UConn football team is 47.5-point underdog at Michigan. Jim Mora's response: 'Doesn’t matter to me'

STORRS — The UConn football team will play its most difficult opponent of the season Saturday, when it travels to No. 4 Michigan in what oddsmakers expect will be a lopsided loss.

Expectations that rose during UConn’s first two games have been tempered following last weekend’s loss to Syracuse, which dominated the Huskies on both sides of the ball.

But the competition this week will be next level for UConn (1-2). The Huskies were a 47.5-point underdog as of Thursday. 

 “I don’t know what the spread is,” UConn coach Jim Mora said. “I don’t look at that, it doesn’t matter to me. I have never looked at spreads, I have been made aware of spreads. I don’t care, I just want to go out and compete and compete as hard as we can to win.”

Saturday's noon game, which will air on ABC, will be the third meeting all-time between the two teams, and the first since 2013 when Michigan won 24-20 at Rentschler Field. Michigan also beat UConn 30-10 in 2010 at the Big House.

The 2010 loss was the season opener in a year when UConn went to the Fiesta Bowl. That was UConn's last winning season.

This time, UConn visits Michigan as a rebuilding program while the Wolverines are among the elite teams in the country.

“They have their sights set on a National Championship, as they should,” Mora said. “They are certainly worthy of that goal and expectation when you look at their film. This is a team with zero holes, they do not have a weakness. It is going to be a great challenge for our young men, and we are going to go up there and fight.”

UConn’s roster is relatively young, and many players are getting their first taste of collegiate football due to an accumulation of injuries early in the season.

While concerns with depth and health are warranted, facing a team like Michigan presents an opportunity that goes beyond one season. 

“We get a chance to go and compete against the best,” Mora said. “Anytime you get a chance to compete against the best, it is an opportunity to get better. Our guys are excited to go compete, and it is a great opportunity to grow as a team.”

True freshman quarterback Zion Turner and his teammates who boarded the UConn train with aspirations of rebuilding the program will see just how good the top of the food chain is. A lesson that carries throughout a collegiate career. 

“This is a great opportunity for us to play one of the premier teams in all of college football,” Mora said. “They were in the College Football Playoff last year and to me, (they) look better than ever.”

Michigan (2-0) put up over 50 points in each of its first two games, defeating Colorado State (51-7) and Hawaii (56-10). 

The Wolverine’s defense has allowed an average of 125 passing yards per game and 111 rushing yards. Michigan is currently tied as the top scoring offense in the country with 53.5 points per game and ranks 11th in scoring defense, allowing 8.5 points per game. 

Conversely, UConn has averaged just 132 passing yards per game as Turner has adjusted to the college level. He has progressed, but Michigan is a tier above and Turner will be playing in a stadium with over 100,000 fans. 

The Huskies will likely be limited in the passing game, providing running back Nate Carter with another chance to impress.

Carter has been, by far, the most effective weapon for UConn on offense. Carter currently ranks third in college football in total rushing yards with 384 and ranks second among those with at least 50 carries in yards per carry at 6.5.  

“He got tough yards, he is a tough runner who is going to get everything out of every single play,” Mora said. “I don’t think I have really seen a play yet where he didn’t maximize the yards that were there.”

Ann Arbor will be perhaps the biggest stage for Carter to potentially garner national attention, should he break out for his third 100-plus rushing game of the season. 

But Michigan has allowed only 111 rushing yards per game, so Carter faces a tough task. 

Last week against Syracuse, the UConn defense was challenged by quarterback Garrett Shrader, who completed 20 of 23 passes for 292 yards and three touchdowns. Michigan’s newly named starter, J.J. McCarthy, should be even more dangerous. 

Splitting time with Cade McNamara, McCarthy was 15 of 16 for 259 yards and three touchdowns. He has also rushed four times for 66 yards and a touchdown. 

Running back Blake Corum has rushed for 164 yards on 22 carries (7.5 average) with two touchdowns to pace the running game.

But beyond the Michigan players and coach Jim Harbaugh, UConn must contend with a loud and hostile environment. It will be the biggest crowd any of the Huskies have played before.

“Our objective is to go out to any place we go and shut out the noise,” Mora said. “Concentrate on the things we can control, and that is what is happening on the field. Not what is happening in the stands, not the noise, and not our opponent. Just what we can control, which is our ability to focus during the game.”