Notre Dame, collecting 13 stops and an interception. He is playing the active, aggressive style Michigan needs to be successful.
-- DB Cam Gordon -- The sophomore had a rough outing at Notre Dame, but Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez said it was more "technique" related, and not a big concern. Gordon made the move from receiver to the defensive backfield in the spring and is still learning the position, facing live fire.
-- WR Roy Roundtree -- Internal bleeding issues threatened to keep Roundtree out of the Notre Dame game, but he was cleared by team doctors on Thursday, and contributed some big receptions against the Fighting Irish. Rodriguez credits Roundtree with being an intense competitor who plays the game faster once the action starts.
-- QB Kyle Havens - He's one of the better FCS quarterbacks in the nation. He's got to be salivating about a shot at a Michigan defense that ranks 109th in pass defense and 109th in sacks.
-- TB John Griffin/Jonathan Hernandez: The Minutemen's tailback tandem combined for 148 yards and two touchdowns last week, pacing a ground attack that topped 200 yards for the second week in a row. The yards will be tougher to come by against Michigan, but having two backs to alternate should help Massachusetts' offensive identity.
-- LB Tyler Homes - The Minutemen's defensive captain and top playmaker can't allow his unit to become intimidated by the loud Michigan crowd or by Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson's scintillating playmaking talents.
LB Mike Jones (broken leg, out for season), RB Fitzgerald Touissant (knee, probable), WR Junior Hemingway (hamstring, doubtful), DE Anthony LaLota (left team, out for season), LB Brandon Herron (ankle, questionable), DB Carvin Johnson (knee, questionable).