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MnB Staff Roundtable Week Nine: Predicting the Jug Game

Michigan wants their water jug back, but a Jerry Kill-less Minnesota team awaits on Halloween night.

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Knowing that this team has had a week to regroup and forget about Michigan State, what do you hope they worked on in practice ahead of facing Minnesota?

Nick B: Working on blocking, definitely. Blocking gets harder when the opponents are stronger or faster than normal, and we simply did not control the line of scrimmage against MSU. For Jim Harbaugh, that's a bit unforgivable. I'd expect a lot of work on fundamentals and winning the battle up front.

Zach: Power blocking. Michigan hasn't been bad at this, but the thing about Harbaugh's offense is that a certain amount of the run blocking game turns into one of feel and on the fly adjustments to take advantage of the defense trying to get defenders to the point of attack. Michigan just needs to keep repping this stuff so that everyone — from the offensive line to the running backs and fullbacks — is more comfortable executing their assignments.

Also, I'd like to point out that for the first time in years I don't worry one iota about how this team and coaching staff handle practice time. This is a nice feeling.

Kevin: I trust and hope Fisch and Drevno continued to work on Rudock's deep ball. He has come tantalizingly close to hitting Chesson deep in each of Michigan's games. We all know he can do it, but the throw is either too strong or Chesson is too dang fast for Jake to judge it correctly. A completion is coming, and it will go a long way in continuing to validate that this coaching staff is capable of making a quarterback better each week.

Anthony: Go ahead and follow this one in the "beating a dead horse" category, but Michigan absolutely has to fix the passing game. The numbers have been pedestrian all year, and that goes along with the type of quarterback they have, but they have left points and yards on the field all season and even moreso in their two losses to Utah and Michigan State. Nobody's asking Rudock to go out there and air it out for 300 yards, but a few more plays here and there also would open some things up.

Drew: The two main areas of concern have been covered: run-blocking and Jake Rudock's deep ball. If I must lean towards one, it's the former because Michigan will the pound the ball against Minnesota. Michigan's offensive line lost the battle in the trenches against a talented Michigan State defensive line. It wasn't as bad as it may have seemed in real time, but too many missed assignment and bad angles saw promising runs nuked for minimal gain. The offensive line needs to fix that in preparation for Saturday, when Michigan will attempt to grind out yards on the ground against Minnesota's mediocre run defense rather than attack a strong secondary.

Minnesota is a little tough to figure out (winning record but lost their two notable conference games) yet Michigan is a double-digit favorite. Break down why this should be a easy Michigan win. (Note: this was question was posed before Coach Kill's sudden retirement).

Nick B: Well, Mitch Leidner against our secondary is a big mismatch. I liked Minnesota's offense last year when Leidner was asked to rely on his strongest asset - toughness. As a gunslinger, though, Leidner's deficiencies are exposed. Michigan's line will shut down the run, and then the secondary will feast on Leidner's slow throws.

Zach: What's hard to figure out? Minnesota is turrrrrible. The offense is horribly one-dimensional, and not even particularly effective in that dimension. The defense is good, but it has struggled to hold opposing offenses to the negative point totals necessary for a Minnesota victory. Michigan should easily win because I'm having a hard time figuring out how Minnesota even makes it over midfield, much less into the end zone.

Peter: As I said in a comment somewhere else at the site, Minnesota is so bad right now even I won't watch them, and I always watch the Gophers. They were a team playing pretty darn well at the end of last season, and had a lot of high expectations for competing for real in the West. Now, the only Power 5 conference team they've beaten so far is Purdue. That isn't exactly something to get excited about. The Gophers will get two field goals, but no more than that; it's going to be an ugly day in Dinkytown. [Amendment: with the news of Jerry Kill retiring for health reasons, this game is going to be even more special for the Gophers. Although I believe Michigan is still going to win, it may become a bit more competitive. Those kids are going to want to really play hard for their coach and do something big for him.]

Anthony: Michigan's going to win this one big because they are a better football team, regardless of it is on the road or not. Minnesota just hasn't done much to impress this season and I can't find a matchup on the field where they have any advantage in this game.

Drew: Minnesota is not that tough to figure out. Their four wins include three three-point victories against Group of 5 schools and a rout of poor Purdue, and they haven't been that competitive in their three losses to TCU, Northwestern, and Nebraska. Simply, Minnesota is an injury-riddled team with a decent defense but hapless offense. The result: they're not very good.

Though the Gophers may be amped up and try to win this Jerry Kill, that doesn't change the fact that Minnesota has no means to move the ball against Michigan's elite defense. The offensive line is a mess, can't open holes for its running backs, and doesn't give Mitch Leidner enough time to look downfield. Plus, the Gophers' two most explosive skill players from last season -- David Cobb and Maxx Williams -- are gone, and their replacements are not the least bit explosive. So we have a Minnesota offense that can't produce big plays and will have no choice to march the field against Michigan's defense for points. I'm sorry, but that just won't happen.

Michigan caused MSU to waste two timeouts at the mere sight of Jabrill Peppers in the offensive huddle, and gave him the ball anyway. Is this the week he finally scores points?

Nick B: Well, first - that was awesome. My second favorite moment from that game besides Joe Bolden's run around the sideline.

A lot of people have said Jabrill won't be seen again until the Ohio State game, and that makes a lot of sense. I think Harbaugh doesn't want to risk an injury for Jabrill when he means so much to the defense. But I also think Harbaugh might use him if the situation feels right. A potential blowout like Minnesota, though (sorry, Gophers), is the chance to double up on your protein, not eat tiramisu.

Zach: I think it well could be, but I doubt it is on offense. My guess is that Harbaugh and Co. put Peppers back on the shelf offensively. They don't really need him to be competitive in the next handful of games, and anything they do with him will just put stuff on film for OSU. Now, it wouldn't shock me to see him, but I think this staff has been wisely tentative when adding things to Jabrill's plate. For now scoring opportunities will likely come on punt returns and defensive turnovers.

Peter: No way is Peppers on offense this week, but he will score. As we've already stated, Minnesota is really struggling right now, so there's no reason to get too fancy with anything offensively. Like Zach said, the chances for Peppers scoring will come on defense and special teams stuff. The regular Michigan offense will be more than effective enough to put a convincing hurt on the Gophers without needing to add any sort of flash to it.

Anthony: I do think Peppers should continue to get touches on offense, but I'm not sure it happens this week. However, he's damn close to popping one of those returns for a touchdown, so I can definitely see that happening.

Drew: No. One of my 10 predictions for the rest of the season is that Jabrill Peppers won't earn another offensive touch until The Game. Peppers adds an exciting dimension to the offense, but Michigan should win each of its next four games without Peppers' assistance on offense. So why would Michigan want to show its hand and put more on tape for which Ohio State can prepare?

On a scale of Clapping Hoke to Nuclear Hat-pulling Harbaugh, how angry inspired will this team be against Minnesota and how much will they win by?

Nick B: .... Yes. To answer your question.

Zach: I don't know if angry is the right word. I don't think this team has played angry at all this year, and Harbaugh has been very upfront that he is pushing a very businesslike, workman-like culture on his players. Somehow, beating a team because you're angry over a loss doesn't seem very Harbaugh to me.

That being said, I think this team will be very dialed in and therefore should win comfortably.

Peter: Michigan may be a little more motivated, but they won't be angry. Again, the offense will cruise, and a couple D/ST scores will lead the Wolverines to a 42-6 win.

Anthony: The best recipe for moving on from a bad loss is to get a blowout win. Michigan will do just that on Saturday night. 38-13 Michigan.

Drew: What Zach said. It's not personal. It's business. Michigan 24, Minnesota 0.

Kevin: Harbaugh vowed that his team would develop a spine of steel going forward. That's a bit different from playing angry, so I expect a near-flawless effort out of this team. 40-7 over the Gophers.

What'll you be watching on the college football slate while waiting for the evening Jug Game?

Nick B: I want to see what Pitt can do against Marquise Williams. UNC-Pitt is a battle of 6-1 teams that are unbeaten in conference, so there's that. (Oh hey! Turns out UNC won.) And I don't think I've ever sat down and watched a full Georgia-Florida game live before. I think I need to rectify that.

Kevin: Lately it has felt like Georgia-Florida has been on a weekend where Michigan was either at home or played at the same time. I'll split my time between that game and Gus Johnson going bonkers during USC-Cal over on FOX.

Peter: I don't think there will be any early football for me. It's my birthday on Saturday, so I'll probably just go out for lunch with my wife and kids, and then trick-or-treating with my girls for an hour or so before the game.

Anthony: I'll be taking in MACtion on Saturday afternoon, as I'm one to do. My Central Michigan Chippewas travel to Akron for a 2 p.m. kick. That's what I'll be tuned into.

Drew: I'll be getting my Jim Harbaugh costume ready for the night's festivities. Won't you?

Extra point! Half way point of the season...there are currently seven coaching vacancies, several schools with off-the-field issues, and others whose programs are in disarray. Yet there's Michigan, having righted the ship. How does that feel?

Nick B: Weird. Weird enough that it's hard to describe accurately.

Peter: It's a great feeling! This fanbase has been searching for stability since Lloyd left and it feels like that was forever ago, doesn't it? This has been the longest eight years I've ever lived.

Anthony: To go from being a sideshow to being in excellent hands longterm in a year is what Michigan had to do following last season, and they got it done. This is how it should be.

Drew: #TheHarbaughEffect

Kevin: It's a weird combination of relief and deja vu to see other power programs struggle. Miami is the latest forced coaching vacancy, and whenever that happens I empathize with the fans of these schools. Michigan has a coach in place, the players have bought into the system, and the fans are behind them. None of us expected it to be so obvious in year one, but it is a feeling of validation to witness what is possible when everything clicks.

And with that, MnB says Happy Birthday to Pete and a fond farewell to Coach Kill