UMass embraces heady challenge in Michigan

Things don’t get any easier for the Minutemen this week.

One of just seven Division I-A teams to open the season with two straight games against BCS opponents, UMass (0-2) will make that three straight weeks when it takes on No. 17 Michigan on Saturday in Ann Arbor.

And though the Wolverines have struggled at times early in the season -- getting roughed up 41-14 by defending national champion and early No. 1 Alabama and winning 31-25 against Air Force -- new Minutemen head coach Charley Molnar is realistic about the challenge at hand.

“If you want to be one of the best teams in the land, you need to know what a great team looks like and what a great program looks like,” he said in his weekly conference call with reporters on Monday, according to a transcript. “Going to Michigan, that will really open the eyes of our football players to see what a great team looks like, how a great program does their business. This is how hard they play, this is what their athletes look like, this is what we aspire to be.”

The Minutemen defense will get an up-close-and-personal look at a potential Heisman candidate in Denard Robinson. And considering what Indiana’s dual-threat quarterback, Tre Roberson, was able to do to them in Gillette Stadium this past Saturday, the results may not be pretty.

Roberson had two long runs for TDs against UMass before leaving in the second quarter with a broken leg. And he’s not the weapon that Robinson is.

The Wolverines’ signal-caller is 6 feet, 195 pounds, and last season he ran for more than 1,100 yards and 16 touchdowns and threw for more than 2,100 yards and another 20 touchdowns.

So far this season, Robinson has passed for three scores and run for three more.

After Roberson torched the UMass defense, Molnar said he was disappointed in the team’s tackling. The Minutemen will no doubt be focused on being better fundamentally this week.

And no matter the result on Saturday, Molnar and the Minutemen will keep things in perspective.

“It took Michigan 100-plus years to get where they are at,” Molnar said. “We’re only at Week 2 going into Week 3 of a I-A program, so we have a ways to go, but we have at least a vision of what a great team looks like.”

Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.