September 12, 2014

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) Michigan failed badly in its first true test of the season, and coach Brady Hoke is trying to convince fans to stay positive.

That's not an easy sell right now.

''If they're truly fans, they'll believe in these kids and what they've done and the hard work they've put in,'' Hoke said. ''If they're not, they won't.''

The Wolverines host Miami of Ohio on Saturday, and they are heavily favored. But no matter what Michigan does this weekend, it will be hard to erase the memory of last week's 31-0 loss at Notre Dame - which raised familiar questions about the program's direction.

The Wolverines (1-1) probably won't be able to quiet those concerns against the RedHawks, even with a victory. Miami has lost 18 straight games.

At this point, all Michigan can do is hope to make progress.

Miami would love to have Michigan's problems. The RedHawks (0-2) haven't won since a victory over Ohio on Oct. 27, 2012. They fell way behind in this year's opener against Marshall before rallying to make that 42-27 final score somewhat respectable.

Last weekend, they lost to Eastern Kentucky of the Football Championship Subdivision.

''Looking forward to Michigan,'' Miami coach Chuck Martin said. ''Obviously, awesome opponent, national-caliber players, and an incredible environment, and anybody that hasn't been there on game day, it's a pretty awesome spectacle.''

Here are a few things to watch when Michigan hosts Miami:

ATTENDANCE: Michigan's streak of 252 consecutive crowds of at least 100,000 is part of the program's legacy, but it's fair to wonder how much longer that run will continue. Some of the Wolverines' most anticipated games this year (Michigan State and Ohio State) are on the road, and so was the Notre Dame matchup.

This weekend's game against Miami - which comes after a disheartening loss - may have a hard time generating much buzz.

OFFENSIVE MALAISE: Another Michigan streak is already history. The Wolverines had not been shut out in an NCAA-record 365 games before the loss to Notre Dame.

Offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier was hired away from Alabama this offseason, but the scoreless showing against Notre Dame was not a promising start. The Wolverines actually outgained the Irish 289-280, but Michigan turned the ball over four times.

TOP TARGET: One player who still put up solid numbers against Notre Dame was wide receiver Devin Funchess, who caught nine passes for 107 yards. That came after he caught three touchdown passes in a season-opening win over Appalachian State.

Miami may not have anyone who can match up with the 6-foot-5 Funchess, but Michigan can't afford to rely too much on him throughout the season. No other Wolverine has more than six catches after the first two games.

BACK IN MICHIGAN: Miami hired Martin as its new coach in December. He had been Notre Dame's offensive coordinator, but before that he went 74-7 from 2004-09 as head coach and offensive coordinator at Grand Valley State, a Division II powerhouse in Michigan.

BIG TEN OUTLOOK: As bad as the Wolverines looked against Notre Dame, that loss doesn't affect their chances of winning the Big Ten, and the rest of the league didn't exactly cover itself in glory last weekend.

Michigan can still improve a lot from now until November - the way rival Michigan State did on its Big Ten title run last year - but the Wolverines' conference has a long way to go to earn back national respect.

''You see the teams in our conference and the competitive nature that they have. We need to win games like the game we just played in,'' Hoke said. ''We've got to worry about Miami of Ohio. But most importantly, we've got to worry about Michigan, because that's where it all starts.''

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