Battle for the Jug Prediction

As Michigan and Minnesota prepare to meet for the 100th time Saturday in Ann Arbor, questions still surround the Michigan program and the direction Team 134 is heading. After two less than stellar performances against a couple of the more putrid teams in college football, a bye week couldn’t have come at a better time.

The same Devin Gardner who showed absolute brilliance Under the lights against Notre Dame, sans an ill advised pick 6 while being pressured, has turned the ball over 7 times total the past two weeks. Part can be attributed to inexperience, part due to sub par performance in the interior of the offensive line, but most importantly, Devin has played like a player that feels like he has to do it all. There were times scattered throughout the game at UCONN, where Devin just looked scared. He was aiming the ball, instead of throwing it. He looked quite simply like a quarterback who felt like he had to make the perfect pass.

Up front it appears that there will be a shakeup , with Graham Glasgow sliding over from guard to center, and RS Sophomore Chris Bryant entering the lineup at guard. Many reports coming in fall camp had Bryant starting before an injury slowed him. Michigan will likely give up some of the stretch runs, and try to pound between the tackles a bit more. There is no doubt that it may take some time to get acclimated but it gives Michigan a much better chance to keep Devin out of the 3rd and long situations which have resulted many of his turnovers. There is non doubt that this offense has potential to be explosive, if it can gain positive yards on first and second down and reduce their turnovers significantly.

On the defensive side of the ball, there have been some bright spots, even with the offense putting them in sudden change situations time and time again. It’s a fast and aggressive team, and while they seem to play more of a bend but don’t break style, they tighten up when the field is tilted to their side. It’s got playmakers, albeit inexperienced ones, and needs reps. It will also greatly benefit when Jake Ryan returns at some point this month. I think at some point Mattison will take them back to basics, and try more to keep it simple. Some of the inexperience in the secondary have limited his ability to dial up blitzes from all over, and when teams play max protect and have 6-7 guys staying in to block, generating pass rush has been difficult when they rush 4. Some of that will change when Ryan returns.

At the end of the day, Michigan should do a better job of running the football this week after the change in the OL, and much of the pressure should be off the shoulders of Devin Gardner.

A long ways to go, but Michigan gets it done this week. Michigan 34, Minnesota, 20.

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Minnesota Game Prediction

Michigan heads to Minnesota in another (nearly) annual battle for the Little Brown Jug. After finishing with an amazingly perfect record playing in the Metrodome, Michigan
takes its first crack in the new TCF Bank stadium. 

Normally, even with Denard possibly out, beating Minnesota wouldn’t be all that difficult. But given that Michigan has been held to a pedestrian 21 points total the past two weeks (via. FG no less) nothing is a given, especially after Minnesota was running roughshod over Purdue last weekend.

We’re not even certain the folks inside the usually impenetrable Fort Schembechler know whether Denard will play (although I have a suspicion he will). Hoke told us Devin Gardner took a good deal of snaps this week at QB, and I suspect that even if Denard goes, that he will get some meaningful snaps.

We’ve been waiting 2/3 of the season for Fitz Touissant to have a breakthrough game. Will this be the week? My thought is he will, as will Thomas Rawls, who many have been clamoring to see more action. Much of this will be due to a greater push by a somewhat disappointing performance to date by a veteran, yet relatively inexperienced offensive line. 

Michigan should win this game, if nothing else based on its defense. Even with an offense struggling to move the ball a yard, the Michigan defense played quite admirably last week against a stellar Nebraska offense. While Philip Nelson, a true freshman QB looked good against Purdue last weekend, he hasn’t had Greg Mattison calling plays against him yet. Huge advantage Michigan.

Michigan 27, Minnesota 13

Editor’s Note: Our Recruiting Analyst, Sean O’Connell, will be there in person to cheer on the Wolverines. Go Blue!

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Grading The Performance: Minnesota

Photo Gallery from Michigan’s 58-0 Thumping of Minnesota

Quarterback

What a bounce back game for Denard Robinson. Amid all the criticism, scrutiny, and even calls for a QB change, Denard came out and produced his best game of the season from a passing perspective. Denard was accurate, efficient, and looked completely comfortable in the pocket, something we haven’t seen from him  since last season. Despite what some may consider a paltry amount of yards this is just the kind of performance Michigan needs the rest of the way through. 15-19, 169yds, 2 TD, 0 INT is the stat line, though I am just as excited about the decision making and the ease at which Denard made completion after completion. When he is in his comfort zone Denard IS a good passer, he showed that on Saturday and hopefully keeps it up the rest of the season. Maybe Denard should have his elbow drained before every game considering the results.

Devin Gardner certainly showed flashes of the ability that made him such a highly rated QB coming out of HS. His passing was a bit hit or miss but there were limited opportunities. Devin is certainly not afraid to thread passes into tight windows as he did on the run to Hemingway.

Grade: B+

Running Back

If Michigan gave out helmet stickers, Vincent Smith would have trouble finding room after Saturday. On Saturday, Smith became the first player in Michigan history to record a passing, rushing, and receiving TD in the same game. Not bad for a prospect out of “The Muck” of Pahokee who was deemed too short and too small by most of the “experts” and coaches in the country. Fitz Toussaint continues to impress with his combination of speed and power. Fitz averaged a Denard Robinson like 9.8 yard per carry on Saturday. He did get caught from behind again, which has happened quite a few times this season. True freshman Thomas Rawls was impressive in his first clip getting extended carries. I`m still not crazy about burning his redshirt, but he definitely had his moments on Saturday. Even Mike Shaw finally got back into the act and had a lot of success on limited carries, especially on the cutback plays.

Grade: A

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