The Call: Gophers vs. Michigan

  • Article by: PHIL MILLER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 3, 2012 - 9:15 AM

The Wolverines are tied for first in the Legends Division, but after losing to Nebraska, they will need help to reach the Big Ten championship game.

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Denard Robison is most dangerous with his legs — he’s the Big Ten’s third-leading rusher.

Photo: Tony Ding, Associated Press - Ap Photo/tony Ding

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GOPHERS OFFENSE VS. WOLVERINES DEFENSE

The Wolverines don't sack the quarterback much, but they play an aggressive style along the line of scrimmage, often adding a linebacker to the pass rush, in order to force the quarterback into mistakes. That's an interesting matchup for Gophers quarterback Philip Nelson, who has made few errors in his two starts. An effective running game would help, but Michigan has allowed more than 116 yards only once in its past six games. Advantage: Michigan

GOPHERS DEFENSE VS. WOLVERINES OFFENSE

The Gophers' biggest vulnerability, big gains in the running game, is exposed if Denard Robinson quarterbacks; he's the Big Ten's third-leading rusher. But if he -- or one of the Wolverines' backup quarterbacks -- can be contained and forced to throw, Michigan is vulnerable. Robinson has thrown nine interceptions, his backups five more, and pass coverage is Minnesota's strength. Advantage: Michigan

SPECIAL TEAMS

Junior kicker Brendan Gibbons has hit 13 of 15 field-goal tries this season, including a 52-yarder, and junior Will Hagerup leads the Big Ten in punting with a 45.9-yard average. Advantage: Michigan

INTANGIBLES

TCF Bank Stadium has been good to the Gophers this season, and there is an air of confidence around the team after last week's victory over Purdue that wasn't there before. Still, Michigan knows it can't afford another loss if it hopes to advance to the conference championship game. Advantage: Even

PREDICTION

Denard Robinson plays, but the Gophers manage to limit him to medium gains, not length-of-the-field romps. Both defenses make big plays, but Michigan wears down Minnesota in a low-scoring game with its larger number of weapons and its ability to convert third downs. Michigan 24, Gophers 23

NUMBERS TO KNOW

1977 Date of Minnesota's last home victory over Michigan, 16-0 over the top-ranked Wolverines.

47.3 Michigan's third-down conversion rate, best in the Big Ten.

DON'T FORGET ABOUT

Derrick Wells  A safety playing with a cut leg, he'll be asked to prevent Denard Robinson from breaking long gains.

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