Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh finally made the decision all Wolverine fans had been begging for last week when redshirt freshman Brandon Peters entered the game against Rutgers for an ineffective John O’Korn. Peters completed 10-of-14 passes for 124 yards and led the Wolverines to touchdowns on his first two drives of the game, helping Michigan (6-2) defeat Rutgers 35-14.
Minnesota (4-4) is coming off a hard-fought loss in Iowa City, falling 17-10 to the Hawkeyes, and now the Gophers have just a 1-4 record in conference play. The upcoming schedule is not kind to the Gophers, either, with trips to Michigan and Northwestern before closing with Wisconsin.
The Little Brown Jug is up for grabs once again in this Big Ten showdown on Saturday night.
Minnesota at Michigan
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 4 at 7:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: FOX
Spread: Michigan -15.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Time to shine
It's the Brandon Peters show from here on out. While Jim Harbaugh downplayed the decision this week to the media, stating that Peters was “likely” to get the nod this week, it's virtually a given that he will turn to the redshirt freshman this week against Minnesota. The jolt to the entire offense was evident last week once Peters entered the game, as the Wolverines scored on their next two ensuing offensive drives. Yes, the playbook was simplified, but Peters was making the simple throws and reads that his veteran predecessors were struggling to make earlier in the year. Unless disaster strikes, this is Peters’ job from here on out.
To say that Minnesota’s passing game is bad would be putting things mildly. The Gophers rank 115th in the country in passing offense and only rank ahead of Rutgers in the Big Ten in throwing the football this season. Head coach P.J. Fleck made the move to sophomore quarterback Demry Croft in the hopes of bringing some life to the passing attack, but Croft has thrown for a grand total of 349 yards in three games combined. Eeesh. Minnesota can rely on sophomore receiver Tyler Johnson, who has far and away been the team’s best player in 2017 and is tied for second in the conference with seven receiving touchdowns, but the Gophers don’t offer up much more on offense that threatens an opponent.
3. Defensive battle
Both teams rank near the top of the country in many of the major defensive statistical categories in 2017, so prepare yourself for that good old fashioned Big Ten slugfest on Saturday. Both the Wolverines and Gophers rank in the top 25 in total defense, passing defense and scoring defense, and both are in the top 40 against the run as well. With both offenses ranking in the bottom half of the country in terms of scoring, averaging around 26 points per game, don’t expect to see a ton of fireworks on Saturday night.
Can the Gophers generate enough offense against this swarming Michigan defense to make this a competitive game? In short, it's highly unlikely. While the Wolverines did give up a few chunk plays last week against Rutgers, the defense was excellent once again and shut down the Scarlet Knights' one-dimensional offense. Minnesota, outside of wide receiver Tyler Johnson, is just as inept throwing the football as Rutgers, and that plays right into the Wolverines’ hands. Michigan wins a low-scoring affair and holds on to the Little Brown Jug.
Prediction: Michigan 24, Minnesota 13
— Written by Mike Bainbridge, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Bainbridge is a graduate of Northern Illinois University. Follow him on Twitter @MBainbridgeCFF.