Michigan opens its home schedule Saturday against Cincinnati with a noon ET kickoff at Michigan Stadium. Both teams are 1-0. Michigan beat Florida 33-17 last Saturday, while Cincinnati had to hold off FCS opponent Austin Peay, 26-14, on Aug. 31. Here are three keys to the game and predictions from Land of 10 Michigan writers Rachel Lenzi and Kevin Goheen.
Don’t look past Cincinnati
The Bearcats had more of a struggle than expected against Austin Peay in their opener, needing a late touchdown to provide some breathing room against the lower-division opponent. It was the first game for coach Luke Fickell, the former Ohio State player/assistant coach/interim head coach/defensive coordinator, so he now knows a little more about his team. He certainly knows a lot about Michigan.
Cincinnati junior quarterback Hayden Moore is capable of having a big game. He entered a game at Memphis in 2015 as a freshman for injured Gunner Kiel and threw for a school-record 557 yards and 4 touchdowns. Senior running back Mike Boone made news this week talking about his confidence in playing Michigan, but Boone is no slouch. He led the team in rushing as a freshman and has 21 career touchdowns.
Better accuracy by Wilton Speight
Wilton Speight was just 11 of 25 against Florida, with several of his throws sailing high. The first of the 2 interceptions he threw that were returned for touchdowns was a catchable ball that went off the hands of wide receiver Kekoa Crawford. The second one was all on Speight, who never gave Grant Perry a chance to make the catch. He also missed Crawford for what should have been an easy touchdown in the fourth quarter on a throw down the sideline. That wasn’t the only deep sideline throw Speight missed so badly that he didn’t give his receiver a chance at the ball.
Cincinnati won’t offer the same challenge on the defensive line as Florida did but expect the Bearcats to bring pressure with blitzes to disrupt Speight. Can he be better in the pocket facing that pressure? Can he put the ball on target more consistently?
Backup Florida performance on defense
That was a pretty impressive first outing against Florida for defensive coordinator Don Brown’s unit. Players throughout the lineup ran to the ball, closed up would-be openings and tackled well. They didn’t give Florida quarterbacks Feleipe Franks and Malik Zaire much time to find receivers downfield. Florida hit a couple of big plays but never sustained a drive.
There was a lot of emotion and build-up to that game against a SEC opponent. The Big House will be full for this season opener. Cincinnati doesn’t offer the name opponent that Florida did, but it will be a test for a Wolverines group that includes a lot of first-time starters. Can they follow up what they did against Florida this week? Can they improve upon the coaching points Brown and his assistants have given them?
RACHEL LENZI — Michigan 44, Cincinnati 7
KEVIN GOHEEN — Michigan 35, Cincinnati 10