Much of the conversation this week has focused around Michigan's backup quarterbacks. Coach Brady Hoke and offensive coordinator Al Borges have made it known that Devin Gardner will be competing with Russell Bellomy for the backup slot.
Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill has a larger concern. It's Denard Robinson, who, when healthy, can usually win games by himself.
"There's nobody like him. You know what I mean? He's electrifying in college football. He's worth going to see," Kill said as he spoke to the Minnesota media.
From that first touchdown run in 2009, Robinson has continued to be a non-stop highlight reel. All it takes is the tiniest of seams, and Shoelace is racing toward the house.
Without diving too deep into statistics, Robinson could soon be the NCAA career leader in rushing yards by a quarterback. The senior speedster needs just 305 yards to surpass West Virginia's Pat White, who played from 2005-08. Robinson is also Michigan's career total offense leader with 10,425 yards, well beyond Chad Henne's 9,400 (2004-07).
Despite the nagging elbow injury, Robinson will play Saturday at Minnesota (5-3, 1-3). Trainers are creating a protective sleeve for his throwing arm.
Even if he's not quite 100 percent, preparing for him is no picnic.
"I don't think you can," Kill added. "You try, but I don't think you can. That is the hard thing. You can't simulate somebody with that much speed and quickness."
Although it's been rare this season, Michigan (5-3, 3-1) found out what it's like without Robinson in the lineup.
Wolverine backup Russell Bellomy was hardly ready for Nebraska, and the Michigan coaches took heat for not having Gardner ready too.
"You can’t rep three quarterbacks and prepare him (Gardner) to play wide receiver too," Borges said at his weekly press conference. "That’s impossible. There’s not enough plays in practice. You gotta make a decision where he’s going to help your team the most and go from there.”
Minnesota's quarterbacks have also been on a merry-go-round. Freshman Phil Nelson, who will start against Michigan, is the Gophers' third starter this season. MarQueis Gray (ankle) and Max Shortell (neck) have been fighting injuries.
Nelson, who has averaged 198 yards passing and 52 yards rushing in his first two starts, is a pretty good dual-threat quarterback himself.
In fact, he threw three touchdown passes in Minnesota's 44-28 victory last week over Purdue.
"I thought he played outstanding," Kill said in his postgame press conference. "We were able to move the chains and score touchdowns, and he was accurate on the deep ball. We actually dropped a couple, which was unfortunate, or he would have had an even bigger day."
Against Michigan, Nelson should get his toughest test.
"I think it's the toughest defense we've seen to this point in time," Kill added. "That's not to disrespect anybody. It's just the truth. They make you earn it."
Michigan leads the nation in pass defense, allowing just 145.2 yards per game, and is ninth in total defense, giving up 290.4.
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