Wolverines’ talent, communication should bring sacks

Looking ahead to No. 2 Michigan football’s season opener Saturday afternoon against East Carolina in Ann Arbor.

Matchup: No. 2 Michigan (13-1 in 2022) vs. East Carolina (8-5 in 2022).

Kickoff: Noon Saturday; Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor.

TV/radio: Peacock (online only); WWJ-AM (950), WTKA-AM (1050).

Line: Wolverines by 35½.

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Sep 3, 2022; Greenville, North Carolina, USA; East Carolina Pirates head coach Mike Houston looks on against the North Carolina State Wolfpack during the second half at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Know the foe

East Carolina was a contender in the American Athletic Conference last season; their eight victories were the program’s most since 2014, but they seem unlikely to repeat that this season despite an AAC lineup that lost its best squads to the Big 12. That’s because Mike Houston’s Pirates are facing a near total overhaul of their offense, replacing five-year starting quarterback Holton Ahers (who’s in NFL camp with the Seattle Seahawks), a pair of 1,000-yard receivers (C.J. Johnson and Isaiah Winstead) and running back Keaton Mitchell, who piled up 1,704 yards from scrimmage and 15 touchdowns. The Pirates are 130th out of 133 FBS teams in returning production in 2023, according to ESPN’s Bill Connelly. At quarterback, ECU features former four-star recruit Mason Garcia (who’s in his fourth season at ECU); he’ll have Georgia transfer Jaylen Johnson to target. On defense, linemen Chad Stephens and Jeremy Lewis create problems on the outside, giving U-M’s first rotation of tackles an interesting test. Still, the Pirates’ pass defense showed little resistance last season, allowing a 66.8% completion…


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