Last football season might go down in history as one of the worst Michigan has endured in its tenure as an elite program.
In his first year as coach for the Wolverines after replacing the legendary Lloyd Carr, Rich Rodriguez led U-M to a 3-9 record, which was the school’s first losing season since 1967 and the most losses in school history.
The losses, coupled with Rodriguez having a rocky split from his former employer West Virginia was enough to throw the Wolverine faithful into fits. Fans, alumni and even boosters were calling for the newest coach’s head, claiming athletic director Bill Martin had made a mistake. People bashed Rodriguez’s acclaimed spread offense, and there was even a Web site produced in promotion of his firing properly named ‘firerrod.com.’
What a difference a year makes.
This season Michigan started off with a dominating win against Western Michigan. The much-beleaguered Michigan offense was impressive against WMU to the tune of 439 yards of total offense, 242 of which were on the ground.
The next weekend U-M came away with a win against then nationally ranked Notre Dame. True freshman quarterback Tate Forcier’s touchdown pass to receiver Greg Matthews with 11 seconds left sealed a 38-34 win in what could be called Michigan’s biggest victory in the Rodriguez era.
This Saturday, No. 25 Michigan will be riding high when Eastern comes to Ann Arbor. With Forcier leading the attack, the Wolverine offense has been outstanding through the first two contests, with 69 points through two games – a total not eclipsed until its fourth game against Wisconsin last season.
So far in 2009, Forcier has been masterful in running the spread many called a disaster last year. The Wolverine quarterback stands with 419 yards and five scores passing, while rushing for 107 yards, including a rushing touchdown to start the season. Eastern is going to have a tough time corralling him.
Michigan’s defense also looks like it has improved upon last year’s model.
In the first game, WMU quarterback Tim Hiller couldn’t get anything going until the fourth quarter when he threw a 73-yard touchdown pass to receiver Juan Nunez, but by that time the game was already well in hand for the Wolverines. The touchdown would be the only score Western would have all day with Michigan allowing 301 total yards with only 38 yards rushing.
With Michigan looking smooth in the early going it’ll be tough for Eastern even with the confidence built in its close loss to Northwestern last week. The Eagle defense has given up 27 points in consecutive contests while getting burned on the ground for 300 yards by Army and 185 yards by Northwestern.
The dynamic of Forcier and the poor rush defense coupled with the harsh environment that is Michigan Stadium will prove to be too much for Eastern. The Eagles lose in a similar fashion to their previous contest with Michigan in 2007 where they were defeated 33-22, though this time they will give up more points.
Final: Michigan 38, Eastern 14.