Minnesota vs. Michigan: Don't Buy the Wolverine Hype Just Yet

Zach TravisContributor IOctober 1, 2011

ANN ARBOR, MI - OCTOBER 01:  Kevin Koger #86 of the Michigan Wolverines scores on an 18-yard touchdown pass from teammate Denard Robinson #16 during the second quarter of the game against the Minnesota Golden Gophers at Michigan Stadium on October 1, 2011 in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
Leon Halip/Getty Images

It wasn't much of a game in Ann Arbor this afternoon.

Minnesota entered the Big House and promptly gave up scoring drives on the first six Wolverine possessions, including three passing touchdowns to the otherwise shaky Michigan passing offense led by Denard Robinson.

The numbers tell the story.  Minnesota didn't convert one third down (out of 11 tries).  Max Shortell completed just 50 percent of his passes for 104 yards and 4.7 yards per attempt.  Minnesota was penalized nine times for 74 yards.

Meanwhile, Michigan gained 580 total yards on 8.7 yards per pass attempt and 7.6 yards per carry.  Five Wolverine rushers went over 50 yards, including Fitzgerald Toussaint's 108 yards on 11 carries.  Denard Robinson completed 78 percent of his passes for 169 yards and two touchdowns.

Things are looking good for the Wolverines, right?

As Lee Corso would say, "Not so fast my friend."  Keep in mind these three things when you put the Wolverine's dominating victory into perspective.

First, Minnesota quarterback Marqueis Gray warmed up for the game, but he did not dress due to an injury.  In his place, freshman Max Shortell got the start.  While Shortell is probably the equivalent to Gray as a passer, the Gophers missed what is arguably their best rushing option when Gray was relegated to the bench.

Going into the game, Gray was the sixth leading rusher in the Big Ten with 87 yards per game on almost five yards per rush.  Without Gray's ability to move the chains with his feet, the Gophers missed a crucial part of the offense.

ANN ARBOR, MI - SEPTEMBER 17: Kevin Koger #86 of the University of Michigan Wolverines scores on a 9 yard touchdown pass from Denard Robinson #16 in the second quarter of the game against Eastern Michigan Eagles at Michigan Stadium on September 17, 2011 i
Leon Halip/Getty Images

Second, to start the season, MInnesota's secondary consisted of:

- CB Troy Stoudemire: converted WR.

- S Kim Royston: missed all of 2010 with a broken leg.

- S Shady Salamon: former running back, first year defensive player.

- CB Brock Vereen: four career starts.

That isn't exactly a deep and experienced unit.  In fact, it is a grab bag of position switches and pure, 100 percent suck.

Denard Robinson has looked anywhere from average (WMU) to bad (everything else).  While the Wolverines put together a strong game through the air today, it must be taken with a grain of salt when one considers just how bad Minnesota's defensive back four are.

Third, Minnesota made a number of large mistakes that cost them field position and points early in the game.

At a few points in the first couple drives, the Wolverines pulled out a diamond formation that put Denard Robinson at one of the wing-back positions and Devin Gardner under center.  All these plays picked up decent yardage and caught Minnesota off guard.

On top of that, Minnesota was penalized six more times for 50 yards, most of these negating big special teams plays (such as a long punt return and a kickoff return for a touchdown).  Michigan didn't shoot itself in the foot, but it can't expect teams to triple the Wolverine's penalty yardage every game.

The Wolverines can hang their hat on one thing: The first game of the Big Ten season wasn't a nail-biter like the last two against Indiana.

While this game isn't a sign of bad things to come, Wolverine fans won't learn anything about their team until next week when Michigan visits Northwestern.