|Amber Ainsworth/The Michigan Journal|
The wounds have healed, the last game is in the past and it’s time to get back to it. The Wolverines are coming off a bye week following a devastating loss to in state rival Michigan State to face the Minnesota Golden Gophers on the road. It’s time for the weekly breakdown and prediction.
The Wolverine offense has been hot and cold, sort of. It isn’t explosive like TCU, but they have scored points. Notably 31 on BYU, and 38 on Northwestern. Rudock has been what we expected, his typical game manager quarterback style isn’t flashy, but it gets the job done. The running backs have been good, not out of this world, but they’ve been steady. It’s easier to have a steady run game when head coach Jim Harbaugh has five running backs he can use at essentially any point in the game. Drake Johnson is expected to play this week and if fully healthy could easily add another dimension to the Wolverine offense, I still believe Johnson is the best back on this roster when 100% healthy. He is an excellent complement to De’Veon Smith, who can be a bruiser and fight out the short yardage. I would like to see the Wolverines split time at running back evenly with these two this week, with Johnson getting more involved in the passing game. Jehu Chesson and Amarah Darboh have been much better than expected at the wide receiver position, but with Rudock often times going to his checkdown, they’re mostly dangerous in screen passes and quick slants, which I expect the Wolverines to do this week to attack the Gopher defense. The tight ends have contributed well, and Ian Bunting, A.J. Williams, and Jake Butt all play an integral role in making this offense move due to the style Rudock plays. I want to see Jake Butt more, as his role has seemed to diminish of late due to most defenses focusing on him.
Minnesota really doesn’t have much of an established run game. Rodney Smith has 467 yards and one touchdown this season, the Gophers leading rusher. He will likely have a very tough time this week in finding gaps in the Wolverine defense. Mitch Leidner has thrown for a respectable 1,310 yard this season but has six interceptions to his seven touchdown passes. Leidner does however have three rushing touchdowns. The Gophers don’t pose much of a threat at the wide receiver position either, which will make it even tougher on Leidner and the Gopher offense to move the ball against Michigan. The Gophers are only average about 20 points per game.
Michigan has a strong defense. Yeah, obviously. Not much else you can really say, they’re good, very good. One of the best defenses in the country, it doesn’t matter who they’re facing, they will look elite. The Wolverines will be without linebacker Joe Bolden for the first half, but it shouldn’t be a huge deal, as the Wolverines have depth and versatility on the defensive side of the football to make up for it. The Wolverines have been a second half football team defensively anyways, and it will get even better with Bolden coming back on the field. Against this below-average offense I expect the Wolverine defense to force some turnovers. Jabrill Peppers and Jourdan Lewis will both have interceptions in the game, and Bolden will make an impact upon his return forcing a fumble on a sack. The Gophers will be lucky if they score.
Minnesota’s defense is not that much better than the offense. It’s not horrible, but I wouldn’t say it’s good. They’re allowing 23 points per game, which is somewhat respectable. They’re allowing 151 rushing yards per game which could cause problems for them with the Wolverines strong rushing attack from multiple players. The key for the Gophers will be to get off the field, but if they can’t stop the run, then they won’t be able to do that. With that, the Wolverine defense will get the Gopher defense back on the field in just a few minutes as well. Minnesota is only allowing 177 passing yards per game, which is roughly around where Rudock throws, so it doesn’t hurt the Wolverines much.
Minnesota coach Jerry Kill retired from football Wednesday morning in an announcement that shocked everyone. People remember Kill has had health problems, and had multiple epileptic seizures during games. Kill is one heck of a football coach, and a man who deserves the utmost respect, from any fan. I was planning on adding something to this post about Kill prior to his retirement announcement, as he deserves the respect. We here at Maize and Blue Nation wish all the best for Kill and his family, and hope he has an enjoyable and healthy retirement. Class act of a coach.
The Gophers will be playing for Kill in this game, and will be playing with an edge. It’s a night game at home for them, and will be a great scene. However, Michigan is far more superior from a talent standpoint and it will not be enough for the Gophers to win the football game, as the Wolverines will be playing with an edge as well after what happened a few weeks ago at home.
Final Prediction: Michigan 26 Minnesota 0.