No. 22 BYU goes to Big House to test Harbaugh-led Michigan
ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — BYU is as prepared as perhaps any team in the country to play anyone, anywhere in college football.
The 22nd-ranked Cougars opened the season by winning at Nebraska on a Hail Mary with no time left, stunning a stadium filled with red-clad fans. They rallied from a double-digit deficit in the last 10-plus minutes of the game to beat then-No. 20 Boise State at home. And last week at the Rose Bowl, they gave up a late touchdown in a one-point loss to No. 10 UCLA.
BYU (2-1) plays at the Big House against the Wolverines (2-1) on Saturday, giving its players another chance to play a marquee team in a famous stadium.
“These are places you dream of as a little kid,” receiver Terenn Houk said. “I never would have thought I’d play there. A place like the Rose Bowl ... Guys like Michigan and Nebraska, you live to play in front of those kinds of fans. They’re not always the nicest, but it’s definitely an awesome atmosphere.”
Here are some things to watch when the Wolverines, who have won only one of their last 10 games against ranked opponents, try to give coach Jim Harbaugh his first significant win as their coach:
VOTE OF CONFIDENCE: Harbaugh knows plenty about playing quarterback after a great career at Michigan and a good one in the NFL. He knows a lot about coaching the position, too, after tutoring Andrew Luck at Stanford and Colin Kaepernick with the San Francisco 49ers. Those experiences are not stopping critical questions about Harbaugh’s decision to stick steadfastly with Jake Rudock instead of giving Shane Morris a shot. Rudock, a graduate transfer from Iowa, has thrown five interceptions, lost a fumble and has failed to throw a pass longer than 28 yards. Morris played in 10 games and started in two, including a 2013 bowl game, over the previous two years under former coach Brady Hoke. “Be clear: Jake Rudock’s our best quarterback. Not by a small margin,” Harbaugh said. “He’s our best quarterback.”
SIZABLE CHALLENGE: It could be quite interesting when BYU freshman quarterback Tanner Mangum throws against a steadily improving secondary. The Cougars have 6-foot-6 receivers Mitch Mathews and Nick Kurtz, the 6-5 Houk along with shorter, but effective, receiving options in Devon Blackmon and Mitchell Juergens. Michigan often puts its defensive backs in 1-on-1 coverage, counting on the talents of Jabrill Peppers, Channing Stribling, Jourdan Lewis and Jarrod Wilson.
PEPPERS PLAY: Peppers came to Michigan last year as one of the most highly touted freshman in the country, but he was healthy enough to play just three games. Harbaugh is happy that Peppers is available to play because he lines up plays in the secondary, returns kicks and punts. “He’s a very explosive player, talented football player,” Harbaugh said.
HERE TO STAY?: BYU has earned its place among ranked football teams and with a win, it will be set up to stay in the polls because of a schedule that appears to be easier the rest of the way. “We have respect at this point nationally,” Cougars coach Bronco Mendenhall said. “You have to keep earning it and you have keep playing well. So far, we’re an exciting team to watch. You can tune in right until the end to see what the outcome is going to be. Maybe Michigan will be another one of those games.”
A NEW CITIZEN: Michigan receiver Amara Darboh may be on an emotional high in the game, playing just two days after becoming a U.S. citizen. Darboh, who is from Sierra Leone, leads the Wolverines with 16 receptions and 185 yards receiving.
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AP college football website: www.collegefootball.ap.org