ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Washington has a lot to prove, coming off a loss to Montana.
Michigan does, too.
The two motivated and unranked teams will meet under the lights Saturday night at the Big House.
The Huskies (0-1) went into the season with high expectations as the 20th-ranked team in the country and it opened with a thud in a 13-7 home loss to the Grizzlies.
“Now it’s got to fuel us,” coach Jimmy Lake said.
Washington became the first ranked FBS team to lose to a FCS team in five years. The Huskies joined a short list of ranked, major college football teams that have lost to second-tier programs along with the Wolverines, who lost to Appalachian State in 2007.
Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said the upset is irrelevant this week, but seemed to suggest the Huskies may have been looking ahead to Week 2 while getting ready for their opener.
“Got a good idea that Washington has been preparing for us for a long time," Harbaugh said.
The Wolverines (1-0) got off to a much better start, routing Western Michigan 47-14, and yet they're far from satisfied.
“We haven’t done anything yet,” safety Brad Hawkins said. “It’s been years since we won a Big Ten championship. It’s been years since we’ve been national champions."
While Michigan still hails itself as college football's winningest team, it has not claimed a conference championship in 17 years or a national title in nearly a quarter-century.
FILLING A VOID
The Wolverines will be without perhaps their best player, receiver and punt returner Ronnie Bell, after he injured his right knee last week on special teams and is expected to miss the rest of the season.
A.J. Henning, Cornelius Johnson, Mike Sainristill, Roman Wilson and Daylen Baldwin will all get a chance to do more at receiver. Henning might become the team's punt returner to free up Caden Kolesar, who filled in last week for Bell, to help the unit elsewhere.
“The problem is if (Kolesar) returns the punts, he’s not rushing and blocking and holding up," Harbaugh said.
Washington receiver and kick returner Giles Jackson will face the team he left last spring.
Jackson was the second freshman in Michigan history to score touchdowns via kick return, pass reception, and rushing during the 2019 season. In last year’s shortened season, Jackson had 15 catches in five games and returned a kickoff for a touchdown against Rutgers.
The Huskies are thrilled to have him because three top receivers — Terrell Bynum, Rome Odunze and Jalen McMillan — missed the opener with injuries. Another receiver, Ja’Lynn Polk, suffered a chest injury on the first play of the opener and is expected to miss the entire regular season.
“We believe he’s given us an added boost in the return game and at wide receiver," Lake said.
The Wolverines say they don't care: “We look at it as a faceless opponent,” Henning said
Michigan running back Blake Corum had 111 yards rushing and scored two touchdowns, one receiving and one running, last week. He drew a comparison to a former Huskie.
“Reminds us a lot of Myles Gaskin in his body type, his height, how he sees the linebackers and safeties in the box and how he’s able to make them miss,” Lake said.
One of the biggest concerns coming from Washington’s opener was the inability of its highly touted offensive line to handle Montana’s defensive front. The Grizzlies sacked Washington quarterback Dylan Morris three times and had several more hits, a couple of which were flagged for roughing.
Washington also struggled in the run game rushing for only 95 yards on 24 carries before sack yardage was subtracted.
“We’ve got to give our guys a better plan to continue to run the football and also a better plan to protect our quarterback,” Lake said.
If Washington loses, it will be 0-2 for the first time since 2008 when it finished 0-12.
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