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No. 2 Michigan opens season against East Carolina without suspended coach Jim Harbaugh

FILE - Michigan running back Blake Corum (2) rushes during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Northwestern, Oct. 23, 2021, in Ann Arbor, Mich. Michigan-Ohio State will always be big, given the history and the quality of both programs. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File)

East Carolina at No. 2 Michigan, Saturday at 12 p.m. ET (Peacock)

Line: Michigan by 35 1/2, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.

Series record: First meeting.

WHAT’S AT STAKE?

Michigan seems to have a shot to win its first national title since 1997, and can't afford to slip as a five-touchdown favorite in the opener. The Wolverines will have their first of three chances to show they can win without coach Jim Harbaugh, who was suspended by the school for three games due to breaking NCAA rules. East Carolina, potentially at least, has an opportunity to pull off the biggest upset in school history after going 0-11 against top-five teams.

KEY MATCHUP

Michigan wants to establish the run with an experienced and talented offensive line opening holes for RBs Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards. East Carolina returns six starters from a defense that gave up just 116 yards rushing a game last year, ranking second in the American Athletic Conference.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

ECU: QB Mason Garcia. The 6-foot-5 sophomore has been competing for the starting job after appearing in 12 games through the previous three seasons, including a start against Navy in 2020. Garcia completed 10 of 20 passes for 104 yards and ran for 63 yards with a score in that start three years ago.

Michigan: Corum. The All-America selection ran for 1,463 yards and 18 touchdowns last season. He had a knee injury Nov. 19 against Illinois and played sparingly against Ohio State. Corum had surgery and said he's 100% recovered.

FACTS & FIGURES

The Pirates are 13-64-1 against ranked teams, including a 2-32 mark versus top-10 teams with wins over No. 8 West Virginia in 2008 and No. 9 Miami in 1999. ... Michigan has won 15 straight at home since closing the pandemic-shortened season with a loss to Penn State on Nov. 28, 2020. ... ECU nearly upset then-No. 13 North Carolina State to open last season at home. … The Wolverines have won 25 of their last 28 games, earning two straight Big Ten titles and bids to the College Football Playoff. ... The Pirates have won 15 games the past two seasons after failing to win more than four games in any of the previous five years. ... Michigan defensive coordinator Jesse Minter will fill in for Harbaugh, who was permitted to lead practices during the week as was offensive coordinator Sherrone Moore, who was also suspended by the school for one game.

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AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll