Though Michigan is about a two-touchdown favorite over Miami (Ohio) this weekend, coach Rich Rodriguez said yesterday the Wolverines will be the lesser of two teams on the field when it comes to experience.
"You can tell they've been in some of the big arenas and played quality football," Rodriguez said during the Big Ten's weekly teleconference. "They're a lot more experienced than we are. Frankly, we've got to get our young guys ready to play each and every weekend at this level."
Miami lost 34-13 to Vanderbilt last week. The RedHawks return nine starters on offense and nine on defense from last year, when they finished tied for first with Bowling Green and Buffalo in the Mid-American Conference East.
The Wolverines, as has been well documented, are playing several new players in Rodriguez's first year, especially on offense.
A theme that is sure to continue throughout the week is UM's inability to run against Utah and Miami's struggles to stop the run.
The Wolverines gained just 36 yards on 25 carries, as inexperienced running backs and offensive linemen missed holes and assignments. The RedHawks, meanwhile, gave up 269 rushing yards despite their trio of talented linebackers - reigning MAC defensive player of the year Clayton Mullins, Joey Hudson, and Caleb Bostic.
Vanderbilt quarterback Chris Nickson rushed for 166 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries in that game.
"For us to have a chance to win any games we have to run the football better than we did last weekend," Rodriguez said.
COMEBACK KID: Indiana dual-threat quarterback Kellen Lewis missed all of spring practice due to a suspension for poor personal conduct, and was forced to compete for his own starting spot in fall camp.
He owned his position last week, rushing for 185 yards and two scores and throwing for 144 yards and two more touchdowns in the Hoosiers' 31-13 win over Western Kentucky.
Lewis, whose suspension lasted four months, is the co-Big Ten offensive player of the week. He had scoring runs of 75 and 62 yards in Indiana's opener.
"I thought he played really well and he had some really big runs for us," Indiana coach Bill Lynch said. "He showed his ability to run away and run in space. It was good to have him out there."
THE OTHER GUY: Lewis shared conference honors with Illinois junior quarterback Juice Williams, who threw for 451 yards and five touchdowns in the Illini's 52-42 loss to Missouri.
In last year's opener against Missouri, Williams was 6-of-9 for 59 yards.
"We as a coaching staff felt that was going to happen with him and I think you'll see him continue to prove [himself] as the year goes on," Illini coach Ron Zook said. "It's also a point to remember that he's not where he's going to be. He's going to be a better player next year than he is this year."
NO HUDDLE: Purdue was the only Big Ten team not to play last week. The Boilermakers, who enter their last season coached by Toledo native Joe Tiller, will open their 2008 campaign Saturday against Northern Colorado. Purdue will play for 12 consecutive weeks. … Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema on quarterback Allan Evridge's first Badgers start, which came last week in a 38-17 win over Akron: "We knew he was a guy who could handle and manage a game. It's not too hard to hand the ball off 60 times and throw it 10." … Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio on Spartans sophomore receiver Mark Dell, who had nine catches for 202 yards and a score in a 38-31 loss to California: "He's a playmaker. When the ball goes up, he has the ability to go and get it."
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