Its been a long 14 days since we saw the Michigan Wolverines football team on the field but we made it, tomorrow is gameday! Michigan coming off its bye week will be battling something greater than the Minnesota Golden Gophers, the mindset of leaving the past behind them. Coach Jim Harbaugh and the rest of his staff had a tough task of instilling in their players to forget that last game and prepare for the next. With this coaching staff, I fully expect the Wolverines to come out fired up, angry, motivated, and mentally prepared to win as opposed to letting that loss linger in their minds. Also they know that the Little Brown Jug is in the possession of its opponent and it is time for it to return to Ann Arbor. Here is your Last Look at what you need to know before kickoff.
What: #15 Michigan Wolverines(5-2, 2-1) at Minnesota Golden Gophers(4-3, 1-2)
When: Saturday October 31 2015 at 7:00 PM
Where: TCF Bank Stadium Minneapolis, MN
This series began in 1892 and the winner of this game gets to keep the Little Brown Jug. This trophy is one of the oldest traditions in college football. Michigan leads this series 73-25-3 but did lose last year in Ann Arbor 30-14. Michigan will be looking for revenge and to take back the trophy from Minnesota.
Both teams are coming off a bye week so they have had ample time to prepare for their opponent and rest up the guys that needed time to heal up. Also both teams were defeated in their last games, Michigan lost to Michigan State and Minnesota lost to Nebraska.
Michigan Players to Watch
Running back De’Veon Smith will be looking to improve this week against a weaker defense. Last game he struggled getting yards so expect him to come out running hard and to eclipse the century mark. The last time he did that was a month ago versus BYU. He is healthy enough to get plenty of touches so the Minnesota defense better be ready to get hit over and over by this strong RB.
Linebacker Joe Bolden was hit by a ridiculous targeting penalty in the first half of the Spartans game so he had to watch the rest of the game from the locker room. Expect him to hit the field ready to unleash all that frustration and unfortunately for the Golden Gophers, it will be one them. Bolden is a guy that plays with tremendous energy every single down, has a high motor and is always located where the ball is. Minnesota will need to have its offensive line know what gap Bolden is trying to fill and make sure they have one or two guys attempt to stop him. Bolden should lead all Wolverines in tackles this week.
Minnesota Players to Watch
Quarterback Mitch Leidner will be up against the toughest defense he has faced this season. His last game was his only one in which he threw for over 300 yards so Minnesota needs him to be that guy versus Michigan. The Wolverines are so good at stopping the run that the Golden Gophers will be relying heavily on the arm of Leidner. He will have to play a flawless game if they want to keep the Little Brown Jug. That could be a tough task considering he has thrown four interceptions in the last couple of games. His leading receiver is 5 foot 10 senior KJ Maye. Maye has 33 catches for 350 yards and three touchdowns. Look for him to be the main target in the passing game.
Someone else to be concerned about is the new interim head coach Tracy Claeys. Former coach Jerry Kill retired this week due to his ongoing battle with a seizure disorder. Now his long time defensive coordinator, Claeys, will be filling the void. This will be a very emotional game for the Golden Gophers. On one hand they will be sad and possibly not completely focused but they could come out inspired, wanting to get a win for their former leader. Either way Michigan better not take them lightly and stay focused and ready for anything new that coach Claeys brings to the field. Good luck to you Coach Kill with your health!
One of my favorite players on the team is Jabrill Peppers and he is my X-Factor this week. He is a great defensive back, has shown speed and elusiveness on special teams and in the last game played a little offense. When you have such a special dynamic player like Peppers, you have to get him the ball and keep him on the field anywhere you can. I think the more offense they allow him to play, the harder it will be for opposing defenses to defend the Wolverine offense. Minnesota will have to be prepared for him in all phases of the game and if they have to spend that much time planning for one player, that makes him a X-Factor. Do not be surprised to see Peppers celebrating in the end zone this week.
The Michigan football team can either wallow in self pity or dust themselves off, forget the past and play smash mouth football. I fully expect them to get back out on the field and get to work. Coach Harbaugh has always talked about working hard and it will show off this week. I believe the shutout streak will start over and the defense will once again dominant throughout the game. They will be out to prove that they are better than what occurred two weeks ago. The defense should create a couple of turnovers on the nations 101st offensive team. Look for the Wolverines to score early and protect its lead. Michigan wins 31-0 and becomes bowl eligible with its sixth win.