One week after suffering a crushing 25-23 loss to Notre Dame in
2002, Michigan played listlessly against an energized Utah team and
eked out a 10-7 win.

Now, the Wolverines are in almost the same situation. They will
try to put the Notre Dame loss behind them tomorrow and get back on
track against another Mountain West Conference team before the
conference schedule begins.

While some mid-major foes in past years have been intimidated by
Michigan Stadium, San Diego State isn’t worried about that
possibility.

Last year, the Aztecs lost narrowly to defending national
champion Ohio State. In front of more than 100,000 at Ohio Stadium,
San Diego State outplayed the Buckeyes for most of the game. Coach
Tom Craft believes last year’s experience will help his team
on Saturday.

“We’ve tried to create an atmosphere at practice
where there is noise, so that they focus on their assignment and
their technique and not the noise,” Craft said. “We
have ways to communicate — a lot of nonverbal communication.
The Ohio State game last year helped with our
confidence.”

The Aztecs were 32-point underdogs last year against the
Buckeyes, and lost by just a field goal. This time around San Diego
State is a three-touchdown underdog, a fact that won’t faze
them.

“We were heavy underdogs last year against Ohio State and
we felt we should have won the game,” Craft said. “We
are focused on what we have to do and excited to go back to that
type of environment.”

San Diego State features an experienced defense that was ranked
in the top-10 last year. Against Ohio State, the Aztecs allowed
just 10 first downs and stopped the Buckeyes on 13-of-14 third
downs. They are especially strong at linebacker. Matt McCoy and
Kirk Morrison, last year’s leading tacklers, are back. After
last year’s defensive dominance, the Aztecs’ started
calling the unit “The Dark Side Defense.”

San Diego State also likes to frequently send blitzes, which
will provide a test for Michigan’s offensive line and
quarterbacks.

“That conference has really developed through the
years,” Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said. “San Diego
State has had many great football players, and has a lot of
tradition. If you look at some of the guys that are in the Hall of
Fame from San Diego State, you know they have a tradition
there.

“As I watch them, they are well-coached, have great speed
and people who pursue the football. Their defense is really
impressive.”

The Wolverines found out what the Mountain West Conference has
to offer two years ago, and if they aren’t ready at kickoff,
could easily find themselves in another fourth-quarter fight.

“I don’t know how (Michigan is) feeling,”
Craft said. “That’s not our issue. They will be
refocused and playing at home will definitely help, but we have to
go in and worry about how we are going to play. We put the focus on
us and how we are going to do.”

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