Friday, September 30, 2011

Preview: Minnesota

Here's your trivia answer to "What is Minnesota?":
The only Big Ten team Rich Rodirugez is undefeated against.
WOOO It's Little Brown Jug week and I'm sort of not that excited. Is it the Lloyd years already? Minnesota returns to Michigan's schedule after a 2-year absence when we K.C. Lopata-ed our way to victory in 2008. Since then, the Gophers haven't really budged from being a bottom dweller in the Big Ten. Already starting the season off 1-3, including their most recent loss to an FCS team (North Dakota State), Minny isn't exactly coming into the Big House with a full head of steam. If RPS could be applied to scheduling, Hoke is benefiting from a +3 thus far this season.

The stories this week have mostly been about Minnesota's health (or lack thereof)--all the way from their head coach to their 3rd/4th corner. The good news is that Jerry Kill, who recently had a 2nd episode involving seizures, is back on the practice field and will be on the sidelines tomorrow. The bad news is that their starting quarterback, Marqueis Gray, is questionable due to a foot injury. That doesn't exactly bode well for a team already down in the dumps. All signs point to Michigan cruising.

Denard vs. Minnesota's secondary. If you read this blog consistently, you know I've been slightly obsessed about Denard's passing regression over the past few weeks. Passing against Minnesota's secondary is an opportune time to raise Denard's confidence for NW and Sparty. Thanks to one of Ace's tweets yesterday, here's a nice breakdown of who Denard is facing:

And this is before Stoudemire went down so somebody will be replacing him. Statistically, Minnesota has given up more passing yards than any other Big Ten team: 1114 yards or 278.5 Y/G. Consider Denard's 156 Y/G passing average, which is generous thanks to Notre Dame, and something has to give. I suspect Borges' playcalling will mirror Eastern in terms of passing with the backs getting a heavier load; Denard definitely won't get 26 carries. I think Denard works out more kinks in the passing game and everything else stays vanilla.

THE DEFENSIVE MATCHUP I'M WATCHING IS... Heavy rotation in Michigan's two-deep vs. any Gopher on the field. Countess' debut last week was a pleasant surprise. Let's see more of that. Other players I'll be watching for include Desmond Morgan, Raymon Taylor, Carvin Johnson, Frank Clark and of course Cam, who is expected to return, and Herron, who is still a bit of a mystery. The defensive unit played its best game last week so let's hope they can replicate their performance and continue improving. I'll feel more comfortable that 2011 is not 2009/2010 if we kick off Big Ten season without an Indiana-style shootout.

IF I HAD ONE WISH ON SPECIAL TEAMS IT'D BE... It's already come true. Hagerup is back! And I actually believe Hoke when he says Gibbons missed FG was a fluke. Let's see a 30-35 yarder go through the uprights, eh?

Injuries. Knock on a thousand pieces of wood. Also, is it weird that when I see Fitz or Smith get slammed in the middle of a pile, all I can think is "Thank god that is not Denard."? Also seriously, Woolfolk, make it through the game and I'll be pumped.

How often do I get to post
a picture of Michael Schofield?
I AM COMFORTABLE WITH... Schofield. Barnum should get tomorrow off to recover from last week's injury so it's Schofield at LG. I had a brief Twitter conversation with The Wolverine Blog's new writer, Jeff Wickman (@JWick180), about Schofield vs. Barnum. He prefers Schofield anyway and I semi-agreed: I think Barnum's better when he actually connects on blocks but he often whiffs or finds himself blocking nobody. Either way, it shouldn't be a noticeable change.

Nebraska @ Wisconsin. Yup. Also, check out Mike's picks this week. I agree with his introduction about how weird it is to root for Illinois, Wisco and even Ohio State because of how the teams are separated into divisions.

BOLD PREDICTION... Borges comes out throwing. And by that, I mean Denard will get 20-25 attempts which is a lot for him. Seriously, nothing about Notre Dame was real.

ALMOST FORGOT... Nothing. On a side note, the game is a "Maize Out", which has lost its allure (if it had any at all) since the marketing strategy is being deployed against teams like Minnesota. The Hoover Street Rag has an excellent rant on this.

GAME PREDICTION... Denard comes out firing with mixed but improved results. It's still mostly a heavy and steady dose of Fitz and Smith though. Michigan takes an early lead and puts this away mid-way through the 3rd quarter. The Little Brown Jug decides to buy instead of rent in Ann Arbor; that thing isn't going anywhere. Michigan 38-10.

1 comment:

  1. Mich is also undefeated against Indiana going 2-0 under RRod