Michigan offensive line coach Ed Warinner has been around a lot of talented football teams throughout his coaching career, and knows a good match-up when he sees one.
Warinner spent one season on Minnesota’s staff, back in 2017, which was head coach P.J. Fleck’s first year on the job. Michigan beat Minnesota that year 33-10 and hasn’t played them since, but Warinner sees the progress they’ve made since ‘17.
“Obviously, they’ve built the program up. They’re a good team, a really good team. Everybody on their schedule last year, they were capable of beating,” Warinner said. The Golden Gophers had a standout 2019 season, going 11-2, losing to Iowa and Wisconsin.
Warinner believes it has the makings of a tough and tight game before one of the teams separates themselves. The irregular off-season throws in an irregular wrinkle to the equation heading into the first game of the season. “They’re breaking out a new team the same as us – no preseason, no non-conference opponents. We all think we know what we have – we don’t know what we have until we play this game. We think we know what we have. I’m sure they’re well-prepared, I’m sure they’ve recruited well, I’m sure they’re ready to go just as we are,” Warinner said. “I think it’s one of those games – it’s gonna be a typical Big Ten game. We’ve gotta go up there, control the line of scrimmage, take care of the football and create some big plays when we can. Play physical, play smart and I’m sure they’ll try to do the same thing – play great defense, stop the run on defense, all those things. That’s all coachspeak, but I really think that it’s a tight game going in. Somebody will separate themselves as this thing plays out.”
With no non-conference games to start the season, there’s less margin for error than ever before for Big Ten programs. One loss against a non-conference foe is surely devastating, but it doesn’t impact the Big Ten Standing and conference championship hopes. If that didn’t make the stage big enough for Michigan, ESPN College Gameday will be on the scene, Kirk Herbstreit and Chris Fowler will be on the call, it might even snow. This game is being hyped up, commercials are being shown for it coast to coast. Warinner recognizes how big of a game this is heading into Saturday night, and he isn’t underestimating Minnesota.
“We are taking them very, very seriously – very seriously,” Warinner said. “This is not a pre-Big Ten – this is a Big Ten. GameDay is there. The whole country thinks this is a big game. We’ve always thought that. We know – we watched Minnesota beat Auburn the same day we played Alabama. But we know what they can do.”
Michigan takes on Minnesota at 7:30 ET on ABC Saurday night.