ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan is expected to get a tuneup against Massachusetts.
The 19th-ranked Wolverines need it.
After barely beating Air Force and getting routed by Alabama, they are 45-point favorites against the Minutemen (0-2) Saturday at the Big House.
UMass, which is in its first season at the highest level of college football, has been outscored 82-6 against Connecticut and Indiana.
“We don’t see it as a team we’re going to blow out,” defensive tackle Will Campbell insisted Monday.
Michigan plans to have a spirited week of practice because there’s a lot of work to do and many jobs are on the line.
Other than at quarterback.
Denard Robinson scored four touchdowns on 218 yards rushing and 208 yards passing, becoming the first player to run and throw for 200-plus yards three times in major college football history, in the 31-25 win over the Falcons.
Robinson was named the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week for the eighth time in his career, tying former Purdue QB Drew Brees for second on the all-time list and leaving him one more such award away from matching the conference record set by ex-Wisconsin running back Ron Dayne.
“We went out with a mission offensively to get Denard very involved running the football,” Wolverines coach Brady Hoke said. “I thought he did a nice job with that. I think he did a nice job in the throw game.”
Through the air and on the ground, Robinson’s 426 yards of total offense ranked fifth in Michigan history. He has nine of the top 10 total-offense performances at college football’s winningest program.
“Let’s hope he gets nine more,” Hoke said.
Fitzgerald Toussaint, meanwhile, averaged just less than a yard on eight carries, after serving a one-game suspension, against Air Force.
Following the game, Michigan tackle Taylor Lewan lamented how poorly he and the rest of the offensive line did in Toussaint’s season debut. After watching the film, Lewan didn’t think the line should’ve been as critical.
“It was better than I first described it,” he said. “People don’t get that we also block for Denard, too.”
Wolverines center Elliott Mealer was a little more frank about how little credit he and the linemen can take for Robinson’s improvisational talents.
“As an offensive line, you don’t know where he’s going to go,” Mealer said. “He makes us look good.”
Alabama, with a power game, and Air Force, with a triple option, did a good job of blocking the Wolverines en route to 522 yards rushing combined in the two games.
“We take that to heart,” Campbell said.
Michigan will be without starting defensive end Brennen Beyer, who hurt his right knee against Air Force, when it plays UMass and perhaps for its test the next week at Notre Dame in a prime-time matchup.
On the offensive and defensive lines, the Wolverines are determined to get better at blocking and getting off blocks.
Hoke said Michigan’s defense was on the field way too much for most of the game against Air Force because it couldn’t get off the field. When the Wolverines had the ball, they couldn’t control the clock when Robinson wasn’t breaking off a long run because the non-Robinson running game almost didn’t exist.
“We’ve got to improve if we’re going to win the Big Ten championship,” Hoke said. “We’ve got to improve at the point of attack on both sides of the ball.”
Hoke has sent a message to returning starters, such as linebackers Kenny Demens and Desmond Morgan, that he won’t hesitate to put them on the bench if they don’t have a good week of practice.
“I think it would get your attention if you’re one of those guys,” Hoke said.
Joe Bolden and James Ross, though, haven’t quite beaten out Demens and Morgan for jobs.
“I think there’s a healthy competition that’s going on,” Hoke said.