Neither Minnesota nor Michigan has shown an ability to pass the ball four weeks into the season. The Gophers rank last in the Big Ten in pass offense, and the Wolverines are barely better, sitting at 12th out of 14 teams in the conference.
To top it off, both programs enter Saturday’s matchup with uncertainty surrounding the quarterback position.
Gophers head coach Jerry Kill said Tuesday that he doesn’t know if redshirt sophomore Mitch Leidner will be ready to play on Saturday. Leidner, a Lakeville, Minn., native, recently suffered turf toe and a left knee injury.
“I wish I had the answer,” Kill said of Leidner’s status. “We’ll see how he progresses, see what happens.”
Kill has said all season that Leidner is his No. 1 quarterback when healthy.
Michigan head coach Brady Hoke said in a conference call Tuesday that he’s undecided on which quarterback he’ll start against Minnesota. Redshirt senior Devin Gardner came into the season as the face of Michigan’s football team but has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns this year.
Michigan benched Gardner in the second half of the Wolverines’ 26-10 loss to Utah last week in favor of highly touted sophomore Shane Morris. But Morris wasn’t much better, throwing an interception and fumbling the ball in the fourth quarter.
Minnesota redshirt freshman Chris Streveler started in Leidner’s place last week against San Jose State and ran for 161 yards in the 24-7 victory.
But Streveler also completed only one pass for 7 yards. When asked if the Gophers can win in the Big Ten with that sort of production, offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover was brutally honest.
“Probably not. We’ve got to get better,” Limegrover said. “I’m not going to say we need to throw it more, but when we do, we need to make sure that it’s spot-on.”
Minnesota’s passing attack has been dismal all season but was even worse last week without Maxx Williams, the team’s most reliable receiver.
Williams leads the Gophers with 110 receiving yards, but he didn’t play Saturday due to a calf injury and is questionable for this week’s game. Junior defensive lineman Alex Keith is also questionable after injuring his knee in the season opener.
“We anticipate him doing some stuff in practice today for the first time in almost three and a half weeks. We’ll know a lot more about his progression as the week goes on,” Kill said.
Senior defensive back Marcus Jones is out with a broken hand, Kill said. Jones is usually Minnesota’s kick returner and punt returner.
On top of that, redshirt freshman running back Berkley Edwards hasn’t been 100 percent the past couple of weeks due to lingering shoulder issues, which has put more of a load on senior David Cobb.
Cobb, who ranks sixth in the country in rushing yards, said his 34 carries last week are the most he’s ever had in a game at any level. Having an accomplished tailback might take some pressure off Streveler, who could start for the second consecutive week.
“It’s a little bit of a sense of security back there,” Streveler said of playing with Cobb. “I go into every week preparing like I’m the starter and if I have to play, I’ll be ready.”