Michigan vs. Minnesota: Nullify the Kill factor
Angelique S. Chengelis of The Detroit News breaks down Saturday's Michigan-Minnesota game at TCF Bank Stadium (7 p.m. ESPN / WWJ 950, WTKA 1050).
Gophers to watch
Mitch Leidner, QB: The Minnesota native, 14-9 in his career, has 3,723 yards and 21 TDs. His 20 rushing TDs, second-most of any Gophers quarterback (Rickie Foggie, 24 from 1984-87). Leidner (21 passing/20 rushing) and Foggie (33/24) are the only quarterbacks in Minnesota history to rush and throw for 20-plus TDs This season, Leidner has 1,310 yards, seven TDs and six INTs, and has rushed for 121 yards and three TDs.
Rodney Smith, TB: The redshirt freshman did not start the opener against TCU, but led Minnesota with 16 carries for 88 yards and a TD in the loss. His 88 yards were the most by a freshman running back making his debut for the Gophers since Amir Pinnix in 2004. Smith has 467 yards rushing on 11 carries and one TD.
Jalen Myrick, CB: He has a team-leading three INTs, including one he returned for a TD (vs. Purdue). Myrick also has 23 tackles, three for loss, and three pass breakups. He also is a kick returner, averaging 21.4 yards on nine returns.
Win for Kill: The Gophers will play their first game since Jerry Kill announced his immediate retirement because of health issues associated with epilepsy. No one knows for sure how the players will react, but we have seen many players will use something like this as a rallying point.
Run, run … run? There’s no doubt Minnesota wants to run, but the Gophers have had their share of struggles. They are averaging 156.7 yards and gained 326 yards against Purdue. But in losses to Northwestern and Nebraska, Minnesota was not able to break the 100-yard mark.
See Michigan, see defense: Michigan’s offense is not about to set the world on fire, but defensively, the Wolverines are at or near the top of the national rankings. The Wolverines are No. 1 in total defense (210.6), team passing efficiency defense (85.43), scoring defense (9.3 points) and third-down conversion defense (19.6 percent). They are second in rushing defense (64.7) and first-downs defense (95 total).
Ranked teams a problem: Michigan is ranked No. 15 and is the third ranked team Minnesota has played. The previous two games didn’t go well — a loss to then-No. 2 TCU (23-17) and then-No. 16 Northwestern (27-0).
Turnovers a problem: The Gophers were plus-10 in turnover margin last season, but are minus-four this year (eight fumbles, six INTs). Opponents have scored 45 off turnovers. Meanwhile, Michigan is still working its way to positive numbers. The Wolverines are minus-two in turnover margin, but have allowed opponents 13 points off turnovers.
Facts and figures
*Minnesota is 8-7-4 in games played Oct. 31, including a 6-6 tie with Michigan in the original Little Brown Jug game in 1903. Minnesota last played on Oct. 31 in 2009, a 42-34 victory over Michigan State.
*The four Minnesota games at TCF Bank Stadium (capacity 52,525) have been sold out this season. They had sellouts for TCU, Kent State, Ohio, and Nebraska, and a sellout is expected Saturday. Before this season, Minnesota’s last home sellout was Nov. 23, 2103 against Wisconsin.
*Last season, the Gophers reached eight victories for the second time under Jerry Kill. It also was the 19th time overall the program has reached that mark.
*Minnesota is the only team in the country expected to face the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the country. Minnesota played then-No. 2 TCU to open the season and faces top-ranked Ohio State. The last time it played the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the same season was 1986 (63-0 loss at No. 1 Oklahoma, 20-17 victory at No. 2 Michigan).
*TCF Bank Stadium opened in 2009 and the Gophers are 25-21. The team opened the stadium with a 20-13 victory over Air Force on Sept. 12, 2009.