Ann Arbor — This game will not take all sorts of analysis and breakdowns to determine how Minnesota plans to play Michigan and how Michigan plans to play Minnesota.
It goes like this — See Minnesota run. See Michigan stop the run.
The two teams will open Big Ten play today at Michigan Stadium, and the old trophy, the Little Brown Jug, will go to the winner. Michigan has history on its side, winning the last six meetings with the Gophers and 22 of the last 23.
But Michigan is 2-2 with myriad issues on offense and might go with a new starter at quarterback. Fifth-year senior Devin Gardner has been the starter since last season, but the Wolverines have stalled offensively, failing to reach the red zone or score an offensive touchdown in two losses. They also are minus-10 in turnover margin.
Michigan coach Brady Hoke has teased all week he has an "idea" who he will start at quarterback, and that could mean sophomore Shane Morris, who started last December's Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl while Gardner was hurt, might get an opportunity to start. Morris replaced Gardner in last week's loss to Utah with about 11 minutes left.
This game, though, will be about Minnesota trying to gouge Michigan's run defense. UM is ranked eighth nationally, yielding an average 80.2 yards a game.
The Wolverines have allowed a total of 168 yards rushing in the last three games, the lowest three-game total since 2006 when the defense held Northwestern, Ball State and Indiana to a combined 60 yards.
Minnesota, which leads the Big Ten with 13 turnovers forced, is led by running back David Cobb, who has two 200-yard rushing games this season.
Jerry Kill, Minnesota's coach, said he knows what to expect from Michigan's defense.
"They'll bring somebody about every snap somewhere," Kill told reporters in Minneapolis this week. "They're stronger than they were a year ago up front. The secondary is where I've seen the real improvement from them. The tackling by the safeties (is) just like our defense. They're stiff on the run, but they also do a good enough job on the back end of putting enough pressure for you not to be able to get down the field."
While Michigan is leaving its quarterback situation up in the air, it's also unclear what direction Minnesota will go. Starter Mitch Leidner is questionable with a knee ligament sprain and turf toe.
Chris Streveler, in relief, has struggled. He has completed 36.4 percent of his 11 attempts and was 1-of-7 last week.
"We have to assume they'll have their quarterback (Leidner), and we have to prepare for their best, which we know we're going to get," Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said this week. "They're a very well-coached football team, and it'll be a challenge for our defense."
Mattison said he was preparing the team for Leidner.
But while the team has been readying for Minnesota, the Wolverines have had to deal with plenty of outside noise and criticism.
Players this week defended Hoke and said they were offended by reports saying he is on the hot seat and his days at Michigan are numbered.
With the start of the Big Ten season comes renewed hope for the Wolverines and a chance to fulfill their goals.
"Our goal is still out there despite what the fans say and the different critics and media say," defensive lineman Frank Clark said. "Our goal is to win the Big Ten championship.
Clark said practice this week was extremely physical, exactly what he wanted to see.
"Last year, guys allowed (the losing) to get to them," Clark said this week. "I just had a conversation with my coach and he was basically saying you allow the difficulties of last year affect your practice habits and affect how you play games sometimes. That's one thing I challenged myself, although things may have not gone our way."
Minnesota at Michigan
Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. today, Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor
Line: Michigan by 12
Records: Minnesota 3-1, Michigan 2-2
Series: Michigan leads 73-24-3 (Michigan 42-13, Oct. 5, 2013)