Hello all, and welcome back to another edition of Behind Enemy Lines. Each week I interview someone who covers Michigan's opponent for the week and we discuss where the teams stand, players to watch, and game predictions.
This week I interviewed a fellow SB Nation blog, The Daily Gopher. Follow along with me as we dive right in to this week's interview.
Josh LaFond: I appreciate you taking the time, and allowing me to interview you. I want to start off with a question that I have wondered how Minnesota fans would answer: Now that we’re to the midway point of the season, on a scale of 1-10 how would you rate PJ Fleck has done so far?'
The Daily Gopher: I'm a huge fan of what PJ Fleck is trying to do. I think he is a control freak who is handling every deal of how he wants to build a program. He does a fantastic job of finding ways to reach and connect to today's generation of kids. Will it work? I think so, but there's no guarantee. But I like what is being built.
I'm very zen-like on this season, recognizing that it is really irrelevant what they do on the field in 2017. This is being built for future success, and I'm drinking the kool-aid that it'll be a reality. I know it's not really a 1-10 type of answer, because it might be too early to judge that, but like I said, I like what's being built here.
Josh: Both Michigan and Minnesota are building something special and with fiery, energetic coaches. Maybe I'm just too big of a Coach Fleck fan, but I think he can take them where they need to go... which actually leads into my next question: With the Big Ten West (outside of Wisconsin) being so wide open, do you think PJ Fleck can turn the Gophers into perennial division contenders?
TDG: I do. There are really a lot of advantages at Minnesota that can make this program one that is perennially competitive in the Big Ten West. I'm going to risk turning into a Fleck-infomercial, but it is the only B1G West program in a major metropolitan area (not named Northwestern), there is a high concentration of Fortune 500 companies, the brand new facilities, etc. Take a super talented kid from Detroit and do you think he'd rather play in the Twin Cities or in Iowa City? Everybody is different but there are reasons to come and play here. There are reasons why you can see sustained success here.
It starts with winning though. And to be honest they were knocking on the door under Kill/Claeys with a couple times they played the Badgers on the last weekend with a trip to Indianapolis on the line. I wouldn't expect this overnight, but with improved recruiting and a more focused/clear style of leadership I do think that is is possible.
Josh: I think it's possible too. Minnesota has a saying called ‘Ski-U-Mah’. If you could, sum up for us what that means and stands for.
TDG: Here's how it breaks down. Pre-1900 some rugby players misunderstood "Ski" to be an old Sioux battle cry meaning "victory." "U-Mah" is a play on University of Minnesota. They coined it and it became a thing. Not directly related but similar, the University of Minnesota is also the birthplace of cheerleading.
Josh: Man, that's something that I've wondered about for years, it's nice to finally have an answer. Who will be the hardest Gopher (offense or defense) for Michigan to game plan for?
TDG: I will go with Tyler Johnson. Sophomore receiver who has really had a break-out year. He is not all that fast but is a big, physical kid who typically (Iowa game being the exception) goes and grabs the ball if it is anywhere near him. He runs great routes and as mentioned is a strong receiver, making him hard to defend.
Josh: Tyler Johnson against these Michigan corners will be an intriguing battle for sure. What percentage would you give Minnesota of winning this Saturday?
TDG: 20%. That's only because Michigan doesn't appear to be as good as we thought they were and weird things sometimes happen in college football. It mostly comes down to two things...
Josh: Well the last Michigan/Minnesota game was at night, and we both know how wild that was. What are Minnesota’s keys to victory?
TDG: The first key is quarterback Demry Croft. He has some tools but has really struggled in the passing game the last 2 weeks. If he starts connecting on 55% of his passes, then this offense becomes more balanced and may finish off drives.
The other key is the Gopher secondary which has been ravaged since the end of 2016. 2 starters are on NFL rosters, 2 likely starters were kicked off the team, their best player goes down before Big Ten games, their starting corners are injured and what is left is a safety starting at corner, 2 true freshmen forced into action and a general mess. Secondary breakdowns on a couple Iowa drives led to touchdowns. They need to be clean and execute a creative game plan.
Josh: Thanks for all of your answers and insight, and on that note, let's get out of here with that last one. Give us a score and game prediction.
TDG: Michigan wins it 24-10
I would like to extend my thanks to The Daily Gopher for making this interview happen. For more information regarding Minnesota football and basketball, as well as the Gophers other sports, head on over to TheDailyGopher.com.