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Posts Tagged ‘Little Brown Jug’

Friend vs Foe: Minnesota

Thursday, October 3rd, 2013

We are pleased to welcome JDMill from the Minnesota SB Nation site The Daily Gopher for this week’s Friend vs Foe segment. He has graciously answered a few questions about Gopher fans’ feelings of the Little Brown Jug, what happened against Iowa, where Minnesota might have an advantage on Saturday, and provided his prediction for the game. You can follow him on Twitter @JDMill. On the Michigan side, Josh gives his thoughts on what he would like to see from the Wolverines on Saturday.

1. What does the Little Brown Jug mean to Minnesota fans? Michigan fans see it as a great part of our history but kind of take it for granted. Is it a big deal to Gopher fans? Why or why not?

The Jug is definitely a big deal to Gopher fans. As you mentioned, the history of the trophy makes it an awesome tradition and beating Michigan is pretty much the pinnacle of what our program can achieve in a single game right now. But in a bit of a different way, Gopher fans take it for granted too. We have two incredibly intense trophy traditions with our border rivals Wisconsin and Iowa, and those rivalries definitely take precedent over the Jug at this point.

For some reason we also have a trophy with Penn State (the Governor’s Victory Bell, or some such abomination), which means absolutely nothing to anybody. This year is unique, however, because we do play for all four trophies.

In any case, if you asked Gopher fans if they could lose to Michigan, but beat Wisconsin & Iowa in any given year, I think 99/100 Gopher fans would take that in an absolute heartbeat.

2. Iowa: what happened? The first four games went pretty well – all wins, lots of offense, etc. How was Iowa able to dominate?

How much time do we have to go over this? First of all, Iowa is good at two things that our first four opponents weren’t good at: running the ball and stopping the run. Having said that, we were fairly confident going into this game that we’d be able to successfully run the ball on their defense. Boy were we wrong.

Minnesota last captured the Little Brown Jug in 2005

Here’s the deal, I think Iowa is a more talented and more experienced team than Minnesota at this point, and those things definitely matter, but I don’t think the delta in talent is as wide as it looked like on Saturday. The thing about Iowa is that they didn’t do anything fancy, they didn’t do anything that you wouldn’t expect from a Kirk Ferentz team, but everything they did they did absolutely flawlessly. They don’t miss assignments, they don’t miss blocks or gaps, they don’t miss tackles, they do all of the fundamentals right. A younger, inexperienced team that likely has more talent isn’t going to beat a team like that unless they have a better gameplan and also execute flawlessly, and the Gophers most certainly didn’t do that.

3. Your running game is doing pretty well (at least before Iowa), but what’s wrong with the passing game?

Prior to the Iowa game the problem with the passing game was really, more than anything, that we just hadn’t used it. We were averaging just 15 passing attempts/game heading into Iowa. So part of the problem is rust.

The potentially bigger issue, which really seemed to rear it’s head on Saturday against Iowa, is inaccuracy. Phil Nelson was throwing over and behind receivers all day long. Of the 12 passes he completed, my guess is that at least half were completed because of a good catch by the receiver despite a poor throw. This was the case on his one TD throw to Derrick Engel. The pass was high, and slightly behind Engel, but he made a great adjustment to pull down the ball and get in the endzone. If Nelson’s accuracy doesn’t improve, and in short order, this team won’t have a passing game at all in 2013.

4. Statistically, Minnesota’s special teams look pretty good, ranking in the top 20 nationally in both kick and punt returns, as well as kick return defense. Michigan’s kick and punt return games (offensively and defensively) haven’t been very good. Are Minnesota’s special teams really that good, and do you see that as an advantage this weekend?

My goodness, the Gophers have to have an advantage SOMEWHERE, don’t we?

Minnesota got away from its normal running game against Iowa, but the Gophers still feature a top-25 running game (Ann Heisenfelt, AP)

The Gopher special teams (as far as the return game and defending kicks) is pretty good. Marcus Jones has emerged as a real threat on any return and he was one of the few bright spots in the Iowa game. For the season he’s averaging over 13 yards/punt return (Top 25 in the country) and over 30 yards/kick return (Top 10 in the country). I do think that special teams is an advantage for Minnesota this weekend, but I don’t think it’s enough to win the game.

5. Despite the loss to Iowa, do you think Minnesota can beat Michigan on Saturday? Obviously, Michigan struggled to beat Akron and UConn…how much confidence does that give you for Minnesota’s chances even though Michigan is favored by about 20? What will it take for Minnesota to win? What’s your prediction?

Confidence isn’t exactly a word that I’d use to describe how I, or any Gopher fans, feel about the team right now. Gameplan is going to be important in this game. Without going into too much detail, the Gopher gameplan against Iowa was really a departure from what they had done through the first four weeks of the season. The Gophers did try to establish the run against Iowa, but the way they went about it was completely different than they had during the non-con. They really abandoned the true power run game that they had established and attempted more of a cutesy run game which is pretty inexplicable. If the Gophers get back to trying to establish the power run game (Maryland-I, inverted wishbone, just 3-back sets in general), I’ll have a lot more confidence in their ability to hang with Michigan.

The Gophers also need to get back to the disciplined team they were through the first four weeks when they were the least penalized team in the conference with a total of 10 penalties. Last week against Iowa they had five, and they came at some horrible times.

If the Gophers can figure out a way to control the clock using that power run game, and if they can get back to being more disciplined, then I think something like a special teams TD or big return is something that COULD end up being something that puts them over the top.

Having said that, like I mentioned, I don’t have a lot of confidence right now just because of how we performed last week.

I predict a Michigan win: 28-17.

I don’t know about you but that bye week did me a lot of good. It gave me some time to cool down and get back in a rational mindset about Team 134. Now that we’re back in the swing of things we get to look at Minnesota, a team that looked pretty good until Iowa dismantled them last week. Regardless, there are still some things we need to see out of Michigan.

I think we all expected a lot more of this team than they’ve shown the last two weeks so I’ll keep it simple. Let’s not forget that this team is loaded with first and second year players and at most high-level schools these kids get to sit for a while to bulk up and learn the playbook. Michigan has not had that luxury so while we do expect more out of Michigan let’s cut these kids some slack. It’s not easy to come in as a first or second year player and make an impact, yet we’re expecting ALL of them to be studs right off the bat.

This should go without saying but I’ll say it anyway. ELIMINATE the turnovers. And before we go any further and start pining for Shane Morris, the kid has thrown six total passes. He wouldn’t do any better than Gardner. How they go about eliminating those turnovers is a tricky task though. I never played high-level sports like Division 1 football but I do know how important the mental aspect is. As Yogi Berra said, “90 percent of the game is half mental.” Gardner clearly has the physical tools but he needs to get his head right before he can fix this problem. How long that will take is anyone’s guess, but for now I’d just like to see a calm and composed Gardner in the pocket and not the one who was only looking to run late in the UConn game. They say quarterbacks need to have short memories. Devin Gardner needs to have amnesia about the last two games.

All eyes will be on Devin Gardner to see him perform better than the last two games (

Secondly, pressure from the front four. Michigan did manage to get to Chandler Whitmer a few times but it still wasn’t enough. Minnesota doesn’t pass the ball much but they do run it a lot so the front four needs to make their presence felt in the run game. Up until last week Minnesota was running the ball very well. Almost reminiscent of Laurence Maroney and Marion Barber II -, almost. I expect them to attempt to establish the run and Michigan’s front four needs to be disruptive enough to nip it in the bud. I don’t even need to see tackles for loss from these guys, at least not yet, but I would like to see a front that looks like a Michigan front. Which looks something like this – strong at the point of attack, in control of the line of scrimmage, making plays in the backfield, even when it’s not tackles for loss or sacks. In two words, strength and tenacity.

Ideally we’ll see this again, but let’s at least wait until Jabrill Peppers is a sophomore. OK, back to reality and Team 134.

Next, I’d like to see a run game. And enough of the clamoring for Derrick Green already. Fitz Toussaint had a bit of a re-coming out party against UConn, which was great but it was against UConn. However, you can only place so much of the blame on Fitz. Without the line creating holes and sustaining them it’s tough for any running back to get things going, so it is doubtful Green would fare any better. The issue is the interior of the line. Hoke said he may switch it up like I thought he would at UConn, but regardless of who’s in there they need to get some serious push. Two words I use when I describe my ideal offensive lineman: mean and nasty (see Steve Hutchinson, Jon Runyan). These kids need to stop thinking and just play.

I want to see these kids play with a mean streak and just bulldoze people. Obviously this is easier said than done but if they can just stop looking like deer in headlights out there I’d consider that progress.

Next, an emergence of a receiver other than Jeremy Gallon. Part of the problem with Gardner and his propensity for turnovers is that when push comes to shove he only looks for Gallon and that limits his options and forces him into poor decisions. If someone else can get his confidence it will open up the offense tremendously. It looked like Jehu Chesson might be the guy but it seemed as though Gardner shied away after he had the ball ripped away from him on a deep pass play. Ideally I’d like to see Devin Funchess more involved. He’s a proven commodity, so why not get him the ball more.

A simplified passing game may really be what I am looking for. Dumb down the playbook with quick, short throws to build Gardner’s confidence and help open up the run game. That’s what Al Borges’ West Coast offense boils down to, right? Borges turned a mediocre Cade McNown into an All-American quarterback and future first-round NFL draft pick. Let that sink in for a moment. Cade. McNown. He clearly knows what he’s doing with QBs but I’d like to see him really simplify things for the offense going forward. Right now these kids need a confidence boost more than anything and dumbing the playbook down could be the remedy.

In theory this should be a great game to regain confidence before they head to Happy Valley next week but Michigan was supposed to dominate both Akron and UConn and barely escaped with wins. If one bad game against a vastly inferior opponent is a fluke and two is a trend what would three in a row be?

I was ready to pick Minnesota to beat Michigan until they got dominated last week by a resurgent Iowa team last weekend. Now I’m not so sure. Will the Michigan team that beat Notre Dame show up? Or will it be the team that took the field against Akron and UConn? I do know this: if the Michigan team that played Akron and UConn shows up the Gophers will not only reclaim the Little Brown Jug but they’ll also end Michigan’s 17-game home winning streak.

Five-Spot Challenge: Minnesota

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

Congratulations to for winning the bye week edition of the Five-Spot Challenge. It was the first time we have held the challenge on a week in which Michigan didn’t play and it went pretty smooth. was just six off of Braxton Miller’s total yards, four off of the combined score of Ohio State and Notre Dame, and 48 away from Oklahoma’s total yards. While none of those were the best deviations for those questions, the overall consistency was enough to capture the win and the $10 M Den gift card.

Bluwolf77 finished second, just eight points away, while Maizenblu62 was only 17 points off. First time contestant joeblue was the closest to predicting Braxton Miller’s total yards (just one away) and fellow new contestant clarkthomasa was only four away. Last week’s winner, kashkaav, was the closest to Tommy Rees’ passing yards (13 away). Fla06GOBLUE was remarkably only five off of Oklahoma’s total yards.

The weekly results and overall standings are updated.

Now that Michigan is back in action on Saturday, we return to our regularly scheduled Five-Spot Challenge with a $20 M Den gift card and full points up for grabs. Good luck!

First Look: Minnesota

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

Fresh off a bye week, Michigan returns to action this Saturday with two weeks of practice time to fix the mistakes from the first four weeks of the season. Minnesota will come to town – the 33rd time the Gophers have visited Ann Arbor on Homecoming. It marks the 100th all-time meeting between the two schools and the 110-year anniversary of the college football’s most storied rivalry trophy, the Little Brown Jug.

Michigan has dominated the rivalry, owning a 72-24-3 all-time record including wins in 38 of the last 41. But the Wolverines have struggled to beat lowly Akron and UConn the past two games and after Minnesota’s loss to Iowa on Saturday the Gophers figure to be slightly better than both of those teams. Is Minnesota capable of coming into Ann Arbor and taking home the Jug for the first time since 2005? After all, the last two times the Gophers beat Michigan were in Ann Arbor (2005 and 1986). Let’s take a look at how they stack up so far this season.

Minnesota Statistics & Michigan Comparison
MinnesotaMichigan Rank Opponent Rank
Points Per Game 34.8 | 38.0 43 | 32 20.6 | 21.0 T-38 | 40
Rushing Yards 1,159777 657 | 316
Rush Avg. Per Game 231.8 | 194.2 23 | T-51 131.4 | 79.0 42 | 6
Avg. Per Rush 5.2 | 4.7 3.9 | 3.1
Passing Yards 556860 1,298 | 928
Pass Avg. Per Game 111.2215.0 118 | 83 259.6 | 232.0 9169
Total Offense 1,7151,637 1,955 | 1,244
Total Off Avg. Per Game 343.0409.2 102 | 65 391.0 | 311.0 62 | 21
Kick Return Average 27.5 | 22.5 11 | 47 17.3 | 24.5 11 | 105
Punt Return Average 14.8 | 7.1 17| 71 8.0 | 5.9 70 | 43
Avg. Time of Possession 31:0832:43 43 | 23 28:52| 27:17
3rd Down Conversion Pct 43% | 48% 51 | 33 37% | 38% T-48 | 61
Sacks Allowed-Yards/By-Yards 9-52 | 6-45 T-68 | T-51 6-42 | 9-62 T-108 | T-33
Touchdowns Scored 23 | 20 13 | 9
Field Goals-Attempts 5-7 | 4-5 5-8 | 7-10
Red Zone Scores (19-20)95% | (15-17)88% T-11 | T-35 (10-16)63% | (9-13)69% T-8 | T-19
Red Zone Touchdowns (15-20)75% | (13-17)76% (7-16)44% | (5-13)38%

Through the first four weeks of the season, Minnesota looked like a team that could at the very least put a scare into some of the Legends division heavyweights come Big Ten play. The Gophers were scoring a lot of points, running the ball well, and most importantly winning games. But then they hosted Iowa on Saturday and got manhandled, being held to just seven points, 165 total yards, and 11 first downs.

What does this mean? It means that based on the way Michigan’s season has gone so far, the Gophers are probably more of a threat than they were had they beaten the Hawkeyes. In all seriousness, while Minnesota was exposed on Saturday, they do have pieces in place that can beat Michigan if a considerable improvement hasn’t been made during the bye week.

Marcus Jones may be the most dangerous player Michigan faces on Saturday (Tim Fuller, US Presswire)

First, the Gophers put up just under 42 points per game through the first four and has allowed fewer points in per game than Michigan has. Yes, strength of schedule disclaimer applies, but they still scored more points in each game than Michigan did against Akron or UConn. In fact, the combined record for the four teams Minnesota has beaten (7-12) is better than the combined record of Michigan’s four opponents (5-14), so one could argue that, prior to the  Iowa debacle, Minnesota’s resume was stronger.

The Gopher running game was moving well until last Saturday when Iowa held Minnesota to just 30 rushing yards on 27 carries. Even so, it ranks 23rd nationally with a 231.8-yard per game average, a little under 40 yards per game better than Michigan. Minnesota gets it done on the ground with four different players. Running backs David Cobb and Rodrick Williams Jr. have a combined 651 yards, which is more than Fitz Toussaint and Devin Gardner have combined for – and eight touchdowns. Meanwhile, quarterbacks Mitch Leidner and Phillip Nelson have combined for 454 more rushing yards and eight more touchdowns.

On the flip side, the passing game leaves a lot to be desired, ranking 118th nationally with an average of just 111.2 yards per game. They haven’t thrown for more than 135 yards in a single game this season, have completed only two touchdown passes in five games, and are completing barely over 50 percent of their passes.

Defensively, Minnesota is above average at stopping the run and well below average at pass defense, ranking 42nd and 91st, respectively. Iowa used a balanced attack to pile up yards last Saturday, 218 through the air and 246 on the ground. Iowa running back Mark Weisman gashed the Gopher defense to the tune of 147 yards on 6.1 yards per carry. San Jose State, however, torched the Gopher defense through the air, throwing for 439 yards on just 35 attempts. Minnesota has also only sacked the quarterback six times through five games, which ranks 108th nationally.

One area where Minnesota might have an advantage is on special teams. The Gophers average 27.5 yards per kick return (11th nationally) and 14.8 yards per punt return (17th nationally). Michigan has given up some big returns this season, which is worrisome with a returner as talented as Marcus Jones, who has already returned two for touchdowns – one kick and one punt – averaging 30.6 yards on 10 kick returns and 13.1 yards on seven punt returns.

As for intangibles, the Gophers convert third downs at 43 percent, which is five percent worse than Michigan, and hold opponents to 37 percent third down conversions. They have scored on 19-of-20 red zone trips, 15 of those being touchdowns, which is roughly equal to Michigan’s production.

If Michigan plays the way it did the last two games this could be a battle, but like those two games this is one Michigan should win convincingly. The Wolverines are far more talented, but if the turnover woes haven’t been fixed Minnesota is certainly capable of keeping it close. Stay tuned for more analysis in the days to come.

Key Players
Passing Comp-Att Yards TD INT Long
Phillip Nelson 21-41 245 1 2 48
Mitch Leidner 12-20 176 0 0 37
Rushing Attempts Yards TD Long Avg/Carry
David Cobb 53 332 5 60 6.3
Rodrick Williams Jr. 45 277 3 54 6.2
Mitch Leidner (QB) 46 251 5 27 5.5
Phillip Nelson (QB) 33 221 3 48 6.7
Receiving Receptions Yards TD Long Avg/Game
Maxx Williams (TE) 5 99 1 33 19.8
Derrick Engel 7 93 0 48 18.6
KJ Maye 6 70 0 37 14.0
Defense Solo Assisted Total Tackles TFL-Yds Sacks-Yds
Damien Wilson (LB) 17 16 33 3-13 1-10
Brock Vereen (DB) 19 11 30 1-1 0-0 (1 INT)
Ra’Shede Hageman (DL) 10 10 20 5.5-25 1-11
Theiren Cockran (DL) 8 7 15 5.5-16 3-11
Kicking FGA FGM Long XPA XPM
Chris Hawthorne 7 5 45 21 18
Full Stats

Michigan football preview magazine on newsstands now

Monday, July 8th, 2013

At Barnes and Noble

Our Michigan football season preview annual is officially out in stores just in time for summer vacation reading. Stop by Kroger’s or any other retailer that has a newsstand throughout the state of Michigan to pick up a copy of Michigan Wolverines In the Huddle 2013 by Lindy’s Sports. Outside of Michigan, the larger Barnes and Nobles should have them. Otherwise, you can order it directly from the Lindy’s site.

Below are a couple of excerpts from the magazine to whet your appetite until you’re able to pick up a copy.

by Greg Dooley of MVictors

This season not only marks the 100th meeting between Minnesota and Michigan, 2013 also makes it one hundred and ten years since the Little Brown Jug rivalry was formed. You know the story: back in 1903, the teams battled to a 6-6 deadlock in a brutally fought game. Afterward, Minnesota equipment manager Oscar Munson found Michigan’s water jug and handed it over to Gopher athletic director L.J. “Doc” Cooke. They decided to paint it up with score of the game and Cooke hung the keepsake from the ceiling in his office. When they finally met again in 1909, the teams decided the jug would go to the winner–launching one of college football’s greatest traditions.

The jug has made many trips back and forth between Ann Arbor and Minneapolis since those days, but did you know there is actually one period of time when it seems the trophy didn’t make the trip? In the early 1930s the jug actually disappeared from a trophy case in Ann Arbor. The events that followed sparked an off-the-field war of words, accusations and trickery that played out in newspapers across the country. Here’s what happened:

Sometime in mid-September, before the start of the football season in those days, the jug vanished from its home at the University of Michigan Administration building. News of the trophy’s disappearance made the headlines and U-M began a frantic search with the hope that it would be found prior to the Minnesota game that November. To read more, turn to page 93 of the magazine

Greg Dooley of MVictors recounts the story of when the Little Brown Jug went missing

by Matt Pargoff of Maize & Blue News

For outside linebackers coach Roy Manning, one of the toughest decisions he would ever have to make turned out to be one of the most rewarding. After a solid playing career at Michigan, where he was named the team’s top linebacker as a senior in 2004, Manning took his game to the next level. He initially signed with the Green Bay Packers, starting two games and making 41 tackles in his rookie year. However, the life of a typical NFL player is rarely one of longevity.

Like most football players who take a run at the professional game, it took more than one team for Manning to find his way, going through stints with the Houston Texans, Buffalo Bills, Jacksonville Jaguars and Cincinnati Bengals. In the end, he realized when it was time to move on to the next chapter in his life, but was faced with the tough choice of what to do next.

“Probably the hardest thing I ever had to do in my life was hanging up the cleats and being okay with it,” explained Manning. “I think that’s what former athletes struggle with the most is accepting that your playing days are over. I tried to do other things, but more and more, I kept getting that itch that I wanted to stay around football.

“I always knew I wanted to be in college football if I went into coaching. But I just got tired of wondering and started tapping into all my resources and getting good information. I decided ‘hey, I’m going to give this coaching thing a try.’ It was the best decision I ever made in my life, because here I am now four years later, back at Michigan.” To read more, turn to page 76 of the magazine

Matt Pargoff of Maize & Blue News previews Roy Manning's return to Michigan

by Logan Larson

College offenses are often a molding process, whereby teams continually go through gradual morphological changes to optimize the whole through the constituents of their makeup. Or in other words, coaches are never finished installing, altering, tinkering, tweaking, or fine-tuning their offenses from game to game, let alone year to year. But since 2010, Michigan’s has been a bit more than a dash of change here or a stroke of alteration there, yet at the same time they haven’t necessarily reinvented the wheel.

Under Rich Rodriguez, Michigan brought in Tate Forcier to run a balanced spread option attack that leaned on the read option in the run game and short, accurate timing patterns in the pass game. In 2010, with the emergence of Denard Robinson, Rodriguez adjusted his offense to be more run heavy; he deemphasized the reading portion of the offense and turned the focus towards Robinson’s legs, and in the passing game, the threat of Robinson’s legs, to open up receivers behind the defense.

Al Borges was brought from San Diego State by Brady Hoke to begin installing his West Coast Offense (WCO) in 2011. In the run game, the WCO tends to lean more heavily between the tackles, often with the quarterback (QB) starting from under center – or in today’s game, often from a pistol formation – rather than from the shotgun. The offensive line tends to man block, with offensive guards pulling and linemen doubling at the point of attack and combo blocking to the next level, rather than the zone blocking schemes typically incorporated with the spread offense and only sporadically in the WCO. To read more, turn to page 63 of the magazine

Logan Larson analyzes Michigan's transition to Al Borges' offense

by Sam Sedlecky of Maize and Go Blue

Five long years ago, Jeremy Gallon was playing football in his hometown of Apopka in central Florida deciding where he would continue his career in the sport he loved. At 5’8” and just 165 pounds, Gallon was far from average in terms of football recruits. The fact that he played quarterback, running back, and safety throughout high school simply added to the confusion as to what position he would play at the next level.

Despite his shortcomings in size, however, Gallon had quickness in bunches, hands that made coaches from Auburn, Iowa, and Kansas drool, and heart that left no question as to his potential at returner or receiver. Many colleges would have been happy to receive a commitment from the soft-spoken youngster, but one school stood out above the rest. Michigan, perhaps for the winged helmet that Gallon already wore as an Apopka Blue Darter, or perhaps because of coach Rich Rodriguez’s acclaimed spread offense, would be his home for the next four years.

On the surface it was a match made in heaven. Instead of being a negative, Gallon’s size and shiftiness would make him a weapon to be feared as a slot receiver in the second-year head coach’s. He could already see the stats – catches, yards, and points – racking up.

Somewhere along the ride, though, things went awry. After a redshirt year to learn the offense and gain valuable practice experience, Gallon was supposed to break onto the scene. Instead, he was mostly relegated to return duties, having only caught four passes for 49 yards while sitting behind Martavious Odoms and Roy Roundtree. To read more, turn to page 82 of the magazine

Michigan 35 – Minnesota 13: Gardner helps Michigan retain Jug

Sunday, November 4th, 2012

Needing a win to stay in the Big Ten title hunt, Michigan was dealt a blow when Denard Robinson was ruled out for the game. But no one told Devin Gardner that was a bad thing. After a slow start, the junior quarterback-turned-receiver-turned-quarterback put on a display that will ease concerns about next season’s quarterback situation.

Michigan 35 – Minnesota 13
Final Stats
35 Final Score 13
6-3, 4-1 Record 5-4 (1-4)
389 Total Yards 275
155 Net Rushing Yards 128
234 Net Passing Yards 147
18 First Downs 21
1 Turnovers 1
7-69 Penalties – Yards 9-68
3-88 Punts – Yards 3-127
29:08 Time of Possession 30:52
7-of-12 Third Down Conversions 4-of-14
1-of-2 Fourth Down Conversions 2-of-4
1-4 Sacks By – Yards 3-23
0-for-0 Field Goals 2-for-3
5-for-5 PATs 1-for-1
3-for-3 Red Zone Scores – Chances 3-for-4

Gardner completed 12-of-18 passes for 234 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception, leading Michigan to a 35-13 win over Minnesota. It didn’t start out positively, however, as Michigan gained just nine yards on eight plays in the first quarter.

The Gophers got the scoring started with a 10-yard touchdown pass from freshman quarterback Philip Nelson to tight end John Rabe. Michigan responded with a 12-play, 91-yard scoring drive that took seven minutes off the clock. The touchdown was a 45-yard pass from Gardner to Drew Dileo that seemed to be straight out of the playbook from a backyard football game. Gardner dropped back, stepped up, rolled to his right, then back all the way across the field to his left, and heaved it up to a wide open Dileo in the end zone.

After a Minnesota three-and-out, Gardner put together another long drive, marching 90 yards on 13 plays, capping it off with a two-yard Thomas Rawls touchdown run. It was the first time in Michigan history that the team scored touchdowns on consecutive drives of 90 yards or more, and just the third time it has ever been done in the same game.

Minnesota missed a 55-yard field goal as time expired in the first half and Michigan took a 14-7 lead into the locker room.

A Minnesota sack forced Michigan to punt away its first possession of the second half and the Gophers mounted a 10-play drive into the Michigan red zone. On fourth-and-16 from the 19-yard line, head coach Jerry Kill elected to call a fake field goal instead of kicking a 36-yarder. It failed miserably, gaining only five yards, and Michigan capitalized with an 86-yard scoring drive. Jeremy Gallon did the heavy lifting on this drive, catching a 47-yard pass and a 10-yard touchdown grab to give Michigan a 21-7 lead.

Michigan retains the Little Brown Jug for the fifth straight year (photo by Tom Olmscheid, AP)

Minnesota tried to fight back, driving to the Michigan three-yard line, but settled for a field goal to pull within 11. Michigan scored touchdowns on its next two possessions – a two-yard run by Gardner and a 41-yard run by Fitz Toussaint – to put the game away.

Toussaint led the Wolverines in rushing with 74 yards on 13 carries, but 41 of those came on that one play. Rawls had 43 yards on 16 carries for a meager 2.7 yards per. Without Gardner in the receiving corps, the receiving was well rounded. Gallon led the way with four catches for 72 yards, while Dileo had 69 and Roy Roundtree had 64.

For Minnesota, Nelson took a lot of chances downfield with little success. The best success he had was drawing a few pass interference calls against Michigan’s defensive backs late in the game. He completed 13-of-29 passes for 142 yards and a touchdown. It will likely be good enough to keep Michigan atop the national rankings in pass defense. Donnell Kirkwood rushed 16 times for just 61 yards and Michigan held the Gophers to 3.4 yards per carry.

It was a game that Michigan was supposed to win, even without Denard, and the Wolverines did just that. The talk coming out of the game will likely center around Gardner’s performance and question whether he should start the rest of the season. Any talk of that kind should stop right there. I’ll get to it more later this week and so will Chris in his weekly Monday Morning Quarterback segment, so stay tuned. But for now, enjoy the win and look forward to returning to the Big House against Northwestern next Saturday.

M&GB Pick’em: Minnesota staff predictions

Friday, November 2nd, 2012

Last week, all predictions went out the window when Denard left the game with a nerve injury to his elbow. Russell Bellomy couldn’t get anything going on offense and Michigan was held without a touchdown for the second straight week. Denard is back this week and heaven forbid he get hurt again, we should have a pretty good idea of how this game will play out.



Justin: Michigan 37 – Minnesota 10

Chris: Michigan 31 – Minnesota 14

Josh: Michigan N/A – Minnesota N/A

Sam: Michigan 31 – Minnesota 13

Katie: Michigan 38 – Minnesota 13

Matt: Michigan 38 – Minnesota 17


Average: Michigan 35 – Minnesota 13

Justin (1): Michigan makes its first visit to TCF Bank Stadium for a noon (11am local time) kickoff against Minnesota. The time is important because the only chance the Gophers have of pulling this one out is if Michigan sleeps through its alarm because it’s so used to playing 3:30 (or later) games. As long as the Wolverines lay off the waffles and fake eggs from the hotel breakfast bar and come ready to play, they’ll get back on track for what is shaping up to be an epic clash with Ohio State at season’s end. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. One game at a time.

Michigan will be, as the Black Eyed Peas sing, runnin’ runnin’ and runnin’ runnin’. Fitz Toussaint and Thomas Rawls will see lots of carries until Minnesota proves it can stop them – which the Gophers haven’t been able to do against anyone this season. Michigan will build a big lead and let Denard give way to Bellomy in a good scenario this time. For more analysis, check out this morning’s game preview, Friend vs. Foe, and Monday’s First Look.

[Edit: I should also add that the only other thing that could prevent a Michigan win is another significant injury to Denard. If that happens, all bets are off].

Michigan 37 – Minnesota 10

Chris (2): With four games left in the regular season, the Wolverines enter this game at Minnesota knowing that they need to win out and get help with a Nebraska loss in order to make it to the Big Ten Championship. However, I think that it’s important that the team not be thinking about it this way. It’s one game at a time. No scoreboard watching. Everyone does their job. Give your all EVERY play. I think if they do that, they can win these last four games and end up in Indianapolis on Dec 1.

First thing’s first though. Historically, Michigan has dominated the Golden Gophers in Minneapolis. They have won 14 straight trips there, winning by an average score of 40-13. Last time at Minnesota was back in 2008 (29-6 win). Minnesota enters the game at 5-3 (1-3 Big Ten) and are looking to become bowl eligible for the first time since 2009.

Donnell Kirkwood averages 4.4 yards per carry (photo by Jesse Johnson, AP)

Overall, this is a decent Minnesota squad that can sneak up on teams if they take them too lightly. Minnesota’s biggest weakness is their defense, especially when trying to stop the rush. In their three losses this season, they gave up big days on the ground to opposing running backs to the tune of 242 yards per game. Wisconsin’s running backs put up 337 by themselves. So far, this has been a season when Michigan has been unable to run the ball effectively with someone other than Denard Robinson. If there’s any hope for this running game, it will need to show on Saturday because it will provide the Wolverines with the best chance to win.

On offense, Minnesota has switched to true freshmen Philip Nelson at quarterback. Dynamic quarterback MarQueis Gray has been hampered by injuries this season, which prompted the switch. Just because Nelson is young and inexpereinced, the Wolverines can’t look past his skills. He earned Mr. Football honors in the state of Minnesota and they doesn’t hesitate to chuck the ball around when he’s under center. This bodes well for a Michigan pass defense which ranks as one of the best in the nation. Defensively, I don’t see the the Wolverines having much trouble. Minnesota isn’t going to control the line of scrimmage with three sophomores starting on the offensive line.

I like Michigan to win this game, but I don’t think it’s going to be by a large point differential.

Michigan 31 – Minnesota 14

Matt (2): We haven’t really taken Minnesota seriously. Overall, our record in the Battle for the Little Brown Jug, is 67-22-3. And Minnesota has only beaten us three times since 1968. However, looking past them is a big mistake.

Although the Golden Gophers seem to pale in comparison with the Wolverines, only being ranked higher than Michigan in passing by a small margin, and being ranked lower than Michigan in rushing yards, points for, and points against, the game is still being played in Minneapolis, and this is a rivalry game. You know what they say about rivalry games. Throw the records out the window.

However, is this really a rivalry? Is this anything like Michigan vs Notre Dame, Michigan State or Ohio State? The answer is simple, no. But we still want to hold onto that Little Brown Jug, and we still want to win the Legends Division, which could happen, but we need Nebraska to lose too!

Minnesota is ranked higher than Michigan in passing, although if you compare QBs, Denard has thrown over 500 yards more and three more touchdowns (that’s not counting the six Denard has scrambled in). Minnesota’s rushing game isn’t that great either, averaging 162 yards a game while Michigan averages 206.

And as far as defense goes, Michigan allows 17 points a game. Minnesota allows 23.

The biggest factor to this game, is going to be Denard Robinson. Is he going to be able to play? He left the Nebraska game with an injured nerve in his elbow. From there we got to see Russell Bellomy come in, and have a horrible game. I’m not blaming the kid. He’s new to all this. He isn’t supposed to be the starting QB. He’s supposed to watch as Denard tears defenses apart. So when Denard went down, Bellomy had that deer in the headlights look, and tried. I heard many people asking (and begging) Brady Hoke to put Devin Gardner in as QB instead. He did not.

Jerry Kill is trying to get the Gophers bowl eligible for the first time since 2009 (photo by Jesse Johnson, AP)

News at Michigan practice his week, is that Devin did however take snaps as QB, just in case Robinson doesn’t end up playing this Saturday. Maybe Hoke heard the people.

I think Denard will play this Saturday. Will he injure the elbow again? Not sure. I don’t think he’ll play all game. I think Hoke will play him, but pull him every now and again to let Devin, and maybe even Russell get some snaps (that is if the game is in hand). We really need to rely on Fitzgerald Toussaint this Saturday. Al Borges needs to let Fitz run straight at the Golden Gophers defense, and ram the ball down their throats.

I have not done the best job at guessing the score this season, but here we go…

I don’t see this one being that close. Michigan is going to take the lead, and never give it back. The Little Brown Jug will stay in Ann Arbor for another season. Denard scores a couple TDs, and so does Devin Gardner (as QB, NOT WR).

Michigan 38 – Minnesota 17

Sam (1): Michigan wins. End of story.

Michigan 31 – Minnesota 13

Katie: Last week didn’t turn out nearly as well as was hoped for, but there is a consolation, this week we play Minnesota and the poor Golden Gophers are at the bottom of the Legends Division. But hey, it could be worse, the Leaders has two teams without a Big Ten win, and Minnesota has notched a W against the Boilermakers to make them 1-3 in conference play. Michigan on the other hand is living in disappointing times. Granted, the preseason polls were overestimated, the Wolverines have still lost three games so far this season, and while that’s not quite a debacle it will be if we go 5-3 in Big Ten play. Northwestern I’m sure would love nothing more than an upset at the Big House after what will likely be a safeguarding of the Brown Jug. Not to mention Ohio State, who will welcome Michigan into the ‘Shoe for the first time since coach Urban Meyer was instated, and with a definite chip on their shoulder due to their inability to play in the conference championship or a bowl game.

I’m not trying to overlook Minnesota. Well, I suppose that’s not entirely true. I do know however, that one has to make the catch before running with it, and that the play can’t go down field until the ball is secured. Really though, did last years score against Minnesota have to look like a MAC team rollover. 58-0?

So while that sort of bullying hasn’t happened to the Gophers this year, they also have yet to play a ranked team. Though it is true that they played the Wildcats, who are now second in the Legends, within a touchdown. Now I am going to make the assumption that if we can’t beat Minnesota that the season is, for all intents and purposes, over. But on a positive note I’m not envisioning much of a problem. That is unless the offense collapses without Denard, and Devin Gardner, who could see a return at quarterback, looks worse than Bellomy. Not that the red-shirt freshman would look quite as bad as he did against Nebraska. I think that with more than a few minutes notice, and an away crowd that hasn’t been getting pumped for a night game for hours in advance, he should be able to pass more efficiently. With that being said I still would not hesitate to say that Gardner was our starting QB if number 16 wasn’t ready.

As for the stats, Minnesota’s aren’t too bad on either side of things, but they don’t look as good on paper as Michigan does, and Michigan has been fumbling around this season. The Wolverines best bet is on a strong defense that gives its offense as many opportunities to score as possible. Without Denard’s fleetness of foot Michigan could need time for some extended drives. Look for a Wolverines victory, but without last year’s margin.

Michigan 38 – Minnesota 13

Minnesota: first look

Monday, October 29th, 2012

Read our preseason preview here.

This Saturday, Michigan looks to follow up a poor performance against Nebraska with a win over Minnesota. The Gophers are currently in last place in the Big Ten Legends division, while Michigan is in a battle for first with Nebraska. At this point, every game is a must-win if Michigan wants any chance of reaching the Big Ten championship game. Minnesota, meanwhile, is still fighting for relevancy.

The Gophers picked up their first conference victory last Saturday, beating Purdue 44-28. You might remember that as being the same number of points Michigan scored on Purdue, though the Wolverines held the Boilers to just 13.

Michigan’s loss to Nebraska dropped the Wolverines to just 3-4 on the road in Brady Hoke’s tenure (not counting the neutral site loss to Alabama), so Michigan will need a win in Minneapolis to pull even in that regard. Does Minnesota have a shot at upsetting the Wolverines and dismantling their Big Ten title hopes? Or will Michigan keep those hopes alive? Let’s take a look.

Minnesota 2012 Statistics & Michigan Comparison
Minnesota Michigan Rank Opponent Rank
Points Per Game 25.2 | 28.0 82 | 63 23.1 | 17.2 43 | 14
Rushing Yards 1,303 | 1,653 1,424 | 1,161
Rush Avg. Per Game 162.9 | 206.6 61 | 27 178.0 | 145.1 84 | 46
Avg. Per Rush 4.0 | 5.2 5.0 | 3.7
Passing Yards 1,650 | 1,372 1,279 | 1,162
Pass Avg. Per Game 206.2 | 171.5 87 | 108 159.9 | 145.2 7 | 1
Total Offense 2,953 | 3,025 2,703 | 2,323
Total Off Avg. Per Game 369.1 | 378.1 88 | 83 337.9 | 290.4 27 | 9
Kick Return Average 17.5 | 22.6 109 | 52 17.0 | 21.0 7 | 60
Punt Return Average 7.9 | 10.4 69 | 39 5.1 | 6.3 30 | 54
Avg. Time of Possession 31:49 | 30:45 25 | 45 28:11 | 29:15
3rd Down Conversion Pct 39% | 47% 72 | 23 39% | 35% 61 | 37
Sacks By-Yards 16-107 | 10-95 56 | 104 12-87 | 7-55 35 | 12
Touchdowns Scored 25 | 26 24 | 14
Field Goals-Attempts 9-16 | 14-17 6-7 | 13-18
Red Zone Scores (20-26) 77% | (25-28) 89% 80 | 20 (18-21) 86% | (19-22) 86% 95 | 92
Red Zone Touchdowns (15-26) 58% | (14-28) 50% (14-21) 67% | (10-22) 45%

On paper, Michigan and Minnesota look fairly similar – at least on offense. I never thought I would utter those words in a senior Denard-led offense, but that’s where we are eight games into the season. But while they look fairly even on paper, in actuality, Michigan has faced three of the nation’s top ten scoring defenses, while the best one Minnesota has faced is Wisconsin, which ranks 17th. In fact, the average scoring defense among the teams Minnesota has played is 56th, plus the 65th ranked scoring defense in the FCS. Conversely, Michigan’s is 51st.

The main discrepancy between the two teams is on defense. Michigan boasts the nation’s ninth-best total defense, 14th-best scoring defense and top pass defense, while Minnesota has the 43rd-best scoring defense and 27th-best total defense. The biggest mismatch may be in Michigan’s rush offene, which ranks 27th against Minnesota’s rush defense, which ranks 84th.

Freshman Philip Nelson has started the last two games at QB (photo by Andy Manis, AP)

The main playmaker for the Gophers is quarterback-turned-receiver MarQueis Gray. He started the season at quarterback, but made the move to receiver in favor of Max Shortell. Shortell then gave way to freshman Philip Nelson who has started the past two games and completed 61 percent of his passes for 395 yards, five touchdowns, and two interceptions. Against Purdue on Saturday, he went 15-of-22 for 246 and three TDs.

Gray is the team’s second leading rusher (from his time at quarterback) with 320 yards on 54 attempts and has caught eight passes for 89 yards since making the move.

Running back Donnell Kirkwood has rushed 132 times for 609 yards (an average of 4.4 yards per carry) and three touchdowns, while Nelson, having played in only the last two games, has rushed for 104 yards on 25 carries.

The receiving corps is pretty much a one-man show. Junior A.J. Barker has 30 catches for 577 yards and seven touchdowns. No other Gopher has more than 13 catches or 193 yards, however, 16 different players have caught a pass and 14 of those have caught at least two. The Minnesota passing offense is sixth-best in the Big Ten, just a few yards per game behind Nebraska, so Michigan’s top-rated pass defense will have its hands full once again.

The rush offense is also sixth in the conference, averaging 162.9 yards per game, but Wisconsin and Iowa held the Gophers to just 96 and 102 rushing yards, respectively.

Defensively, Minnesota allows just 159.9 yards per game through the air, good for seventh nationally and second in the Big Ten behind Michigan, but that is largely due to the success other teams have on the ground. Iowa’s Mark Weisman rushed for 177 yards on 21 carries, Northwestern’s Venric Mark gained 182 yards on 20 carries, and Wisconsin had two ball carriers with big days – James White had 175 yards on 15 carries and Montee Ball had 166 on 24. Needless to say, Minnesota’s rush defense has been anything but stout, and that’s good news for a Michigan offense that needs to get back on track.

Another area that Michigan seems to have a major advantage is on special teams. Brendan Gibbons has been getting quite a workout the past few weeks, and hopefully Michigan won’t need him much on Saturday, but he (and Matt Wile’s) 14-of-17 rate is far and away better than Minnesota kicker Jordan Wetterstein’s 9-of-16. In addition, punter Christian Eldred ranks ninth in the conference with an average of 37.4 yards per punt compared to Will Hagerup’s conference-best 45.9.

With Nebraska facing Michigan State on Saturday, this weekend is the beginning of a must-win four-game stretch for Michigan. Stay tuned for coverage throughout the week.

Smith’s Hat Trick Leads Michigan as Jug Stays in Ann Arbor

Saturday, October 1st, 2011

For the second consecutive week Michigan got off to a strong start, scoring on its opening drive en route to a dominating victory. This time, Minnesota was the foe, and while the Gophers aren’t exactly the class of the Big Ten, no other Michigan team has ever beaten Minnesota as badly as it did today.

Vincent Smith scored a rushing touchdown, receiving touchdown, and threw a touchdown pass to lead Michigan to a 58-0 win, its first shutout since beating Notre Dame 38-0 in 2007, and its first shutout of a Big Ten opponent since a 20-0 victory over Penn State in 2001.

#19 Michigan 58 – Minnesota 0
Final Stats
58 Final Score 0
5-0 Record 1-4
580 Total Yards 177
363 Net Rushing Yards 73
217 Net Passing Yards 104
32 First Downs 8
0 Turnovers 2
3-24 Penalties – Yards 9-74
2-75 Punts – Yards 10-363
36:22 Time of Possession 23:38
6-for-11 Third Down Conversions 0-for-11
0-for-0 Fourth Down Conversions 0-for-0
3-16 Sacks By – Yards 1-8
3-for-3 Field Goals 0-for-0
7-for-7 PATs 0-for-0
8-for-9 Red Zone Scores – Chances 0-for-1

Denard Robinson hit Jeremy Gallon for nine yards to start the game. On the next play Devin Gardner came in and handed off to Denard, who then pitched it to Fitz Toussaint for a three-yard loss. Toussaint, however, made up for it two plays later when he busted through the line for a 35 yard rush. Three plays later, Vincent Smith punched it in from 3 yards out to put Michigan ahead 7-0.

After a three-and-out by Minnesota, which was forced by a third-down sack by Ryan Van Bergen, Michigan took over at its own 25. Denard drove the Wolverines 67 yards in four plays to get inside the Gopher 10. Two plays later, Denard took it in.

Minnesota suffered through another three-and-out before punting it back to Michigan. Nine plays later, two of which included a pass to Devin Gardner and a 15-yard run by Gardner, Michigan found itself in the endzone again. This time it was a Smith touchdown pass to Drew Dileo on a beautifully disguised play that had the entire state of Minnesota thinking it was a sweep play.

Minnesota managed to get their first first down of the game on its next play, but when faced with a third-and-one, took a three-yard loss when Jake Ryan sacked Max Shortell.

Michigan picked up where it left off with Fitz Touissaint rushing for 24 yards and Junior Hemingway catching a nine-yarder. After an offside penalty, Denard rolled right and found Vincent Smith wide open on a screen to the left. Smith, doing what he does best, found a seam and took it to the house from 28 yards out.

For those who haven’t been paying attention, with 9:38 left in the second quarter, Vincent Smith had a rushing TD, a passing TD and a receiving TD. Smith became the first major college running back to score on the ground, through the air as a passer and a receiver since Clemson’s C.J Spiller in 2009.

After a seven-yard rush by David Cobb, Jibreel Black introduced himself to Shortell for a sack. Black was the third Wolverine in the mix after Jake Ryan and Mike Martin laid their hands on Shortell to slow him down.

Michigan “stalled” on its next drive and settled for a Brendan Gibbons 25-yard field goal to go up 31-0.

Freshman Drew Dileo catches a touchdown pass from Vincent Smith...I think he was a tad bit open (photo by the Detroit News)

Minnesota used its next drive to march into Michigan’s side of the field for the first time (I guess the Gophers weren’t in a hurry to score). Unfortunately for them it was short-lived as Brandon Green was stripped by Blake Countess and Carvin Johnson recovered it. On the play preceding the fumble we had a Will Campbell sighting in the backfield as he bull rushed the center and laid a huge hit on Shortell as he let go of the pass. It took a bit longer than I would have liked but at least we’re beginning to see glimpses of the what the former five-star recruit can do. Hopefully he can make a habit of sitting on the quarterback a la former Wolverine Alan Branch.

Michigan proceeded to move the ball 36 yards before Denard hit a streaking Kevin Koger for a touchdown to put the Wolverines up 38-0. Minnesota ran out the clock for halftime.

Michigan outgained Minnesota 384-69 in the first half alone.

The second half was more of the same as Minnesota struggled to move the ball and Michigan moved almost at will. After Michigan scored to go up 45-0, Minnesota showed some life, taking the ensuing kick off 96 yards for a TD. However, it was called back for an illegal block and the Gophers had to punt the ball away.

The Little Brown Jug remains in Ann Arbor (photo by the Ann Arbor News)

It was at this point, a little more than midway through the third quarter, that Denard’s day was over. Devin Gardner came in and drove Michigan down to the Gopher 15 and Gibbons kicked a 32-yard field goal to put the Wolverines up 48-0.

After another Gopher three-and-out, Michigan took over on its own 20. After a mix of plays, including runs by Gardner and 38 total rushing yards on the drive by Thomas Rawls, Michigan found itself forced to kick yet another field goal. Gibbons connected on a 38-yarder and Michigan topped the 50 point mark for the first time this season.

Two drives later, after Minnesota took over in great field position, David Cobb took the hand off and ran 28 yards to the Michigan 20. It appeared as if the Gophers would finally get on the scoreboard. Cobb took the ensuing hand off and ran right, but Michigan defensive lineman Nathan Brink came from behind and popped the ball out. It bounced right into the hands of Courtney Avery who took it to the house for an 83 yard fumble return TD. 58-0.

Minnesota went three-and-out its next drive and Michigan ran out the final 3:09 of the game. Rawls grabbed another 34 yards rushing and Gardner added another 15 to his total as well.

Denard was 15-for-19 for 169 yards, 2 touchdowns and most importantly, no interceptions. He also added another 51 on the ground and a rushing tuchdown.

Fitz Touissaint rushed for a career high 108 yards on 11 carries and a touchdown and true freshman Thomas Rawls gained 73 on 10 carries.

All-in-all, it was a great day to be a Wolverine. While Minnesota is not the cream of the crop by any stretch Michigan still showed significant improvement. The defense was getting good pressure and didn’t seem to be out of place too often. Borges finally got really creative with his play-calling and put Denard and the offense in position to make some nice, easy throws. There weren’t many down-field tosses by Denard, but he managed the passing game well and should have gained some confidence in his arm and decision making ability as Michigan heads to Evanston, Ill. next week to take on Northwestern.

Friday Pick’em – Minnesota Staff Predictions

Friday, September 30th, 2011

Last week, we all underestimated Michigan’s defense and overestimated both offenses. We all predicted high-scoring games, but in reality, Michigan dominated, holding San Diego State’s high-powered offense to just seven points.  Josh was the closest, just three off Michigan’s score and 20 high on SDSU’s, so he wins the Kyle Turley SI and the Indian healing clay. Lucky him.

This week, the winner gets this singing and dancing gopher (because really, is anyone actually intimidated by a gopher?) and a brown jug so he can paint his own Little Brown Jug replica.

The Picks:

Photo credit: MVictors

Justin: This game has all the makings of a blowout. With quarterback MarQueis Gray out with a toe injury, Minnesota will rely on true freshman Max Shortell. He has seen action in three of the first four games, but tomorrow will be his first career start. In the Big House no less. While it won’t be as rocking as it was for the Under the Lights game against Notre Dame, it’s still an intimidating place to play for an opposing team, especially for a kid who was going to prom a few months ago.

Minnesota has a fairly stout run defense, but is giving up 278.5 yards a game through the air. This will be the perfect game to allow Denard Robinson to gain some confidence with his arm and some rapport with his receivers before diving into the meat of the schedule.

Without Gray, Minnesota is lacking a true playmaker on offense – certainly one that can hang with Michigan. The Gophers have recorded one sack defensively and allowed 11. This one will be over early, Denard will have another 150-150 game, and Devin Gardner will get some playing time in the fourth quarter.

Michigan 42 – Minnesota 17

Josh: Minnesota opened the season looking like a pretty good team, rallying from a 13-0 deficit before eventually losing 19-17 at USC. After that, the Gophers proceeded to lose 28-21 to a New Mexico State team that went 1-11 last season, and last week suffered a shocking loss to FCS North Dakota State 37-24. Sandwiched between their last two losses was a 29-23 win over Miami (OH). Their quarterbacks have combined for five touchdowns and five picks and are completing less than 49 percent of their passes.

Minnesota has given up 400-plus yards twice, to New Mexico St. and Miami (OH), and gave up 300-plus yards passing to USC and Miami (OH). Their rush yards against look good on paper but considering they’ve allowed teams to pass for over 278 yards per game, the rush defense probably hasn’t been tested all that much. Regardless, Minnesota is not a very good team on defense giving up 383 yards per game overall.

On offense they have managed to put up some yards, averaging 353 yards per game, but have yet to find an identity at quarterback. MarQueis Gray is most likely out this week so Minnesota will have to rely on Max Shortell to lead them. They have had a balanced attack on offense so far, but like Michigan are very reliant on one player to produce the bulk of the yards. Gray accounts for 218 of their 353 yards per game (61.7 percent). With Gray out, this will hurt Minnesota tremendously, so don’t look for them to top 300 yards again.

Michigan is 19-1 against Minnesota in its last 20, and has only lost to the Gophers twice since 1986. The teams haven’t played the past two years but if the 2008 Michigan team can beat them using a non-spread quarterback to run the read option, then this team certainly can manage a win. The defense should be able to get some good pressure to force Shortell into some bad decisions and since he is not a threat to run like Gray is Michigan should be able to contain the Gopher offense.

Freshman Max Shortell has completed 46 percent of his passes for 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions while filling in for MarQueis Gray (photo by Stephen Dunn, Getty Images)

There have been notable improvements for Michigan each week on defense and this game should be no different. Look for Michigan to force a few turnovers and to capitalize on most of them. On offense, look for offensive coordinator Al Borges to try to work out some of the kinks in the passing game and maybe run more under center stuff to help Denard get more comfortable. Minnesota will almost assuredly stack the box to ‘stop’ the run, which should open up some space downfield. Despite that, I still think Michigan will rack up 175-plus yards rushing. This one will be a good game until shortly after kick off. Hopefully some of the younger guys and Devin Gardner can see some mop up duty late in the game.

Michigan 49 – Minnesota 6

Chris: I have been dreading this all week: making my pick for Week 5 and at the same time knowing that I was going to have to eat major crow for picking against the Wolverines last week.

So here it is. I screwed up. I admit it. I doubted our defense’s ability to contain the San Diego State offense. I didn’t think that the Michigan offense could out-score SDSU to win the game. Boy was I wrong.

Last week was the best that I have seen the Michigan boys play all year so far. The defense was way better than I anticipated, coming up with some big turnovers. Of course, I was glad to get the pick wrong and slightly ashamed for my lack of faith in our guys. But I do know how to admit when I was wrong.

Now on to Week 5. Short prediction this week as I’m writing this while sitting next to a pool in Phoenix mentally preparing to take on TPC Scottsdale tomorrow morning.

Bottom line: Minnesota doesn’t have enough on offense or defense to compete with the Wolverines. Denard Robinson will get an opportunity to do some things through the air against a weak Minnesota secondary and I expect the offense to move the ball at will.

Defensively, Minnesota quarterback MarQueis Gray presents a challenge (if he plays) because of his ability to run the ball, but all the Michigan coaches need to do is look at last week’s film versus FCS North Dakota State. They held Gray to 23 yards on 13 carries. If he doesn’t play, freshman Max Shortell will have his hands full with Michigan’s pass rush.

There will be some emotion in this game as it is a rivalry game, but Michigan wins to open up conference play on the right foot.

Michigan 31 – Minnesota 10

Michigan Man 5-Spot Challenge – Week 5 Questions

Monday, September 26th, 2011

Congratulations to last week’s winner, myrick55. His highest deviation was just 29 (on Ronnie Hillman’s rushing yards). He was only six away from correctly picking Denard’s total yards, which is where most other contestants gained a lot of points (remember, this is like golf: low score wins).

Only one person, bluwolf77, correctly guessed Michigan’s first quarter points. Surprisingly, nobody picked Michigan to score no points in the first quarter, even though the Wolverines hadn’t scored a first quarter point in the first three games. TrueBlue88 was the most confident, picking Michigan to win by 18. Only one, chris12qb, actually picked Michigan to lose (by one).

Myrick55 gets to relive the thrilling comeback win over Notre Dame with a commemorative Under the Lights game program. It comes with a “never-before-heard 30-second compilation of TV, radio and sideline clips from Howard’s famous 1991 touchdown catch against Notre Dame.”

This week, Michigan hosts its fifth consecutive home game when Minnesota invades Ann Arbor. The Wolverines will be looking to hold onto the Little Brown Jug against the 1-3 Gophers. Minnesota features one of the nation’s worst pass defenses and the nation’s eighth-best punter. Here are this week’s questions: