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Big Noon Saturday Texas-Michigan matchup a prove-it game for both programs?
College Football

Big Noon Saturday Texas-Michigan matchup a prove-it game for both programs?

Published May. 22, 2024 3:23 p.m. ET

The defending College Football Playoff-champion Michigan Wolverines host the Texas Longhorns in the first "Big Noon Saturday" game of the 2024 season on Sept. 7 in what's one of the biggest box-office games of the season and only these programs' second all-time matchup.

Both teams are coming off an appearance in the College Football Playoff, which now has a 12-team format, but do they each need an early statement win to set the tone for their respective 2024 seasons?

RJ Young asserted that the answer is a resounding "yes," especially for Michigan, on the latest edition of "The No. 1 College Football Show with RJ Young."

"This feels like a year that's wide open, and if you look like you want to throw down a marker early, say ‘we're the Big Ten champs, we're the national champs, treat us like that,' go beat up on a College Football Playoff team like Texas," Young said about Michigan. "First and foremost, Sherrone Moore needs an opening salvo. He needs a shot. You've got Donovan Edwards in the backfield, run him. Figure out what your quarterback situation's going to be, whether it's going to be Jack Tuttle or Alex Orji, run it. You need [defensive coordinator] Wink Martindale to put the clamps down on the defense. … for Michigan, I think this is really me finding out what you got, and you showing us what you got, showing us this isn't a fluke what you did. 


"Showing us that you don't need Connor Stalions to give you a competitive advantage for three-plus years to win a National Championship. Also, not for nothing, it's not just that Jim Harbaugh left, it's that Sherrone Moore had never done this before." 

While Michigan went 15-0 last season and has won the Big Ten and cracked the College Football Playoff in each of the past three seasons, it lost 13 players from its championship roster to the 2024 NFL Draft, as well as Harbaugh — who became the new head coach of the Los Angeles Chargers.

The Wolverines promoted Moore, their former offensive coordinator, to head coach; Moore served as acting head coach in four games last season as Harbaugh was serving multiple suspensions and has been on Michigan's coaching staff in some capacity since 2018.

Michigan figures to remain an offense that forces the issue up front through its ground game, given it has finished in the top three in the Big Ten in rushing yards in each of the past three seasons — including first in 2021 and 2022. Moreover, it will have a first-time starting quarterback, regardless of who gets the nod.

While their leading rusher of the past two seasons, Blake Corum, is now in the NFL, the Wolverines still have the vibrant Edwards in the backfield and will presumably look for a breakout season from senior running back Kalel Mullings.

On the other side, Texas is coming off its highest win total (12) since 2009. Young sees the heavyweight, out-of-conference game as an early test of the Longhorns' validity.

"We are all going to heap a lot of pressure on Texas," Young said. "And you know how it feels when we heap a lot of pressure on Texas; they don't always shoulder the burden like you would expect them to shoulder the burden … you got Quinn Ewers coming back; you got Johntay Cook on the outside; you got CJ Baxter, but I'm really interested in what these offensive and defensive linemen are going to be because I think that's where the game's going to be won. As quiet as it's kept, [head coach] Steve Sarkisian is really great about getting 1,000-yard backs. He's really good about putting Jonathan Brooks' and CJ Baxter's in position to go run roughshod over your front seven and then clip your wings by going over the top. He's got speed on the outside. He's going to have outstanding interior offensive line play [with] Kelvin Banks going into a draft-eligible year.

"And Quinn Ewers, all he's got to do is stay healthy. If he stays healthy, they got a shot here … for Texas, this is about breaking through to the next level. It's about getting into the National Championship game."

RJ Young reacts to the Big Noon Kickoff game announcement schedule

Texas is entering its fourth season with Sarkisian as head coach, and the program has only improved under his watch, making a three-win jump from 2021 to 2022 and a four-win jump from 2022 to 2023. 

Furthermore, the Longhorns won the Big 12 last season for the first time since 2009, headlined by a defense that was first in the Big 12 in opponent total yards (321.7) and points (17.5) per game. Their signature regular-season win came in Week 2, as they beat Alabama in Tuscaloosa, 34-24. The Washington Huskies were the end of the line for Texas in the College Football Playoff semifinal round, though, as the former got a dramatic 37-31 victory.

Texas is led by Ewers, who threw for 3,479 yards and 22 touchdowns across 12 games last season, while completing 69.0% of his passes. Ewers is projected to be one of the first quarterbacks off the board in the 2025 NFL Draft. That said, Texas lost 11 players to the draft, including star defensive linemen Byron Murphy and T'Vondre Sweat and pass-catchers like wide receiver Xavier Worthy and tight end Ja'Tavion Sanders, among others. 

The Longhorns are entering their first season in the SEC, along with Oklahoma, forming a 16-team conference. Of course, the Big Ten can say "hold our beer" — literally now — as the conference is set to debut an 18-team conference, with USC, UCLA, Oregon and Washington now part of the conference.

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