The Michigan Wolverines (5-3, 3-1) travel to Minneapolis to try to salvage their season against the Minnesota Golden Gophers (5-3, 1-3).
Last week, the Wolverines dropped a disappointing Legends division loss to the now-leading Nebraska Cornhuskers. Quarterback Denard Robinson left the game in the second quarter with an elbow injury, and the Wolverines were unable to do anything without him in the game.
Michigan is now tied with the Cornhuskers, but Nebraska holds the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Wolverines.
Minnesota, on the other hand, started off the season hot by winning four straight games but has struggled since beginning Big Ten conference play. They’ve won just one game, and that came last week against Purdue.
They won with a surprisingly potent offense under freshman quarterback Phillip Nelson and a staunch defense led by cornerback Michael Carter. Carter had a pick-six and broke up six passes in coverage.
However, the win came with standout junior wide receiver A.J. Barker having a huge 135-yard and two-touchdown performance. He’s questionable to play this week against the Wolverines.
When: Saturday, Nov. 3 at Noon p.m. ET
Where: TCF Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, Min.
Watch: Big Ten Network
Live Stream: BTN Live (Must have BTN as part of cable subscription)
Radio: Free Football Radio
Betting Line (via BetOnline)
Over/Under: 47.5, Spread: Michigan (-12.5)
Take both the over and the -12.5 points for the Wolverines if Denard Robinson starts for the Wolverines. That should be the case head coach Brady Hoke said on Monday, according to Michael Rothstein on ESPN.com.
Both teams can play some defense, but both teams have shown the ability to go off on any given week, and it will likely turn into a Legends division slugfest at the Gopher Hole on Saturday.
Injury Report (via USA Today)
Denard Robinson, QB, Questionable (Elbow)
Frank Clark, DE, Questionable (Ankle)
Ed Olson, OL, Questionable (Foot)
Foster Bush, OL, Questionable (Foot)
A.J. Barker, WR, Doubtful (Ankle)
BCS/Top 25 Implications
Like the rest of the Big Ten, neither of these two teams are legitimate BCS contenders in 2012. Michigan recently fell out of the Top 25 after their loss last week against Nebraska. Frankly, winning over the Golden Gophers will not be enough to put the three-loss Wolverines back into any Top 25 ranking.
Minnesota has dramatically improved in all areas of the game this season but is still a ways away from being a BCS contender.
Michigan Player to Watch: Denard Robinson, QB
It’s clear that the Wolverines offense is completely reliant on the legs of Denard Robinson. His team put up just nine points against Nebraska last week after he left the game in the second quarter with an elbow ailment.
Robinson aggravated the ulnar nerve in his throwing (right) elbow and was unable to grab the football as a result. As mentioned, head coach Brady Hoke has given his vote of confidence in Robinson’s availability this week.
Minnesota Player to Watch: Phillip Nelson, QB
Freshman quarterback Phillip Nelson has just two starts under his belt. The first went with mixed results in a lopsided loss to the Wisconsin Badgers on Oct. 20. Last week, though, Nelson guided the Golden Gophers’ offense to 44 points and a victory over Purdue.
His 15-of-22 completion performance included 246 yards passing and three touchdowns in the big win. Those efforts were good enough to secure him the Big Ten Player of the Week on ESPN’s Big Ten Blog.
Prediction: Michigan 34, Minnesota 23
Without A.J. Barker, the new-look Golden Gophers offense will struggle to put up the numbers it did just a week ago against the Purdue Boilermakers. Barker is leading the team with 30 receptions for 577 yards and seven touchdowns. Isaac Fruechte, the next most productive receiver has just 13 catches for 193 yards and two touchdowns.
Denard Robinson and the Michigan ground game will be tested early, but the Golden Gophers have not faced a dynamic talent like Robinson yet this season. They’re already allowing 178 yards per game on the ground, and the Wolverines are going to exploit that with a heavy dose of Robinson and Fitzgerald Toussaint.
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