Minnesota vs. Michigan: Why Wolverines Will Keep the Little Brown Jug

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Minnesota vs. Michigan: Why Wolverines Will Keep the Little Brown Jug
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan hasn’t lost the Little Brown Jug to Minnesota since the 2005 Gophers beat the Wolverines by a field goal in Ann Arbor.

That was also the last time that Minnesota managed to score more than two touchdowns against its rival. It is averaging 34.8 points per game this year but mustered just seven against its first conference opponent last week. Iowa prevailed in Minneapolis by a count of 23-7.

Minnesota sophomore quarterback Philip Nelson completed 50 percent of his passes and threw two interceptions. He’s thrown four on the year against just two touchdowns. Michigan, meanwhile, is coming off a bye, but has already intercepted six passes on the year.

Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

In their 100th meeting with the Gophers, the Wolverines should be able to force Nelson into turning the ball over. They’ve recorded at least one pick in each game this season and are scheduled to face a passer who has nearly as many interceptions (12) as total touchdowns (13) on his resume.

The Gophers’ productive rushing attack also stalled once their conference play started. David Cobb and Rodrick Williams Jr. are averaging more than five yards per carry this season, but they combined for 42 yards on 15 carries against the Hawkeyes.

Iowa was also able to control the clock (36:01 to 23:59), collecting twice as many first downs as Minnesota (22 to 11) and recording just six fewer rushes (45) than the Gophers had total plays on offense (51).

Allowing that level of ball control translates into a very tired Minnesota defense. Michigan will gladly follow suit and run 40 times in this matchup—it is averaging over 41 totes per game.

The Wolverines have not been dominant recently, though.

Their last two wins—over Akron at home, and at UConn—have been by a combined seven points. If not for a 17-7 second half against the winless Huskies, they would be 3-1 heading into Week 6.

Through his first four appearances, Michigan junior signal-caller Devin Gardner has been good for about 200 passing yards and 75 rushing yards per game. He’s a dual threat and less likely to turn the ball over than his Minnesota counterpart. His total TD-to-INT ratio (12 to 8) is on the good side of 1.0 (1.5), and his go-to guy, Jeremy Gallon, has already matched his career high in touchdown receptions for a season.

The elusive Gallon dropped a trio of touchdowns on ranked Notre Dame. Michigan’s leading receiver uses his quickness to find holes in the defense and make plays after the catch. He finished that day with 198 total yards on eight catches and one 14-yard rushing attempt.

Minnesota has allowed at least one pass-catcher to grab five receptions in each game.

Gallon is averaging 5.5 catches per game, with at least four in each appearance. He’ll be looking to replicate the performance of San Jose State senior wideout Chandler Jones, who caught seven balls for 197 yards and put three touchdowns on the Gophers as his Spartans fell to 1-2.

Gallon, of course, will be hoping to contribute to a different result.

 

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