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Published: Friday, 9/3/2010

UConn a difficult test for Michigan

BY RYAN AUTULLO
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

ANN ARBOR — If you haven't picked up a newspaper in the last five years, haven't paid your cable bill, or simply haven't paid attention, you might view Saturday's football game between the University of Michigan and Connecticut as something it is not.

You might be inclined to think this is a warm-up game for the Wolverines, an easy prelude to that epic showdown next week against Notre Dame. You'd be mistaken. Entering the season, if one was to rank Michigan, Notre Dame, and Connecticut from top to bottom in terms of strength, those mighty Huskies just might be on top. Yep, those same Huskies who until just a few years ago competed for Atlantic 10 championships.

Unlike Michigan and Notre Dame, Connecticut played a postseason game last year, winning 20-7 over South Carolina in the Papajohns.com Bowl. It was the fourth straight win for the Huskies, who began that trend following a two-point loss to Cincinnati by winning in overtime at Notre Dame. Adding another win at another prestigious stadium would be significant for Randy Edsall's team, which returns 16 starters from an 8-5 team that was never beaten by more than four points.

There is a chance, because of Michigan Stadium's new seat expansion, that Saturday's crowd will be the largest to ever watch a college football game as 109,901 spectators could fit inside the Big House for the first meeting between the teams.

“I don't think the crowd will be intimidating to them,” Edsall said. “I think we just have to go out and play the way we're capable of playing.”

Edsall, who took over the program in 1998, has been around for all of the good stuff. Connecticut gained entrance to Division I-A in 2000, worked its way to a 9-3 record in 2003, and a year later became a Big East member.

“Most people have them projected higher than us and ranked higher than us, for what that's worth,” Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez said.

Quarterback Zach Frazer, who began his career at Notre Dame, will operate an offense that figures to take advantage of UM's inexperience and lack of depth at the back end. Protecting Frazer will be a line consisting of four returning starters.

“They're a good team,” UM nose tackle Mike Martin said. “They're going to come here and play hard and we're going to do the same.”

Connecticut however has not been able to prepare for any one specific Wolverine quarterback. Rodriguez did not plan to announce his starter publicly prior to the game, and Edsall suggested this week his team would prepare to face either Denard Robinson or incumbent starter Tate Forcier.

Contact Ryan Autullo at:rautullo@theblade.comor 419-724-6160.



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