July 10, 2010 at 1:00 am

Angelique S. Chengelis: Michigan football

U-M will have its hands full in season opener against UConn

Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez has an important decision to make before the season opener on Sept. 4: Who will start at quarterback? (David Guralnick/The Detroit News)

In just a few days, the public will get to tour newly renovated Michigan Stadium, which got me thinking about the dedication game, which then got me thinking about the season opener, which finally got me thinking about Connecticut.

It'll be a big day at Michigan Stadium on Sept. 4, as the stadium, with its gorgeous facelift, makes its game debut. But it also will be the season opener for Rich Rodriguez, entering his third season as the Wolverines coach, and his team will look to make a first-game statement.

But there's no doubt this will be an extremely challenging opener.

It'll set the tone for the Wolverines, and a victory against Connecticut, could maybe even be called a statement-maker. That might be a little strong observation -- playing UConn in the first game isn't exactly playing Alabama or Florida -- but it's not a complete overstatement. The anticipation is that the Huskies will be a tough team coming off an 8-5 season in which their five losses were determined by a combined 15 points. They won their four final games, including a double-overtime thriller at Notre Dame and the PapaJohns.com Bowl against South Carolina.

In other words, the Huskies won't be pushovers.

Expect a shootout

So what Michigan should be worried about is the same thing UConn will be worried about: How their defenses will contain what should be two good offenses.

While the Wolverines will wait until fall camp to determine which sophomore, Tate Forcier or Denard Robinson, will start, UConn knows senior quarterback Zach Frazer will be its leader. He was 8 of 14 for 307 yards and four touchdowns and an interception in the spring game, and his favorite target was junior Mike Smith, who caught five passes for 207 yards and three touchdowns.

The Huskies averaged 387.2 yards of offense last season and return eight starters. Jordan Todman is a solid tailback, and Frazer has three receivers to work with in Smith, Marcus Easley and Kashif Moore, although despite Smith's spring-game output, it's not clear who the big-play receiver will be. UConn also has four returning offensive linemen, including first-team All-Big East guard Zach Hurd.

Defensively, UConn has eight returning starters, and linebacker is considered the Huskies' strength, although the line has three starters back and also Greg Lloyd, a linebacker who has been converted to defensive end.

Like Michigan, Connecticut's biggest question mark on defense is the secondary. The Huskies lost a starting cornerback and free safety to graduation.

So all of this brings me to this conclusion: Expect a shootout at Michigan Stadium on Sept. 4.


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