Michigan looking to start 2009 on different note

By James Boehly, Staff Writer

With the opening day matchup between Michigan and Utah less than a week away, both teams have been preparing for the season in hopes of starting out on the right foot.

Attempting to put last season behind them, the Wolverines are looking to overcome some offseason distractions under their new head coach and to bounce back into the national spectrum.

The biggest change Michigan faced this offseason was the arrival of former West Virginia bigwig Rich Rodriguez, who took over for Michigan legend Lloyd Carr, who retired after the end of last season. For the last 13 seasons under Carr, the Wolverines won five Big Ten Championships including one national championship.

Last season, Carr retired after the Wolverines lost four games including an opening season loss at home to 1-AA Division school Appalachian State and a loss to rival Ohio State. It was a disappointing end to a season that begun with the Wolverines ranked No. 5 in the nation.

Rich Rodriguez also knows a thing or two about missed opportunity. Last season at West Virginia, Rodriguez led the Mountaineers to the verge of a BCS championship birth, but was upset on the final game of the regular season by the Pittsburgh Panthers. This year, Rodriguez looks to finish the job.

Besides a coaching change, the biggest off-the-field distraction for Michigan has been the arrest of junior running back Kevin Grady, who pled guilty to a misdemeanor DUI only 11 days ago. For Michigan, he is one of the more experienced running backs who is returning from last season and was expected to see more playing time this year. With this incident, he has been suspended and will miss the opener against the Utes.

The biggest on-the-field distraction has been the quarterback competition between the inexperienced duo of Steven Threet and Nick Sheridan. Although Threet had appeared to come out of spring training as the front-runner, Sheridan has since made it a close competition again. Although the decision might not be settled by the end of the week, Threet will most likely be the starter against Utah.

Despite a new coach and some offseason distractions, Michigan is ready for the Utes. With the home crowd on their side, the Wolverines are considered the favorites to win. The Utes are facing a tough opponent that is looking to prove the critics wrong, avoid another home and season-opening loss to a non-BCS team and get back on top of the Big Ten Conference.

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Tyler Cobb

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham has started preparing his team for the challenge of playing in the Big House.