Preview: Michigan vs. Minnesota

Preview: Michigan vs. Minnesota

September 30, 2011
Good looking Minnesota girls are tough to find.

Rush Offense vs. Minnesota Rush Defense
Last week the Gophers allowed the much heralded D.J. McNorton to run for 92 yards and 1 touchdown on 13 carries.  McNorton plays for the North Dakota State Fighting Sioux Baby Rabbits, who have been terrorizing the likes of St. Francis and Lafayette so far this year.  North Dakota State’s quarterback added 37 yards on 6 carries.  Extrapolate that out over Denard Robinson’s 21 carries a game (minus the shortened Western Michigan exhibition) multiplied by Robinson’s talent, and that means Robinson alone should have approximately 800 yards rushing.  Factor in eight handoffs to Fitzgerald Toussaint, five to Vincent Smith, and one fumble by Stephen Hopkins, and Michigan should rush for close to 300 yards.
Advantage: Michigan

Pass Offense vs. Minnesota Pass Defense
Cripple fight!  This is going to be like Stephen Hawking vs. Christopher Reeve Larry Flynt.  Denard’s passes are allergic to wide open receivers, and so are Minnesota’s defensive backs.  Denard will complete approximately seven passes; four of them will be hitches while he rolls to the receiver’s side, two will be play action slants over the middle, and one will be a screen pass.  The other eight passes will fall harmlessly to the ground or hit the umpire in the face.
Advantage: Stephen Hawking

Rush Defense vs. Minnesota Rush Offense
This all depends on whether quarterback MarQueis Gray – who’s questionable for Saturday – plays or not.  Historically, Michigan has trouble with running quarterbacks (who doesn’t?), and Gray is averaging almost 88 yards a game.  Gray was a wide receiver last year and probably should still be a wide receiver, because he’s 6’4″, 240 lbs. and throws like a punter.  Starting running back Duane Bennett is scary in the same way that every running back has been scary over the last few years; he’s not very good but Michigan has the ability to turn him into a quality back for a week.
Advantage: Minnesota

Pass Defense vs. Minnesota Pass Offense
Gray is barely completing 50% of his passes, and that’s true no matter what caliber of defense he’s facing.  He targets wideout Da’Jon McKnight most often, and McKnight is actually a decent player.  He’s 6’3″ and 211 lbs. and while he doesn’t have great speed, he has decent hands and provides a big target.  McKnight caught 9 passes for 146 yards against New Mexico State a few weeks ago.  Other than McKnight there aren’t many big threats to catch the ball.  Meanwhile, Michigan has been picking up the pass rush over the past couple weeks, and the Gophers are allowing 2.5 sacks a game.  Backup quarterback Max Shortell has red hair and, as we all learned from the NFL Draft this past year, no good quarterback has ever been a redhead.
Advantage: Michigan

Player notes

  • Michigan recruited Minnesota LB Keanon Cooper out of Dallas (TX) Skyline a few years ago
  • Michigan also recruited Minnesota LB Brendan Beal, who chose the Florida Gators before transferring to Minnesota
  • Minnesota WR J.D. Pride was Seantrel Henderson’s best friend and the guy Minnesota offered in the hopes of Henderson becoming a Gopher.  Henderson went to USC Miami, anyway.  And as if this wasn’t apparent enough in the first place, Pride has been deemed unworthy at quarterback and is now buried on the bench at wideout.
  • Former Michigan OG Tim McAvoy has two younger brothers – twins Kyle and Luke – who are freshmen on the offensive line for the Gophers.
  • Denard runs for 120 yards before getting knocked out of the game
  • If Gray plays, Michigan gets a pick six.  If Shortell plays, Michigan gets four sacks.
  • Michigan breaks two 40+ yard runs
  • Devin Gardner scores a touchdown
  • Michigan 38, Minnesota 14


  1. Comments: 21384
    Sep 30, 2011 at 11:17 AM

    Pam Ward and Ray Bentley…can there be a worse announcing tandem?

  2. Comments: 21384
    Sep 30, 2011 at 12:51 PM

    I frequently quibble with the way statistics are used here to support dubious assertions, but I have to say that the Run O vs Minn D section above is spot on…

    I think Borges is going to get Denard going with a lot of short-passing this week. The biggest characteristic I've seen from our OC is being pragmatic, and he knows the offensive weakness right now is passing accuracy. Against a team like Minnesota, he'll work to address that. Denard should get 12-15 completions in before (hopefully)Gardner gets his chance. 34-10

  3. Comments: 21384
    Sep 30, 2011 at 1:00 PM

    Lankownia nailed it with Borges the Pragmatist. I think that is the very reason Borges tried and tried to get Denard to complete the mid to long-range pass (practice, practice, practice), and it is the same reason he will revert Denard to a short-passing game this weekend. I also think Thunder is spot on with Denard getting knocked out of the game – either this game or the next. He wont got knocked out as much as last year due to his increased muscle mass, but its coming. I think we continue to see overall improvement, however. That is the strength Hoke brings – he wont let these guys let themselves, or the grand Michigan Idea, down.

  4. Comments: 21384
    Sep 30, 2011 at 2:10 PM

    I think Denard will get knocked out too, at some point, but I'm thinking it'll come against a more physically imposing (or even downright dirty) team like MSU.

    O Goals for Minn:
    1. Get Denard going passing
    2. Keep the RBs productive
    3. Get Gardner work

    D Goals for Minn:
    1. Contain the running QB (assuming Gray)
    2. Contain the passing game (assuming the other QB)
    3. Keep up the no-big-play policy

    We're going to face a lot of spread attacks in the weeks to come, but Minn is the first real test of Mattison vs a spread/running QB.

  5. Comments: 21384
    Sep 30, 2011 at 2:19 PM

    After watching that highlight from 2008 I am saddened by the fact that Sheridammit is a better passer on the move than Denard.

  6. Comments: 21384
    Sep 30, 2011 at 4:22 PM

    Magnus, I agree with a lot of what you have to say. But you don't feel our run D has the advantage on their run O? I think we'll hold them to less than 150 yards rushing between their quarterback and running back. We held SDSU to 123 yards rushing, when before that they were averaging 221. Minn is only averaging 174/gm right now.

    All around rushing categories, advantage blue.

  7. Comments: 21384
    Sep 30, 2011 at 4:33 PM

    @ Anonymous 12:22 p.m.

    The only game where Michigan has successfully tamped down the opponent's running game was EMU, which was overmatched physically. We gave up lots of yardage to Notre Dame, WMU's running back averaged 6.5 yards a carry, and SDSU's Hillman had 109 yards and averaged 5.2 yards a pop. I don't think Michigan will have an advantage in stopping the run until they can hold a legitimate back under 100 yards. Perhaps I'm jaded from the last three years of terrible defense, but I'll believe that Minnesota (and other Big Ten teams) will rip off chunks of yards in the running game until they don't.

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