Michigan football eyes one last beatdown before quest to defend Big Ten title

Michigan hosts Connecticut in final non-conference game

Roman Wilson #14 of the Michigan Wolverines celebrates his first half touchdown with Ronnie Bell #8 while playing the Hawaii Warriors at Michigan Stadium on September 10, 2022 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Gregory Shamus, 2022 Getty Images)

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – The defending Big Ten champions are just one week from the start of conference play, but first, Michigan football needs to take care of business against Connecticut, the third-straight heavy underdog to visit Ann Arbor.

The Wolverines justified massive point spreads in their first two games, beating Colorado State and Hawaii by an average of 45 points. Las Vegas expects a similar margin of victory this week, as Michigan comes in favored by 47.5.

Since Michigan has yet to be tested, the storylines surrounding the program haven’t focused much on the actual games. First, it was Jim Harbaugh’s plan to play both quarterbacks. Then, it was J.J. McCarthy’s first career start and subsequent victory in the quarterback duel.

Now, all anyone wants to talk about is Michigan’s non-conference schedule. It’s nothing different than what nearly every SEC team does, but still, when it involves Michigan, that conversation moves the needle.

Once Big Ten season begins, all those topics will be moot. But for now, Michigan’s focus is on making sure nobody even remembers this UConn game in 48 hours.

READ: What have we actually learned about Michigan football after 2 blowout wins?

Avoid disaster

Last weekend was another reminder that anything can happen in college football. Texas A&M, after signing one of the best recruiting classes in the history of the sport, scored 14 points in a home loss against Appalachian State, a team that just allowed 63 points in a loss to North Carolina.

Meanwhile, in South Bend, Notre Dame was upset by Marshall seven days after giving Ohio State a battle in Columbus.

Owen Porter #55 of the Marshall Thundering Herd celebrates an interception against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish during the second half at Notre Dame Stadium on September 10, 2022 in South Bend, Indiana. (2022 Getty Images)

Texas A&M and Notre Dame were the talk of the sport all week. Michigan’s goal is stay out of the spotlight with another dominant performance.

RELATED: Michigan keeps taking care of business as chaos reigns throughout college football

Jim Mora’s Huskies do have a win this season, and even though it came against FCS Central Connecticut, it’s more than Michigan’s first two opponents (a combined 0-5) can say.

Connecticut hasn’t won more than three games in five seasons. Since going independent after 2019, the Huskies are 0-12 against FBS opponents and 2-1 against FCS teams. Their last winning season came in 2010.

That’s just a roundabout way of saying this is one of the worst programs in major college football, so Michigan needs to win emphatically once again. Any sign of weakness will have the schedule vultures clamoring to feast on the Wolverines.

What to watch for from Michigan

Fans are eager to see if McCarthy can match the production from his first career start, in which he completed 11 of 12 passes for 229 yards and three touchdowns. Harbaugh named him the starter for Week 3, so Saturday offers one final audition before the schedule gets much more difficult.

OPINION: Here’s why Michigan should throw the ball more in final tune-up game vs. UConn

J.J. McCarthy #9 and Alan Bowman #15 of the Michigan Wolverines slap hands during the first half of a college football game against the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors at Michigan Stadium on September 10, 2022 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (2022 Getty Images)

That’s not to say Maryland is one of the better teams in the Big Ten. But compared to Michigan’s first three opponents, the Terrapins might as well be Alabama.

UConn’s most dangerous player is running back Nathan Carter, who’s already racked up 384 yards in three games -- good for third in the country. Michigan had some trouble stopping the run against Hawaii (albeit in a 40-point blowout), so the front seven’s performance against Carter will be worth watching.

Jesse Minter is surely hoping his defense will force a few turnovers against a Connecticut team that’s coughed it up eight times in three games. Michigan failed to take the ball away from Hawaii last weekend after the Rainbow Warriors committed eight turnovers in their first two games.

There’s only so much anyone can learn from these mismatches, but as long as Michigan wins big and stays healthy, the non-conference season will go down as a success for the defending Big Ten champs.

About the Author:

Derick is the Lead Digital Editor for ClickOnDetroit and has been with Local 4 News since April 2013. Derick specializes in breaking news, crime and local sports.