ANN ARBOR, Mich. — When Michigan hosts Colorado on Saturday, the No. 4 team in the nation and one of the Pac-12 Conference’s upstart teams meet for the first time since 1997. It’s also nearly 22 years after one of the most iconic plays in college football: Kordell Stewart’s Hail Mary pass that gave Colorado a 27-26 win on Sept. 24, 1994, at Michigan Stadium.
The two teams, however, aren’t thinking about history. Many of the players weren’t even born in 1994. When the two teams meet Saturday, the programs will have two different looks to them. Colorado (2-0) announced earlier this week it plans to wear its 1994 throwback uniforms at Michigan Stadium.
— Colorado Buffaloes (@cubuffs) September 12, 2016
Here’s what Michigan (2-0) will need to focus on in preparation for the 2016 Buffaloes — not the 1994 Buffaloes:
1. Find a balance between the rush and the pass
Michigan threw the ball a lot against Central Florida because it had to. The Knights stacked the run and played physical against the Wolverines, limiting Michigan to 119 rushing yards. Michigan more than held its own in the passing game. Wilton Speight and John O’Korn combined for 328 passing yards, but the offensive line and the backs need to be more physical and more in sync against Colorado.
2. Don’t be fooled by Colorado based on recent history
The Buffs haven’t won more than 4 games in a season since 2011, and they have been mired in the Pac-12’s basement for the past few years. But they’re 2-0 — against in-state rival Colorado State and FCS opponent Idaho State — and enter Saturday with the nation’s best defense (160.5 yards). Colorado is seventh in the nation with 1,175 yards of offense.
3. The defensive line needs to continue to mesh
With the absences of defensive linemen Bryan Mone (left leg) and Taco Charlton (ankle), defensive ends Rashan Gary and Chase Winovich combined for 11 tackles and 1.5 sacks against Central Florida. The duo has been groomed to plug the holes and to produce when injuries arise. With the constant physical toll of linemen in mind, defensive line coach Greg Mattison has designed the unit to have eight men rotating in and out through the season — and to be effective and efficient.
4. Expect Michigan’s secondary to be pressured more
As of Monday evening, All-America cornerback Jourdan Lewis (muscle strain) remained questionable for this weekend. Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said Lewis worked out during practice Monday, and that “we’ve got to see as the week goes on.” Michigan allowed 56 passing yards against the Knights, but Buffs quarterback Sefo Liufau has passed for 522 yards in 2 starts. Also, Colorado has three receivers with at least 100 yards. Bryce Bobo had 5 catches for 99 yards against Colorado State.
5. Don’t let the past get in the way
Any college football historian knows of Colorado’s 1994 Hail Mary pass. Harbaugh was reminded of it during his Monday news conference. There are a few other threads between Colorado and Michigan. Former Buffs coach Bill McCartney was an assistant for Bo Schembechler at Michigan from 1974 to 1982. Harbaugh was a childhood guest of the McCartney family. Colorado defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Jim Leavitt was on Harbaugh’s staff with the San Francisco 49ers from 2011 to ’14.