Michigan has had an interesting non conference season. They've handled both non-Power 5 foes pretty easily. But against Notre Dame and Utah, they've scored ZERO offensive touchdowns and they've seemingly hung their defense out to dry. Given that I was pretty sure I wasn't the only one who saw very little of both the Notre Dame and Utah contests outside the highlights (or in my case, the final 8 minutes of the Utah game on ESPN3) I thought it might be nice to hear from our fellow SB Nation bloggers to see how their thoughts about Michigan might differ from MIchigan's own bloggers. This is where I shamelessly plug JD's great Q&A with the folks from Maize 'n Brew. Haven't read that yet? Get that done ASAP. But before you do, let's check in with our SBN blogger bros from Block U and One Foot Down.
Shane Roberts - Block U
The Daily Gopher: Can I just say how awesome the visuals from the Utah/Michigan game were after the restart on ESPN3? Even with the band, there were double the Utah fans left compared to Michigan fans. And for some reason I'll never understand they put the Utah fans where the TV cameras could get the most shots of them. Oh yea, I'm supposed to ask a question. What were your thoughts when your Kaelin Clay trolled Michigan with the Desmond Howard?
Shane Roberts: That shot of Utah fans was epic, and our fans do travel well, especially to venues like Michigan. While there was a bit of a ‘troll' to Clay's Heisman pose, I honestly think some of it was a salute to Howard. He even eluded to that in the post game presser. Clay is a dynamic weapon, and that was his third return for a TD this year (2 punts and 1 kickoff), and he only has one year to play one, so he's making it count.
TDG: Michigan's offense failed to reach the end zone against the Utes. What did Utah do to make that happen?
SR: A couple things. First, Utah was physical at the point of attack of Michigan’s running game, and then they laid some wood in the secondary. Brian Blechen, Utah’s free safety, laid a massive hit on Devin Funchass early in the game to set a tone. Not only that, Utah’s speed and aggression bothered the Wolverines. Everywhere Devin Gardiner went there were at least a couple Utes waiting for him. It’s amazing what the threat of getting smacked in the mouth will do to a QB and skill guys.
TDG: In case you weren't aware, Minnesota's passing game isn't the best right now. They're going to need to be better to beat Michigan. Based on what you saw, where are the Wolverines vulnerable through the air?
SR: Utah had a lot of success with crossing and drag routes, with Dres Anderson. Those came later in the game after Utah hit them with some easy, quick comeback routes for five yards a pop. Also, Michigan was extremely aggressive against Utah, and the Utes carved them up with screen passes. The Utes should have scored an 85+ yard TD on a screen to a running back, but the back didn’t setup the block going in at about the 15 yard line. So drag routes, and screen passes really burned Michigan.
TDG: If you could teach Jerry Kill and his staff any one thing from Utah's win, what would it be?
SR: Be aggressive. Whomever is at QB for Michigan, get in their face and don’t let them get comfortable. Michigan’s O-line isn’t the best, so it’s easy to get pressure and flood the backfield with defenders. Same thing with Devin Funchass, when it’s 3rd down find #1, guard him, and if he catches the ball, pop him. And another recommendation would be to take advantage of special teams. Michigan’s special teams are not very good, if Minnesota can win that phase, that will help a lot.
Eric Murtaugh - One Foot Down
The Daily Gopher: So...31-0. Can you bottle up whatever your guys were drinking at ship it Ann Arbor for Minnesota please? More seriously, what were you overall impressions of this year's Michigan team?
Eric Murtaugh: We unloaded a lot of frustration in that game, from the students to the players, right up to the coaches and the athletic department. We were due for things to come together in such an awesome way.
My overall impression of this year's Michigan team is that they continue to have identity problems on offense, their offensive line is still mediocre at best, and Gardner is either injured again or broken mentally. That's not a great place to be in after just a handful of games.
TDG: In case you haven't heard, Minnesota's passing game is...well, I don't know how you describe 1 for 7 against San Jose State, but it's not positive. On the flip side, the Gophers have the running thing down. What were your impressions of Michigan's run defense? Do you think a run heavy team has can beat them (assuming they pass better than 1 for 7)?
EM: I think Michigan's run defense is probably the best thing they've got going for them. They were aggressive against Notre Dame--and paid for it in the pass game--but I wouldn't feel too great about Minnesota's chances if the Gophers are going to be struggling to complete passes.
TDG: Michigan's offense against Utah (the only other P5 team they've faced) was pretty blah. But against Notre Dame they outgained the Irish. Help those of us who didn't watch the game (seriously, you guys were pantsing them it didn't seem worth my time) understand that better. Should Minnesota be worried about the Michigan offense (outside of Funchess who is an evil hybrid cyborg)?
EM:Well, the Irish were leading in yardage 240 to 131 at the half while winning 21-0. The Notre Dame offense didn't do too well in that second half but when you look at the overall available yardage from the entire game we dominated Michigan.
If you can take away their running game you'll have a shot at slowing their offense down. I have no doubt about that. Funchess is wounded and they are still struggling to find other receivers. Their situation at QB isn't good either. If he's healthy I'd stick with Gardner just because he's proven he can make things happen. If I were a Minnesota fan I'd love to play against Shane Morris right now.
TDG: If you were able to talk to Jerry Kill, how would you recommend the Gophers gameplan to beat Michigan?
Double cover Funchess, shoot gaps in the run game, and collapse the pocket on the UM quarterback. On offense I'd try to use Michigan's aggressiveness against them. But honestly, I think a conservative offensive gameplan could work for the Gophers. I'd prod things a little bit on offense, see how the defense is doing, and go from there.
Thanks again to both Share and Eric!