The Michigan Wolverines (5-2) and Minnesota Golden Gophers (4-3) will meet Saturday night in the 102nd meeting for the Little Brown Jug, currently held by the Gophers after a 30-14 blowout victory last season in the Big House.
While Michigan is looking to bounce back following a crushing loss at the hands of their in-state rivals two weeks ago, the Gophers will be looking to withstand the loss of their head coach, as Jerry Kill resigned early Wednesday morning due to lingering health concerns.
Both teams currently remain in fourth place in their respective divisions and are looking to secure a win to keep pace in the Big Ten standings.
Michigan at Minnesota
Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: Michigan -13.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Jerry Kill
Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill announced Wednesday morning that he would be retiring due to continued health concerns as he deals with epilepsy. Kill said to the media that he had suffered two seizures earlier this week and that the toll put on his body of late was becoming too much to handle at this point in the season. With Kill stepping down, defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys will become the team’s interim head coach for the remainder of the season. Claeys has worked on Kill’s staff for the past 21 years and previously filled in for Kill back in 2013 for seven games, compiling a 4-3 record in that span.
Side note — Jerry Kill was gracious enough to sit down with me my senior year of college at NIU to discuss my aspirations of eventually working in football one day. I was stunned a Division I football coach would give me time out of their busy schedule, but Kill could not have been nicer when speaking with him. I wish him all the best in the future.
2. Chomping at the bit
Michigan players have had a prolonged time period to stew over the botched punt against the Spartans after a bye last week, and according to safety Dymonte Thomas, they are itching to hit the field. "We are really eager to get back out there," said Thomas to MLive.com. "We're not going to let one game define us, just like we didn't allow those three shutouts to define us." The Wolverines struggled against Michigan State, allowing 328 passing yards to quarterback Connor Cook the last time out, but more is expected out of the defense that still ranks as best in the nation, allowing just 210 total yards per game. Look for the Michigan defense to bounce back in a big way against a Minnesota offense that ranks dead last in the Big Ten in scoring.
3. Strength on strength
Expect this game to be played in a phone booth. Maybe one or two shots beyond, say 10 yards from the line of scrimmage, but that’s about it. Both Michigan and Minnesota rank in the top 20 nationally in passing defense and allow well under 200 yards per game. The two teams combined have allowed just 11 passing touchdowns on the season – 65 other teams in college football have allowed that number or more by themselves this season. Two potential All-Big Ten cornerbacks will be on display in Michigan’s Jourdan Lewis and Minnesota’s Briean Boddy-Calhoun – both of whom have next-level potential.
Both Michigan and Minnesota come into Saturday night’s matchup with plenty of motivation. Michigan is eager to rid itself of the sour taste from the heartbreaking loss to the Spartans, while Minnesota will be playing with heavy hearts in honor of Jerry Kill. With the motivational factor looking like a wash, it comes down to talent, and that is where the Wolverines have a distinct advantage. Michigan will dominate the trenches on both sides of the field to notch its sixth win of the season.
Prediction: Michigan 20, Minnesota 7
— Written by Mike Bainbridge, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Bainbridge is a graduate of Northern Illinois University and current writer for CollegeFootballGeek.com. Make sure to follow him on Twitter @MikeBainbridge2.