Breakdown: Wolverines look for first win in Harbaugh's home debut

Thursday, September 10, 2015 - 6:46pm

Fifth-year senior quarterback Jake Rudock scrambles against Utah.

Fifth-year senior quarterback Jake Rudock scrambles against Utah. Buy this photo
Allison Farrand/Daily

 

On a day that will in all likelihood be remembered as Jim Harbaugh’s Michigan Stadium coaching debut, there will indeed be a football game played after Harbaugh jumps up and touches the banner.

When the Michigan football team plays Oregon State on Saturday, it will mark a matchup between two head coaches at new schools. The Beavers’ Gary Andersen left Wisconsin after last season to take the helm in Corvallis. 

The Beavers, unlike the Wolverines, won their season opener, defeating Football Championship Subdivision foe Weber State, 26-7.

Here’s the Daily’s breakdown of the upcoming matchup.

Michigan pass offense vs. Oregon State pass defense

Members of the Wolverines’ offense said throughout the week that they see a great deal of potential in their unit. Saturday’s game will be their chance to prove it.

For fifth-year senior quarterback Jake Rudock, the key will be taking care of the ball. Rudock threw three interceptions against the Utes in his Michigan debut, a number that displeased him greatly.

Saturday will be another chance for Rudock to further his rapport with his receivers after transferring from Iowa over the summer. The process appeared to be going smoothly with junior tight end Jake Butt and redshirt junior wide receiver Amara Darboh, each of whom hauled in eight passes from their new quarterback in the opener.

Exactly how productive Oregon State’s defense will be against Rudock and company is difficult to predict. The Beavers return just two defensive starters and didn’t face much of a test against Weber State in their season opener. Wildcats quarterback Jadrian Clark completed 19 of 35 passing attempts for 120 yards to go along with one interception against Oregon State.

Edge: Michigan

Michigan rush offense vs. Oregon State rush defense

Michigan junior running back De’Veon Smith was hard on himself after the Wolverines’ season-opening loss, saying he missed some holes that were the size of a bus. Smith finished the opener with 47 yards on 17 carries, while junior backup Ty Isaac finished with 12 yards on four carries.

Michigan’s longest run of the game was just seven yards — hardly an explosion. Fifth-year senior offensive lineman Graham Glasgow said Tuesday that he believes many of his unit’s problems can be solved by the linemen lowering their pad levels, something they have been working on all week.

Oregon State allowed 58 rushing yards on 18 attempts to Weber State in the opener, good for an average of 3.22 yards per carry.

Edge: Michigan

Oregon State pass offense vs. Michigan pass defense

Oregon State quarterback Seth Collins made his career debut in the team’s opener, completing 10 of 18 attempts for 92 yards and two touchdowns. Collins is known primarily as a rushing threat, but Michigan will also be wary of his arm.

Michigan defensive backs coach Greg Jackson said this week that the Beavers’ emphasis on the running attack could potentially open up some opportunities for deep passes, putting the Wolverine defense on alert. Michigan’s secondary played with mixed results against Utah — they didn’t allow the Utes to break the game open, but there were certainly lapses in coverage.

Another area in which the Wolverine secondary hopes to improve is in creating turnovers. Michigan’s lone takeaway in the opener came on redshirt junior Jeremy Clark’s interception of a Hail Mary at the end of the first half. The Wolverines will have an opportunity to increase that number against an unseasoned quarterback.

Edge: Michigan

Oregon State rush offense vs. Michigan rush defense

The Beavers rushed for 281 yards against Weber State, with Collins leading the way with 152 yards on the ground. The Wolverines struggled to contain Utah quarterback Travis Wilson last week, who scampered for 53 yards and one touchdown on 12 carries.

However, Michigan did limit Devontae Booker, expected to be a top running back in the Pac-12, to 53 rushing yards and one touchdown on 12 carries. The Wolverines also made some big plays defending the run, recording nine tackles for a loss.

Edge: Michigan

Special Teams

Michigan fifth-year senior punter Blake O’Neill had a strong debut, with a long of 50 yards and another punt that pinned Utah within its own five-yard line. Senior kicker Kenny Allen missed one field goal in the opener to go along with one make.

Michigan redshirt freshman Jabrill Peppers will be a threat in the return game, both on punts and kickoffs. Though he was largely held in check against the Utes, he displayed electricity on his lone opportunity, returning a kick for 36 yards in the fourth quarter.

Oregon State kicker Garrett Owens was a perfect 4-for-4 in the opener, with a long kick of 45 yards. Punter Nick Porebski, an Australian like O’Neill, punted six times for 226 yards last week.

Edge: Oregon State

Intangibles

Harbaugh’s home debut could provide the Wolverines an edge. The Michigan fan base has been waiting for this moment since Harbaugh’s hiring last December. Crisler Center erupted in a state of euphoria when Harbaugh was introduced on the day of his introductory press conference, and the Big House is sure to follow suit.

Edge: Michigan

Prediction: Michigan 31, Oregon State 10