2011 Predictions & Game Story
Week 5 - Minnesota at Michigan
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Oct. 1 at Michigan 58 … Minnesota 0
CFN Analysis: Michigan didn't let up when it easily could've taken a week off mentally. Coming off the Brady Bowl against San Diego State and with road games coming up against Northwestern and Michigan State, the Wolverines were as sharp as they've been all season with Denard Robinson doing a strong job with the passing game and with several different weapons being used. Robinson only had five carries for 51 yards and a score, while he completed 15-of-19 passes for 169 yards and two scores. The much maligned defense now has allowed just ten points in the last three games and has only allowed more than ten in one of the five games. Minnesota might stink, but this is how Michigan is supposed to look.
It's going to be an ongoing process for Minnesota in what's quickly becoming a lost season. Head coach Jerry Kill's seizure problems aren't necessarily an excuse considering the team just doesn't have the talent to beat teams as strong as Michigan, but something has to start going right. The coaching staff stuck with freshman Max Shortell the whole way, and he couldn't move the ball as the freshman quarterback threw for just 104 yards and the ground game was held to just 73. The Gophers got down early and never had a prayer of making this interesting going 0-for-11 on third down chances, turning it over twice, and committing nine penalties. Kill has to get the pieces in place for down the road, and if that means taking a step back by playing several young players, then that's how it's going to have to be.
(AP) ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Denard Robinson threw two touchdown passes and ran for a TD to lead No. 19 Michigan in a 58-0 win over Minnesota.
The Wolverines (5-0, 1-0 Big Ten) had their most lopsided win since beating Indiana by the same score in 2000.
Vincent Smith scored on a run, pass and catch to help Michigan lead 38-0 at halftime.
Robinson was 15 of 19 for 169 yards and didn't throw an interception for the first time since the opener and had a season-low six rushing attempts for 51 yards. He was taken out in the third quarter.
Freshman Max Shortell made his first start for the Gophers (1-4, 0-0) in place of MarQueis Gray, who missed the game with an injured toe on his left foot.
Michigan got off to its second straight strong start after struggling early in the first three games of the year.
The Wolverines outgained Minnesota 384-69, averaging nearly 10 yards per play.
Nothing went well for Minnesota all day.
The Gophers got into Wolverines' territory only once before halftime and fumbled on the play.
They stopped Michigan on its first drive of the second half and got to midfield on the punt return, but spoiled the play with a penalty. Minnesota dropped a pass past the 50 on its next possession and had a 96-yard kickoff return wiped out by another flag.
Minnesota didn't take a snap in Michigan territory until there was less than a minute left in the third quarter.
And just when it looked like the Gophers were going to score, David Cobb fumbled and cornerback Courtney Avery scooped it up on an 83-yard return for a 58-0 lead with 4:58 left.
Shortell was 11 of 22 for 104 yards and Cobb had 54 yards rushing.
Robinson looked much more comfortable in the passing game, showing poise in the pocket and displaying touch on throws. He matched his season high with 11 completions -- in as many attempts -- and avoided forcing passes into coverage for a change. Robinson read a blitz on his second TD pass and connected on a crisp, 18-yard pass to Kevin Koger to make it 38-0 late in the third quarter.
The Wolverines were determined to let running backs take the load off of Robinson on the ground and Minnesota was accommodating.
Fitzgerald Toussaint ran for a career-high 108 yards, freshman Thomas Rawls had 73 yards rushing and Michael Shaw ran for 60.
Smith scored on a 3-yard run to start the scoring barrage, threw a 17-yard toss to Drew Dileo on a halfback pass and caught a 28-yard pass for a score to become the first major college running back to score on the ground, through the air as a passer and as a receiver since Clemson's C.J Spiller in 2009.
Minnesota coach Jerry Kill was on the sideline just days after leaving the team seeking more treatment for seizures he's had the past three weeks.
The Wolverines kept the Little Brown Jug, the oldest trophy game in major college football that dates to 1909, by avoiding a third loss to Minnesota in three-plus decades.
Minnesota (1-3) at Michigan (4-0) Oct. 1, 12:00, BTN
Here's The Deal … It takes two to make a rivalry, and while the fight for the Little Brown Jug might sound interesting, and Minnesota vs. Michigan was the biggest sports rivalry on the planet back in the early 1940s, it hasn't been anything special lately with the Wolverines winning 20 of the last 21 meetings.
The two haven't faced each other since 2008, but the rivalry, if you can call it that, won't skip a beat from here on with both teams in the new Legends division. Both programs are trying to rebuild with new coaching staffs, but they're going in opposite directions.
Brady Hoke has answered the first two big tests with flying colors on the way to a 4-0 mark. Beating Notre Dame was scintillating, and getting by a supposed trap game against San Diego State was also important. Now it's time to get through the supposedly easy opening game of his Big Ten head coaching career before going on the road to face Northwestern and Michigan State, and while he and the team isn't going to take this week lightly, it's tune-up time for a non-existent pass rush and a passing game that's a bit too spotty and erratic.
On the other side of the spectrum is a Minnesota program that's supposed to be far better right away under new head coach Jerry Kill, but instead is in more disarray than ever after a disastrous first month of the season. A close win over Miami University was a plus, and battling with USC down to the final minutes was great, but home losses to New Mexico State and North Dakota State were embarrassing, and even worse is the health condition of Kill, who suffered a seizure on the sidelines late in the loss to NMSU and suffered another one this weekend. He's trying to continue his coaching duties and he's saying he wants to be on the sidelines against Michigan, but he's also aware that he needs to figure out how to solve his problem.
This is a relatively young Gopher team that has just enough talent and athleticism to pull off the upset if everything breaks right, but so far, Michigan is making its own breaks when needed. 5-0 would be a phenomenal start to the Hoke era, while a win for Kill might turn the entire Gopher program around.
Why Minnesota Might Win: Denard Robinson might be the best player in college football, but Michigan has become way, way, way too reliant on him handling the offense. Robinson technically leads the nation in rushing – not counting the stats against Western Michigan that the NCAA took away – and while he's been scintillating, he's also been full of mistakes with six interceptions and way too many missed passes. While he's averaging 7.8 yards per carry, he's also completing just 48.6% of his passes and he's not doing a good enough job of getting the ball in the hands of his playmakers. Minnesota can't stop anyone from throwing the ball and is giving up way too many plays on key third downs, but Robinson hasn't shown he can hit the open receiver, relying way too much on throwing up the jump ball.
The Gopher offensive line has had major problems in pass protection and hasn't done nearly enough for the ground game. Fortunately, most of the Michigan problems of last year on the defensive front have continued on with the new coaching staff. There's little pass rush and few plays happening behind the line.
Why Michigan Might Win: Minnesota's defensive front seven is about to get gouged. The only chance to stop Robinson on a regular basis is to get into the backfield, but the Gophers can't do it. They only have one sack on the year and a paltry 20 tackles for loss, partly because the ends aren't generating enough pressure and partly because the linebacking corps is whiffing on too many key plays. Yes, Minnesota's raw numbers against the run are great, but none of the four teams it's played so far can pound away. USC spent all game chucking the ball, because it was easy, and New Mexico State, Miami, and NDSU aren't exactly Wisconsin when it comes to opening up holes. When NDSU quarterback Brock Jensen wanted to run, he did, but he's the only running quarterback Minnesota has faced.
Michigan and Robinson might be having big problems throwing the ball on a regular basis, but Minnesota is worse. The Gophers are dead last among all Big Ten teams in passing efficiency, and the two quarterbacks can't come up with a meaningful completion in critical situations. Minnesota will have to throw to keep up the pace with the high-powered Wolverines, and they won't be able to do it.
What To Watch Out For: Before the season began, this looked like one of the best early Big Ten games because of the quarterback matchup. Robinson might be scintillating, and the thought was that Minnesota's MarQueis Gray would be just as amazing, only bigger. Gray is built like Calvin Johnson, and runs like him, too, but he hasn't taken the starting quarterback job by the horns after getting the position all to himself. He ran for 110 yards against NMSU and 171 yards against Miami, but he was benched against NDSU and USC after going long stretches without moving the offense, and now the door is wide open for true freshman Max Shortell to handle the work. Shortell has been the better of the two passers, but his two picks have been devastating, with the first snuffing out a last gasp final drive against USC, and the second going for a touchdown to seal the loss last week.
Robinson is too good to not run over and over again, but he's not built to carry the ball 20 times a game, and there's no reason to give him the workload. Vincent Smith and Fitzgerald Toussaint have been excellent whenever they've had the chance, with each averaging 5.2 yards per carry against SDSU and Smith coming up with a team-leading three catches for 44 yards. In a perfect world, Robinson runs ten times a game with a few home runs with Smith and Toussaint combining for at least 30 carries.
What Will Happen: Minnesota will play well … for about a half. The defense will keep Robinson under wraps, and the Michigan passing game will sputter and cough just enough to keep the Gophers in the game. And then, boom. Michigan will come up with two takeaways, the offense will convert off both, and the close game will open up wide late in the third.
CFN Prediction: Michigan 34 … Minnesota 23
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Michigan -20 O/U: 53
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