The Minnesota Golden Gophers have had an interesting season so far, to say the least.
They have already switched starting quarterbacks from sophomore Phillip Nelson to freshman Mitch Leidner, they have been forced to play the second half of a game without their head coach Jerry Kill, who suffered a seizure due to his battles with epilepsy, and they have lost the Floyd of Rosedale rivalry trophy to the Iowa Hawkeyes in their first Big Ten game.
So why not an upset against one of the most storied programs in all of college football, the Michigan Wolverines?
The Gophers will be on the road visiting Ann Arbor for another rivalry game this weekend. This game will be for the “Lil Brown Jug”. This rivalry dates back to 1892 as one of the oldest in college sports. The trophy came from a skeptical Michigan coach Fielding Yost.
In 1901 Yost, who was having an excellent run of victories at Michigan, took his team to play Minnesota. Yost was concerned that Minnesota fans may contaminate his team’s water for the game, so he had a special five-gallon jug purchased to insure that his water was not tampered with. After the 1901 contest ended in a 6-6 tie, the disappointed Wolverines left the field and left behind their winning streak and their water jug.
Can the Gophers once again upset the Wolverines this time on the road? This may be the Golden Gophers team that is ready to do so. The Gophers are built to run the ball, and the Wolverines have struggled to stop the run at times. Minnesota’s ability to run the ball in the Big House could help to negate the noise created by the crowd that may exceed 100,000 fans on Saturday. Also, an effective rushing attack is always helpful to a young quarterback.
Mitch Leidner will present a challenge to the Wolverines with both his arm and his legs. He will force the Michigan defense to contain him and keep him from getting outside the tackles and breaking off gains of 10-plus yards with his feet. The Michigan defense has yet to be challenged by a capable running attack, and the Gophers feature a very deep backfield and will not stray from their running game.
They will continue to pound the ball and grind it out against the Wolverines. David Cobb and Rodrick Williams Jr. will split the carries on Saturday with talented Donnell Kirkwood’s status questionable. One would expect coach Kill to do anything in his power to get Kirkwood in the game if he is available.
Finally, Minnesota features a defense that is very opportunistic and puts themselves in situations where they are around the ball at all times. Look for the Gophers to turn the Wolverines over at least twice in this matchup. It is important to remember that Wolverines quarterback Devin Gardner has turned the ball over in every start he has had as a Wolverine.
This is homecoming for Michigan, and perhaps the pageantry and pressure will get to a Michigan team that is still dealing with their identity this season. Minnesota needs a rebound after their loss to an Iowa team that is better than advertised, and this may be the game to put the Gophers on the map.