Minnesota Preview

Saturday, September 27th  •  Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI (109,901)

Time TV Announcers Weather Line Series Last Meeting
Mike Patrick
Ed Cunningham
Jeannine Edwards
Partly Cloudy
Upper 70's
0% precip
UM -12
UM leads
 Oct. 5, 2013
Mich 42, Minn 13

Minnesota by the Numbers
     3-1 (0-0)
Head coach: Jerry Kill
     Career: 147-95
     at MINN: 20-22, 4th year
     Rush: David Cobb (92-539 yards, 4 TDs)
     Pass: Mitch Leidner (26-54, 362 yards, 2 TDs) and Chris Streveler (4-11, 37 yards, 1 TD)
     Rec.: Maxx Williams (6-110 yards, 2 TDs) and Donovahn Jones (6-92 yards, 1 TD)
     Tackles: Damien Wilson (44 tackles)
     Sacks: Three players with 1.5 sacks  

Related MBN Game Week Content
• Michigan vs Minnesota Stat Sheet
• Week 5 B1G Preview
• Evidence of Things Not Seen
• Week 4 B1G Power Rankings

Reasons to be Concerned
Aside from all the obvious the sky is falling reasons to be concerned this week, let's try to keep this in perspective, shall we?

Minnesota comes into the Big House with the worst offense in the B1G in terms of total yards per game. That said, they do have the #3 rushing offense in the conference and that's all thanks to the capable legs of RB David Cobb. Cobb is by far Minnesota's best and most dangerous weapon. He's a fast runner, good field vision and very sure-handed.

Most folks look at Minnesota's passing offense and scratch their heads as to how this team is 3-1. Well, the schedule has done them a lot of favors with opponents like Eastern Illinois, Middle Tennessee and San Jose State. The running game has picked up the slack of the passing game with relative ease. Also, the Gophers seem to be taking advantage of their opportunities in the turnover department…something Michigan fans wouldn't know anything about.

Minnesota ranks 20th in the nation in turnover margin at +4. When you don't have to worry about going the entire length of the field all game, a good running game can be very useful.

Michigan has been coughing up the ball both by fumbles and interceptions all season. They can't seem to go a game without helping opposing offenses as much as possible. Like we mentioned earlier in the week, it's not just turnovers that are killing Michigan, it's drives that seem to run out of juice as soon as they cross the 50. Against an opportunistic team like Minnesota, that could be a real concern tomorrow.

Maybe the biggest concern for Michigan is that this is the Jug game. Minnesota is going to come in to this game intent on having a real shot at taking home the LBJ. In the B1G trophy game to end all B1G trophy games, that can't be discounted.

Reasons to be Confident
Well, like we said…Minnesota's offense isn't exactly lighting up the scoreboards or the stat sheets yet this season. Yes, they're 3-1…but their one loss, at TCU, was never really close. For as impressive as their +4 turnover margin is, the Gophers had 5 turnovers against the Horned Frogs and only ran for 99 yards…with Cobb tallying 41 on 15 carries. A far cry from their impressive performances against sacrificial lambs at home.

For reference, TCU's rush defense ranks 16th nationally…while Michigan's ranks 8th.

In the 4th quarter of the TCU game, starting QB Mitch Leidner left the game following a big hit. Word is he's suffering from both turf toe as well as a sprained medial collateral ligament (MCL). He did not play last week against San Jose State…a game in which the Gophers threw for 7 total passing yards on 1 completion.


Leidner did practice some this week. According to Minnesota's injury report released yesterday, both Leidner and tight end Maxx Williams (Minn's leading receiver who also missed last week's game) are listed as questionable.

For Michigan, this could be another banner game for a defense that has already looked quite impressive this season. Michigan plays a few B1G teams similar to Minnesota, especially on the home schedule. Games like this need to be confidence builders on both sides of the ball. And if the defense could put the ball into the end zone again, I'm sure Doug Nussmeier wouldn't mind.

Offensively for the Wolverines, it appears that Shane Morris is going to get the starting nod…al least all signs point to that happening. I have no idea what this means in terms of being a good thing or not, Morris has looked shaky this season when he's played. In his one start in last year's BWW bowl, I remember him looking composed and confident, throwing 24 of 38 for 196 yards and 1 INT. He also ran the ball 4 times for 43 yards. Perhaps starting a game is more his thing?

I think the biggest thing tomorrow is going to be how Michigan responds to adversity. There are dark clouds all around this program right now. Fans are angry and Brady Hoke is at the center of the media storm. We saw this week how some of the players, Dennis Norfleet for instance, came out defending his head coach against all the criticism he's faced recently. Perhaps there's a real sense that the players know they're playing for their coach's job now.

Could that inspire them to turn the corner offensively? We'll see tomorrow.

5 Predictions
• Morris looks good starting in place of Gardner. He starts out slow as Michigan is focused more on it's ground attack. But Nuss does a good job mixing in plenty of short throws and screens to get Shane some early confidence. "Sugar" Shane Morris ends the day with 200 yards passing, 1 INT and his first touchdown throw (to Funchess) as a Wolverine.
• The defense picks right up where TCU left off as they dominate the Gophers both in the trenches and through the air. They hold Minnesota to less than 100 yards rushing and force 3 turnovers (including a pick 6)
• At some point, Devin Gardner comes into the game as a receiver (but only as a decoy).
• Green and Smith combine for over 200 yards on the ground.
• Michigan 21 Minnesota 5

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