UConn was supposed to be in better position to deal with the Maize and Blue this year than the last time they met, when Michigan scorched UConn 30-10 in 2010 in Ann Arbor, Mich.
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Rentschler Field, 615 Silver Lane, East Hartford, CT 06118, USA
Michigan wanted to move this game to a bigger stadium, but that didn't fly with the powers that be at UConn, who wanted it at Rentschler for the Huskies' fans.
UConn played Michigan at Michigan, they said, so Michigan should play UConn at UConn. But the truth is, no matter where this game was played, the Huskies haven't shown any signs in recent years that it would make any difference against the winningest college football program in history.
The Huskies are 10-16 since coach Paul Pasqualoni took over before the 2011 season. They have lost seven of their past nine, including a 33-18 debacle to a good — but still Division I-AA — team in Towson in the opener. Maryland beat UConn 32-21 last week in former coach Randy Edsall's return to Rentschler.
And now they've got Michigan, at 3-0 the nation's No.15 team, all torqued up after a poor performance in its previous game against Akron. The 0-2 Huskies don't appear to be equipped to compete consistently for four quarters if the first two games are indicative of how this season will go. The 8 p.m. game, UConn's third consecutive home game, is on ABC (Chs. 8, 40). Michigan is favored by 18.5 points.
Whoever best executes all three phases of the game (offense, defense, special teams) has the best chance to win, and UConn has not been better than its previous two opponents in any category.
But there's a first time for everything. UConn fans can certainly hope for the "any given Saturday" scenario.
"I think it's so early in the football season that we're all just trying to get our feet underneath us and you are depending on the youth and experience you have on your team," Michigan coach Brady Hoke said. "We're trying to figure out our team in a lot of ways. We're going to find out ... first game on the road, first road test, we'll have 36 or 38 guys on the travel squad that will be first- or second-year players. We'll see how they do all the things you want when they travel."
No matter what, with Michigan in the building, the opportunity is there for the Huskies to turn things around dramatically — at least to wash away the bitter taste from this season for the time being.
"Our players in this program have played against Michigan and played against other big teams," Pasqualoni said. "I think the kids understand. I'm not going to get up in front of them and say this is the Michigan Wolverines. That is not in my fiber to do that. ... I want the seniors to enjoy it. It doesn't get any better than this being at home playing against a quality opponent on ABC."
Beating the Wolverines would be better, but that's a tall task.
The effects of this game are far-reaching. It's a win the Huskies need, for sure. Pasqualoni has said he believes that the program stands on a strong foundation. Depending on how UConn plays, that could be up for debate.
The Huskies had a thriller during a previous ABC showing: On Nov. 7, 2009, UConn and Cincinnati were engulfed in a shootout at Nippert Stadium. In a wild game, called excitedly by Brent Musburger and Kirk Herbstreit, the No. 5 Bearcats won, 47-45.
UConn was a big-time underdog going into that one, too.
That was then. UConn is now struggling in the running game, averaging 57 yards, No. 122 in the nation. The line struggles to open holes for the running backs and has allowed its quarterback, Chandler Whitmer, to be sacked 10 times in two games. The Huskies, who in recent years have prided themselves on defense, are struggling there, too, especially against the run and in allowing big plays.
"It's a great opportunity for us," UConn senior guard and captain Steve Greene said. "We have to play well, but as always the key for us is playing consistent football."