CSU Rams vs. Michigan: 4 things to know, key matchups and predictions

CSU Rams (0-0)  vs. No. 8 Michigan (0-0); 10 a.m. Saturday, Michigan Stadium

TV/Radio: KMGH-7/ 1600 AM, 98.1 FM

Line: Michigan -30.5, 61.5 over/under

Weather: 87 degrees, partly cloudy, possible thunderstorm late

What to know

Tryout time! Remember those Broncos preseason games? From a quarterback perspective that’s largely what this Rams matchup is to Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh. The Wolverines plan to start Cade McNamara behind center on a tryout basis, then give the nod to J.J. McCarthy to start the Hawaii game next week, before settling on a rotation. Whomever gets the bulk of the snaps might not matter behind a Michigan offensive line that returns three starters from a unit that helped Big Blue rush for 214 yards per game a year ago.

Achilles heels? If the Rams are to make a game of it, they’ll have to play turnover-free (or turnover-lite) ball while hoping to unsettle the Wolverines’ unsettled quarterbacks. Harbaugh’s Wolverines are 2-14 when held to 20 points or fewer, 8-16 when trailing at halftime, 5-20 when trailing after three quarters, 10-18 when losing the turnover/takeaway battle, 7-13 when the opponent notches a 100-yard rusher and 6-8 when the opposing QB throws for 250 yards or more.

Let’s make some history, baby! In its maiden voyage to the Big House, CSU will likely play in front of the largest football crowd it’s ever seen, as Michigan Stadium seats 107,601, the most of any FBS building. If the Rams can hang around long enough to make those 107,000-plus feel uncomfortable, that’s probably a victory in itself.

Let’s make some more history, baby! The Rams have dropped 12 of their last 13 to Big Ten opponents. They’ve lost 17 of their last 19 against teams ranked in the top 10. CSU hasn’t beaten a ranked team since taking down CU in 2002. In other words, there’s nothing much to lose, except another game to a blueblood.

Key matchups

CSU’s defensive front vs. Michigan’s offensive line. Despite Harbaugh’s reputation for trickery, his pre-conference gameplans are often pretty straightforward. Basically, the Wolverines want to run the rock right down the Rams’ throats, and they know they’ve got the bodies to do it. Michigan’s projected No.1 offensive line weighs, on average, 314 pounds. CSU’s defensive front four? An average of 271.4 pounds.

CSU QB Clay Millen vs. Michigan LB Junior Colson. Where the Wolverines aren’t huge, they’re fast. Unless, in the case of Big Blue defender Colson, they happen to be both fast (4.6 in the 40) and huge (6-foot-2, 235 pounds). The good news for Millen, who’s making his first collegiate start? Unless you’re in the College Football Playoff anytime soon, it’ll probably only get easier from here.


Sean Keeler, sports columnist: Michigan 37, CSU 13

One day, and one day soon, Norvell’s Rams are going to shock the world. Just not this day. And not in this house. And not against this Michigan team.

Matt Schubert, deputy sports editor: Michigan 40, CSU 17

If there’s one thing the Rams have going for them, it’s that the Wolverines don’t know what’s coming. Aside from that, all advantages lean heavily toward Big Blue.

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