By Mike Hendrickson
Minnesota interim head coach Tracy Claeys will have his hands full against No. 15 Michigan in his first game after being promoted Wednesday. A full breakdown and score prediction can be seen below:
When Minnesota runs the ball:
The first-year dynamic duo of Shannon Brooks and Rodney Smith did not do too well Nebraska’s stiff rushing defense two weeks ago. Michigan won’t be an easy opponent for them to rebound against, as their rushing defense is ranked first in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
Matchup to watch: Shannon Brooks vs. Willie Henry
When Michigan runs the ball:
Michigan’s running game has been a big part of their success this year. Junior running back De’Veon Smith has been a force this season with 436 yards and Minnesota’s rushing defense may struggle to stop him. The Gophers have allowed 151.4 rushing yards a game, and are coming into the game with a few injuries. Redshirt junior defensive lineman Scott Ekpe is listed as questionable going into the game and senior defensive lineman Alex Keith is nursing a broken hand that he suffered before the game against Nebraska.
Matchup to watch: De’Veon Smith vs. Steven Richardson
When Minnesota passes the ball:
Redshirt junior quarterback Mitch Leidner is facing his toughest matchup of the season when he takes the field Saturday against Michigan’s secondary. The Wolverine’s passing defense is third in the FBS in passing yards allowed and that’s even after Michigan State senior quarterback Connor Cook had 328 yards against them two weeks ago. Leidner is not nearly as talented as Cook, and Michigan’s stingy cornerbacks junior Jourdan Lewis and senior Jeremy Clark might hand Leidner his worst game of the season.
Matchup to watch: KJ Maye vs. Jourdan Lewis
When Michigan passes the ball:
Minnesota has three very talented defensive backs in junior Jalen Myrick, senior Eric Murray and redshirt senior Briean Boddy-Calhoun who should be able to shut down Michigan’s passing game. However, the unit will be looking for turnovers as well. Wolverines’ quarterback Jake Rudock has six interceptions this season compared to five touchdowns and Minnesota is a lot healthier in the secondary then they were two weeks ago.
Matchup to watch: Jalen Myrick vs. Amara Darboh
Other key factors:
Minnesota will be without their leader on the sidelines, after Jerry Kill announced his sudden retirement on Wednesday. It’s difficult to predict how it will affect the Gophers either way on Saturday.
Both teams had a bye week to stew over tough losses from two weeks ago. The Wolverines lost on a drop snap to in-state rival Michigan State and the Gophers were blown out 48-25 by Nebraska. Each will be seeking a round victory.
Michigan 28, Minnesota 10
Throwing out the circumstances surrounding the Gophers, Michigan is an incredibly strong team and Minnesota will find themselves overpowered by the Wolverine’s defense. Michigan will get back the Little Brown Jug.