Edit: It looks like I was beaten to the punch by the front page post.
What are your key areas to watch in tomorrow's opener? (Obviously, winning the game is implied)
1. Is the aggressive defense for real? App St is a team that dinks and dunks their way down the field, something Michigan has struggled to stop. In recent years, we've relied on sure tackling and keeping the ball in front to force opposing offenses to execute for long stretches at a time so they eventually bog down of their own accord. Is this the year we start getting in receivers' faces and taking away the short stuff with tight man coverage and start kicking offenses off the field instead of waiting for a mistake?
2. Can we run the ball straight up with no trickeration? We had some success running the ball early last year but by coming out and surprising our first two oppenents with a switch to outside stretch plays. When opponents adjusted, our run game disappeared and we embarked on a long winding road in search of the next thing that worked. I want to see us establish our base play, inside zone, early and often. Get the defense to cheat up before unleashing play action over their heads. We'll find out a bit if our OL was just struggling against our good defense, or struggling in general.
3. Jabrill Peppers. I'm not one to buy into the hype on a true freshman, but man, this kid isn't your average true freshman. Given App St's style, he should feature heavily at nickel. Will they be conservative with him and have him drop into coverage, or will he be the hybrid blitzing terror we expect on day one? Also, punt returns will be exciting. I want to see him break a big one, but more importantly I want to see him make good decisions and show sure hands.
4. Is the offensive tempo improved? Are we making the right adjustments at the line? I want to see lots of pointing and communicating before we snap the ball. I want to see Devin get us into the right play, and get us out of bad ones. Can he handle the additional responsibilities that Borges never seemed comfortable giving to his QBs? Is our OL communicating their blocking assignments? Do the RBs know where the blitz is coming from?
5. I want to see us have the game in hand early, not only for my blood pressure, but because I want to see our back-ups play. Not getting meaningful playing time last year for our back-ups was maybe the worst consequence of our struggles as far as development of the team going forward. Beating teams we should and getting the game reps for back ups will help not just next year, but down the road this season if injuries occur. It'll also be a good chance to see who redshirts and who the coaches think can contribute.