Michigan vs. Central Florida matchup: One dominated last week, while the other found its footing
ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan’s 63-3 win against Hawaii showed last week what the Wolverines can do — against an undermanned opponent.
Michigan (1-0), ranked fifth in this week’s Associated Press Top 25 poll, faces Central Florida (1-0), which earned its first win since 2014 after defeating FCS opponent South Carolina State, 38-0, on Saturday.
Saturday’s noon kickoff is the first meeting between the two undefeated teams.
When Michigan has the ball
If Hawaii was a measuring stick, expect production out of both running backs and receivers, particularly RB Chris Evans. The true freshman from Indianapolis led the Wolverines with 112 yards and two touchdowns on eight carries, and the Wolverines ran for 306 yards.
Eleven different players caught passes against Hawaii, and QB Wilton Speight played a methodical game in his first start. He’ll have to continue that against the Knights, who had 69 tackles and two fumble recoveries against South Carolina State. Speight wasn’t flashy or overwhelming, but he was smart and consistent against Hawaii, finishing with 145 passing yards and three touchdown passes before being replaced by John O’Korn in the third quarter. Another note about Speight in relation to the running backs: he wasn’t credited with any rushing carries against Hawaii.
When UCF has the ball
First, the Knights have to work through Michigan’s defensive line, which will be without Bryan Mone (unspecified injury) and Taco Charlton (ankle). Then, they’ll have to get through the linebackers: Jabrill Peppers, Ben Gedeon and Mike McCray combined for 20 tackles and four sacks against Hawaii. Finally, they’ll have to handle Michigan’s secondary, which had two interceptions against Hawaii, and will get a boost from the likely return of All-America cornerback Jourdan Lewis, who sat out the season opener with an unspecified injury.
UCF’s coaching staff is installing an uptempo offense, which the Knights continue to learn. Against South Carolina State, UCF’s first four scoring drives ended with field goals. UCF’s running backs had 55 carries for 197 yards but didn’t have a rusher with more than 53 yards. QB Justin Holman went 14-for-28 passing for 193 yards and two touchdowns, and backup Nick Patti was 5-for-7 for 48 yards.
The win over Hawaii wasn’t a great gauge of Michigan’s special teams. In fact, Michigan didn’t punt once against the Rainbow Warriors, and save for Peppers’ leap over Hawaii punter Rigoberto Sanchez, which was waved off by a penalty, Michigan’s prowess on special teams has yet to be tested.
UCF kicker Matthew Wright went 4-for-4 on field goals, all in the first half against South Carolina State, and Tristan Payton had a 47-yard kickoff return.
Advantage: Central Florida
Jim Harbaugh is in his second season at the helm of Michigan. Scott Frost, a former Nebraska quarterback, is in his first season as UCF’s coach.
Harbaugh has already brought Michigan back into the national college spotlight. Frost aims to bring a patient approach to rebuilding the program, and to bring respectability back to the program, which produced former and current NFL players Daunte Culpepper, Brandon Marshall and Blake Bortles but went 0-12 last season.
Michigan got its emphatic win last week against Hawaii. It needs another one this week, and needs to continue its consistency from its season opener against Hawaii.
Rachel Lenzi’s prediction: Michigan 41, UCF 10
Brandon Justice’s prediction: Michigan 50, Central Florida 7