Ahh, a rival we could beat.
Michigan-Minnesota has been blunted by years of lopsided victories, but it's hard not to find something soothing in a rivalry game we can perform well in and get a win out of. It's a game steeped in history and Big Ten tradition. It's also a battle for an oversized jug.
In a football sense, this is a matchup of two interestingly flawed teams. On the one hand, there's Minnesota, daring teams to stack the box and making Big Fans wonder how much they pay their quarterbacks coach. On the other hand, there's Michigan, stricken with turnovers, falling every week to a million little cuts, and making fans wonder when it will ever click.
The two squads might play ugly ball, but it's an intriguing matchup for Big Ten fans. Can David Cobb carry his team in the Big Ten season? How good is he, anyway? Will Devin Gardner (or Shane Morris) lead a group of increasingly impugned receivers to a victory - or, instead, can Derrick Green lead a group of young linemen to greater respect? On the one sideline, a likeable coach, coaching for his Michigan career, and on the other, a likeable coach and the darling of his program. The two square off at 3:30, and it's hard to find a better start to the non-conference campaign.
How to witness
TV: 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC.
Radio: WWJ, AM Radio 950, Sirius Radio, Channel 113, and XM radio, Channel 195.
Minnesota gains 70% of its offense the hard way, while Michigan has allowed 4 rushing yards in the first half of the last two games (1 yard rushing to Miami of Ohio, 3 to Utah). The Wolverines have really started clicking on the defensive front, also getting 11 tackles for loss in their last outing. Overall, the defense has held three of their four opponents to their lowest totals of the year, and has yet to give up 300 yards.
On the other side, Minnesota's offense has slipped slightly from a group that was second-last in the Big Ten a year ago. The Gophers were without Mitch Leidner for about five quarters of that, but against TCU the Leidner-led offense didn't score a point. They are optimistic he can play this Saturday, which would help. Michigan isn't quite as good as TCU's group (TCU is 2nd in total defense; the Wolverines are 8th), but it will be another stiff test for Jerry Kill.
Three names to know
Of course, Berkley Edwards. The prodigal son returns as the backup running back in his redshirt freshman year. He would only have one more chance, as a senior, to play in the Big House. Expect Kill to try to get the ball in his hands and work around that Michigan defensive front. Minnesota's offensive line hasn't looked dominant, but instead reliant on its running playmakers. Edwards will be in that mix, and might be the most creatively used.
Another name to look out for is Devin Funchess. Minnesota's corners have registered a ton of takeaways, and Funchess has been the focal point of the offense, and occasionally a focal point for turnovers. How he performs will be critical for Michigan to manage a win.
Finally, keep an eye out for middle linebacker Damien Wilson. Cornerback Eric Murray is fun to watch as well (and he leads an underrated group of corners), but he doesn't make as many plays as some other All-Big Ten types at other positions do. Wilson, on the other hand, is one of the leading tacklers of the Big Ten and mans the middle of a good-tackling defense. He'll be all over the field on Saturday.
Dedicate yourself to a little light cleaning done beforehand - perhaps with some hot apple cider? Then, keep on eye on your local movie theater times for anything that looks interesting. Win, lose, or draw, take yourself out afterward and forget about the oncoming cold and the general struggles of the football team. Guardians of the Galaxy got high reviews, and The Equalizer is out this weekend, as well. There aren't many good primetime games this week, anyway - just Missouri-South Carolina, for those of you who aren't SEC'ed out. And if, by some terrible chance, Michigan is losing big to Minnesota.... go ahead and make it a matinee.