Seventh-ranked Michigan looks to work through its growing pains when it hosts Air Force on Saturday. The inexperienced Wolverines survived a scare from Cincinnati as the five-touchdown favorite needed 19 unanswered points in the final 18 minutes to hold off the Bearcats 36-14.
Michigan turned the ball over four times in its first two games and has relied heavily upon its defense, which has scored three touchdowns in 2017. “You’ve got to be patient and we’re going to coach them up but it’s a long road ahead,” Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh told reporters. “It’s a learning experience and there’s a lot of things for each individual player to think about.” The Wolverines have beaten Air Force twice in program history, including a 31-25 victory in the most recent matchup in 2012, and can extend their home winning streak to nine games with another triumph. Air Force routed VMI 62-0 in its season opener and hopes to ride the momentum to its first win against a Big Ten opponent since beating Northwestern in 2003.
TV: Noon, ET, Big Ten Network. LINE: Michigan -24.5
ABOUT AIR FORCE (1-0): Arion Worthman threw for 172 yards and a career-high two touchdowns while adding another score on the ground against VMI to help the Falcons register the second-highest margin of victory in program history. Tim McVey ran for 98 yards and a score to lead seven different players with rushing touchdowns, and the defense held the Keydets to 95 yards - the second fewest in school history- en route to their first shutout since 2009. “It will be interesting to see how loud it actually is and how that affects the game,” Worthman told reporters. “Hopefully we can make some big plays and kind of silence the crowd a bit.”
ABOUT MICHIGAN (2-0): Junior quarterback Wilton Speight threw for 221 yards and two touchdowns but also had two fumbles which thwarted promising scoring drives in the win against Cincinnati. Safety Tyree Kinnel was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week after recording nine tackles, one sack and a 28-yard interception return for a touchdown. Harbaugh revealed that defensive end Donovan Jeter has been ruled out for the remainder of the season after undergoing surgery for an undisclosed injury while running back Kareem Walker (knee) and wide receiver Oliver Martin (upper body) are sidelined as well.
1. Michigan is 14-2 at home under Harbaugh.
2. The Wolverines have won their last five non-conference games by an average margin of 30.4 points.
3. Air Force has lost 11 straight road games to ranked teams.
PREDICTION: Michigan 34, Air Force 14