The Minnesota Golden Gophers (3-2) will host the No. 2-ranked Michigan Wolverines (5-0) at Huntington Bank Stadium on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. CT in a battle for the Little Brown Jug.
Can Michigan score on offense?
The Wolverines rank 40th nationally in rushing offense (184 rushing yards per game), 73rd in passing offense (227.4 passing yards per game), and 39th in scoring (34.4 points per game).
The passing offense might look unremarkable on paper, but I can assure you that is not the case. Quarterback J.J. McCarthy has been efficient through their first five games. He is completing 79% of his passes, averaging 10.2 yards per pass attempt, and has thrown more touchdowns (10) than interceptions (3). All three of those interceptions came in the same game.
The Michigan offensive line has also kept him clean in pass protection. McCarthy has been sacked only three times this season. Only four teams in the country have allowed fewer sacks. Against Nebraska, who came into the game averaging 3.5 sacks per game, the Wolverines up front gave McCarthy all day to throw. The Cornhuskers didn’t register a single sack.
When you give McCarthy a clean pocket, you can bet he is going to find wide receiver Roman Wilson. He has been sensational this season, hauling in 19 receptions for 326 receiving yards with eight touchdowns. Wilson is averaging 17.2 yards per reception. It will be interesting to see how Minnesota defensive coordinator Joe Rossi tries to contain him.
You can’t forget the Wolverines’ ground game, either. Running back Blake Corum is back and leads the team with 74 carries for 425 rushing yards with nine touchdowns. He will split carries with Donovan Edwards, who has 47 carries for 157 rushing yards to his name.
Put simply, the Michigan offense is efficient and explosive.
Please tell me the Gophers will be able to score
The Wolverines’ defense is allowing an average of 6 points per game this season.
It’s safe to say points are going to be at a premium for Minnesota on Saturday.
If the Gophers are going to have a chance in this game, they’ll need to win the battle at the line of scrimmage, which is much easier said than done against this unit. Michigan is deep and talented on the defensive line, with three seniors among the starting four. Defensive tackle Kris Jenkins is one of the anchors and has 14 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, and one sack this season.
Operating behind one of the best defensive lines in the country, the Wolverines’ linebackers are sharp. Middle linebacker Junior Colson is the field general and leads the team with 25 total tackles. The unit as a whole is very disciplined in their run fits and athletic enough to hold their own in coverage. They’ve also been clean and dependable when making tackles in the open field.
As for the secondary, I don’t know that this unit has been tested yet by a formidable passing attack, and I don’t expect that to change on Saturday. Free safety Keon Sabb leads the defensive backs in total tackles with 14, and nickel back Mike Sainristill’s two interceptions are the most of any member of the secondary. He returned a 71-yard pick six against Rutgers.
But who will score more points on Saturday?
The Wolverines have been one of the most dominant teams in the country through the first five weeks of the season. Their average margin of victory: 28.4 points. Granted, the combined record of their first five opponents is 13-12 and their two best wins are over UNLV (4-1) and Rutgers (4-1). But I haven’t seen anything from this Minnesota team to suggest that the Gophers are capable of pulling the upset. I expect Michigan to keep rolling. Michigan 34, Minnesota 10.