Daily Breakdown: Michigan poised for a win at home against Gophers

The Gophers play for the Little Brown Jug trophy Saturday at Michigan.

Running back Rodney Smith attempts to break through the line of scrimmage while running the ball at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 28.

Jack Rodgers

Running back Rodney Smith attempts to break through the line of scrimmage while running the ball at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 28.

Jack Warrick

 The Little Brown Jug has been in Michigan’s possession since they last beat the Gophers at TCF Bank Stadium in 2015. After one year of Michigan being nixed from the Gophers schedule, the two teams will play in Ann Arbor, Michigan on Saturday.

Michigan reached No. 7 in the AP Top 25 college rankings this year before losing two games in a three week period and falling out of the top-25. Michigan is still on the coaches poll, ranked at No. 24.

The Wolverines are 6-2 overall, and 3-2 in the Big Ten going into the this week’s game against the Gophers.

When Minnesota runs the ball:

Chances are, Minnesota will rely on their run game as they have struggled to get much moving through the air, and head coach P.J. Fleck emphasizes that his teams run the ball.

Last week against Iowa, the Gophers threw for 139 yards, but 63 of those came at one pass at the end of the game. The Gophers stayed in the matchup with their run game — totaling 43 rushes on 142 yards and the only touchdown.

The Michigan rush defense is ranked third in the Big Ten, only averaging 104.1 yards allowed per game through eight games. Last game, the team held Rutgers to under 100 yards rushing, but Rutgers had two running touchdowns.

Advantage: Michigan

Matchup to watch: RB Kobe McCrary vs. LB Devin Bush

When Michigan runs the ball:

Michigan’s Karan Higdon rushed for 158 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries last week against Rutgers. Higdon shares touches with running backs Ty Isaac and Kareem Walker. Isaac had 109 rushing yards in the game and Walker had 34 yards with a touchdown.

Minnesota’s rush defense held Iowa to 125 yards in the loss last week. The Gophers rush defense ranks seventh in the Big Ten.

Advantage: Michigan

Matchup to watch: RB Karan Higdon vs. LB Thomas Barber

When Minnesota passes the ball:

Gophers quarterback Demry Croft was throwing 5-18 with 46 yards and an interception before halftime last week at Iowa. He threw for 139 yards in total in that game, almost the same amount of yards the Gophers got on the ground, but 63 of those yards came from one Tyler Johnson reception in the final six minutes.

The Gophers passing game ranks 13th in the Big Ten while Michigan’s passing defense tops the list with 151.4 yards allowed on average. Safety Tyree Kinnel leads the Michigan defensive backfield with 39 tackles this year.

Advantage: Michigan

Matchup to watch: WR Tyler Johnson vs. S Tyree Kinnel

When Michigan passes the ball:

The Wolverine are in a similar situation with the Gophers as a fifth year senior has had most of the quarterback reps this year in Conor Rhoda, but now a younger player — Demry Croft — has recently gotten time at quarterback.

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh put in redshirt freshman quarterback Brandon Peters for his first game playing considerable time. The 137 passing yards Michigan had against the now 3-5 Rutgers team were spread out amongst 10 receivers in the game. The highest performing receiver was tight end Sean McKeon, though he had 31 yards on three catches.

The Gophers pass defense has suffered the loss of defensive backs like Antonio Shenault and Antoine Winfield Jr., and they allowed 190 yards and a touchdown in the loss to Iowa last week. Minnesota’s pass defense is still ranked fourth in the Big Ten, however.

Advantage: Minnesota

Matchup to watch: TE Sean Mckeon vs. S Jacob Huff

Prediction:

Michigan 28, Minnesota 13

Minnesota can’t get its offense moving, and, to make matters worse, Michigan’s all-around defense ranks No. 1 in the Big Ten. The new Michigan quarterback is an X factor in the game, but the Michigan run game, averaging almost 200 yards per game, is good enough to put up touchdowns and bring home the Little Brown Jug for the Wolverines.

Daily prediction record: 7-1

What else you need to know:

Start time: 6:30 p.m. CST, Saturday Nov. 4

Location: Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, Michigan

TV: FOX

Radio: KFAN 100.3

Point Spread: Michigan by 15