Minnesota Looking to Make It a Rivalry Once More with Michigan

Jason BarczyCorrespondent INovember 7, 2008

Michigan Wolverines (2-7, 1-4) at Minnesota Golden Gophers (7-2, 3-2)

Saturday, Nov. 8 noon at Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome

Line: Minnesota -7.5

For a long time, as long as I can remember, Michigan has had just three rivalries. Ohio State, Michigan State and Notre Dame.

It wasn't until high school that I was first introduced to the Little Brown Jug and it was even longer till I learned what it was all about.

Come to find out, Minnesota and Michigan use to be fierce, bitter rivals back in the day and the Little Brown Jug is the oldest trophy handed out in college football history.

But this hasn't been much of a rivalry in quite some time. The Wolverines hold a 69-24-3 record against the Golden Gophers including wins in 35 of the last 38 matches, in fact Michigan has won 51 of the last 63.

Minnesota recently broke a 16 year losing streak against Michigan in 2005 but Michigan was quick to regain the Little Brown Jug in '06 and dominated in '07.

The Wolverines are 31-12-2 at Minnesota and 11-0 at the Metrodome. Minnesota hasn't won a home game against Michigan since 1977 and are since 0-13.

So yeah, not much of a rivalry if you ask me. But this being the 96th meeting between the two and the 90th where the Little Brown Jug was at stake I guess it's a little important.

Tim Brewster, in his second season at Minnesota, is trying to pull a Dantonio by putting more emphasis on this game. This week Brewster placed an empty trophy case in the players locker room that'll hold the Little Brown Jug if Minnesota wins it back.

Once again it's that same old adage I've been clinging to all year. Minnesota is due to get a win against Michigan just like a lot of teams are and this is the best year to do so.

On to the matchups.

Michigan Pass Offense vs. Minnesota Pass Defense

As if things couldn't get possibly worse it just did this week with the news that Steven Threet suffered a concussion near the end of the Purdue game and is more than likely out for this game.

You know what that means Wolverines fans. Yup, you guessed it.

Nick "Human White Flag" Sheridan will be your starting quarterback this week.

My only hope is that after Rich Rodriguez burned Justin Feagin's redshirt on a special teams play last week, we'll see a little of him at QB.

Anything would be better than letting "Human White Flag" play for an extended period of time in this game. Even putting David Cone in would give me relief.

Does anyone want to put an over/under on how many panic balls Sheridan throws up into the air?

Minnesota isn't too spectacular in pass defense ranking 82nd and giving up 230 yards per game.

Traye Simmons leads the team with four picks including one for a touchdown and the team has 14 total interceptions.

Check out this name. Willie VanDeSteeg, yeah, leads the team with 7.5 sacks on a team with 24 for the season that is sure to tee off against Sheridan.

Advantage: Minnesota

Michigan Run Offense vs. Minnesota Run Defense

Brandon Minor has been great lately but before I pronounce him and the running game as the best unit on the team I want to see them put it together for two consecutive games.

Against Penn State, Minor had a stellar day. But against MSU he disappeared only to bounce back in the Purdue game with another great day.

Minor is averaging 5.5 yards per rush and has eight touchdowns as the run blocking has improved steadily as the season has progressed. That was expected with Rodriguez though who has featured magnificent rushing attacks over his career.

Minnesota is pretty good stopping the run this season ranking 53rd giving up 132.4 yards per game.

VanDeSteeg, Garrett Brown and Lee Campbell have all been solid run stuffers combining for 25 tackles for loss between the three.

Michigan has managed to move up to 67th in rushing offense so this battle will be really tough.

Once again it'll be the running game's responsibility to keep Michigan in the game. If it falters early on, don't expect a close game.

Oh yeah, no word on Sam McGuffie yet with the exception of RichRod saying he'll be back to Jim Brandstater on the new show Inside Michigan Football which I'm watching right now as we speak.

But who really considers that credible?

Advantage: Even

Minnesota Pass Offense vs. Michigan Pass Defense

Sophomore quarterback Adam Weber has been amazing for the Golden Gophers.

Weber has an efficiency rating of 137.1 and a completion percentage of 66 while compiling 2,151 yards, 11 touchdowns and just four interceptions.

By now we've all heard about Eric Decker but Minnesota has some other good receivers being overlooked and are probably the main reason Decker has been so successful.

Five other receivers other than Decker average more than ten yards per catch including Jack Simmons who also has a couple touchdowns.

The Golden Gophers rank 36th in pass offense averaging 240 yards per game so look for Minnesota to have it's way with Michigan's pass defense.

Speaking of that unit just makes me sick to my stomach so I'm going to skip any all references to that part of the team.

Advantage: Minnesota

Minnesota Run Offense vs. Michigan Run Defense

The Golden Gophers don't have much of a running game. Coming into this week ranked 94th averaging 120 yards per game is not much to talk about.

Freshman DeLeon Eskridge is Minnesota's leading rusher with 535 yards, seven touchdowns and 3.7 yards per carry.

Still Minnesota seems to spread their running game around and has accumulated 17 rushing touchdowns.

Michigan's run defense has faltered as of late slipping in the rankings all the way to 64th so who knows what to expect.

It's been too easy for opponents to double up on Terrance Taylor and Will Johnson taking Michigan's defensive tackles out of the game.

Brandon Graham has been doing all he can, unfortunately it's just not enough. And that's not a knock on him, it's a knock on the rest of the team for not following his example.

Still you would figure that a 64th ranked rush defense is better than a 94th ranked rush offense.

Advantage: Michigan

Special Teams

Michigan has come leaps and bounds in the return game from where it was the first few weeks of the season.

Subtract Martavious Odoms fumble last week and the return game has been absolutely stellar.

K.C. Lopata hasn't had an opportunity to screw up lately which means one of two things. 1. He's worked out his demons or, 2. it's just waiting to happen.

Minnesota kicker Joel Monroe is just 9-for-13 with misses coming as close as 20 yards out.

However the Golden Gophers have a kick/punt returner to worry about a little. Troy Stoudemire is averaging over 25 yards a return with a long of 48.

But Michigan has Zoltan "Space Emporer" Mesko to take that element out of the game.

Advantage: Michigan

Final Thoughts and Prediction

Well there's one more thing Michigan can do this week and that's lose eight games in a season for the first time in history.

Of course going back to 1962, the last time Michigan won just two games in season, they didn't play as many games as they do now.

And with this being a season of firsts Michigan fans would all like to forget this will be just one more thing to pile on the list.

Besides, it's time Minnesota made this somewhat of a rivalry once again.

Prediction: Minnesota 38, Michigan 24


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