In Week No. 3, the Colorado football team is sure to get its toughest test of the season, as it heads on the road to face fourth-ranked Michigan.
Last year, coach Jim Harbaugh led the Wolverines to a 10-3 mark and a victory in the Citrus Bowl in his first season in Ann Arbor, Mich. This year, the Wolverines are off to a 2-0 start with a pair of easy victories.
BuffZone.com caught up with Angelique Chengelis, who covers the Wolverines for the Detroit News, to get her thoughts heading into today's game.
BuffZone: Michigan has had a couple of easy wins to start the year, but what has impressed you the most about this team to this point?
Chengelis: How much faster they look. That's been noticeable. It's most apparent on offense with the addition of a couple freshmen who have been impressive — receiver Eddie McDoom from all accounts is challenging veteran receiver Jehu Chesson in the fastest-man-on-the-team contest, and tailback Chris Evans showed in the season opener he's fast and has flash. The defense also seems to be as good as advertised. Of course they gave up a few big plays — including two for touchdowns — against UCF last Saturday, but the defense has allowed 17 points in two games. Also, linebacker Mike McCray hasn't exactly been a surprise since the coaches have been talking a lot about him since the spring, but he's battled a lot of injuries in his career and who knew if he'd be durable.
BuffZone: Conversely, what question marks remain for the Wolverines after the first two weeks?
Chengelis: The offensive linemen say not to panic about the production of the run game in the UCF game since the Knights loaded the box and challenged the passing game, but there is some concern among some of the fan base. Michigan gained just more than 100 yards rushing but won in a rout, 51-14. Tyrone Wheatley, the running backs coach, assures he has the backs to get the job done if a game comes down to their production. Also, another question mark is All-American cornerback Jourdan Lewis. He hasn't played the first two games because a back injury has caused some hamstring and quad issues. Will he be back for Colorado? That won't be known until kickoff.
BuffZone: Quarterback Wilton Speight has done a nice job in his first two starts. How much of that is the competition and how much is that he's just that good?
Chengelis: Speight will tell you that his first spring with Harbaugh and company in 2015 was not a highlight (see the HBO clip with Harbaugh chewing him out — really, it's worth watching! — although Speight's jersey number was blurred). He reapplied himself, got some confidence leading Michigan to a go-ahead touchdown at Minnesota last season when Jake Rudock was injured, and emerged from the spring with the lead. But absolutely the competition with John O'Korn and Shane Morris in preseason camp helped. He just never gave up ground and so far through two games has look poised, particularly after throwing an interception his first play as the starter.
BuffZone: How has new defensive coordinator Don Brown improved the defense, and is the defense still going through some growing pains with that transition?
Chengelis: It seemed almost immediately the defensive players took to Brown, and not just because they all like his mustache. His nickname is Dr. Blitz and this mostly veteran defense said the transition to Michigan's third defensive coordinator in three years was a breeze. He's high intensity much like D.J. Durkin, now the Maryland head coach, was last year as coordinator, but the players say Brown is calmer. The defense is improved because it is an older group, there is depth on the line and they can rotate, and they have completely taken to Brown's attacking, aggressive, blitz, blitz, blitz approach.
BuffZone: This is probably the best team Colorado has had in several years. I'm sure the coaches and players are giving CU respect, but do the Michigan fans and media view Colorado as a step up in competition for the Wolverines this week, or is this viewed as another Hawaii/UCF type of opponent, given CU's struggles in recent years?
Chengelis: I think the Colorado win in the opener against Colorado State caught everyone's attention. Defensive backs coach Mike Zordich said this week that, no offense to Hawaii and UCF, Colorado comes to Ann Arbor with a better quarterback and receivers and clearly the biggest threat so far. To answer your question, no, no one is looking at this as another Hawaii/UCF despite the Vegas odds. Mostly, I think, everyone is scared of Elmer Fudd quarterbacking Colorado! (Greatest depth chart EVER!)
Brian Howell: email@example.com, on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.