Michigan going back to its roots, ready for CMU

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — Michigan has gone back to its roots.

The 17th-ranked Wolverines open their season Saturday at home against Central Michigan.

On offense, Michigan will look like it used to before former coach Rich Rodriguez implemented his spread scheme in 2008 and recruited smaller, quicker players during his three-season stint with college football's winningest program.

Brady Hoke adapted to the talent he had the last two years, especially speedy quarterback Denard Robinson, even though it delayed installing the kind of traditional offense he wanted to use.

With Robinson graduated and playing for the Jacksonville Jaguars, quarterback Devin Gardner will take more snaps under center and is expected to hand off a lot more to running backs such as Fitzgerald Toussaint.

Here are five things to watch when Michigan hosts Central Michigan:

TUNEUP TIME: The Wolverines would never acknowledge it publicly, but their game against the Chippewas is a chance for them to get ready for next week's prime-time game against rival Notre Dame.

"They're ready to play somebody else and have a benchmark for where we're at," Hoke said. "I'm sure we're not going to be where we want to be yet after Saturday."

CENTRAL'S CHANCE: Central Michigan is expected to get routed as a 31½-point underdog against a program that has lost only once to a Mid-American School — in 2008 against Toledo — but coach Dan Enos hasn't prepared his team to simply show up to help the athletic department's expense report with a big check.

"The one thing we do with our opponent is talk about ways we can win, things we need to do to win," Enos said. "This is no different."

CAN TOUSSAINT TAKE IT?: Toussaint is listed as Michigan's starting running back in what is quite a feat for a player who was rushed to the hospital for surgery on Nov. 17, 2012, when he broke his left leg — between the ankle and knee — in a gruesome injury during a run against Iowa. He finished last season with less than half of his total yardage from 2011, when he ran for 1,041 yards.

KEEPING THEM HONEST: The Chippewas will have to move the ball through the air without left tackle Eric Fisher, the No. 1 overall pick in this year's NFL draft. They hope Fisher's replacement, Jake Olson, who has started 26 games, can give junior-college transfer Cody Kater time to throw. Michigan will do all it can to shut down Zurlon Tipton, who ran for nearly 1,500 yards last year, to force Kater to throw more than Enos probably wants him to do.

"I'm sure they want to make us one-dimensional," Enos said.

THE BIG THREE: Michigan left tackle Taylor Lewan turned down a chance to be rich right now, coming back for his senior season to chase a Big Ten championship with only one other returning starter — Michael Schofield — on the line. Jack Miller won the job as the team's No. 1 center between guards Graham Glasgow and Kyle Kalis.

"It was a huge competition that really came down to who wanted it more, who was going to play consistently," Lewan said. "I think those guys have done a great job. As far as being a cohesive unit, these guys understand that we are a team within a team, and this team is going to live or die with what we do."

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