TSX Game Snapshot: Minnesota at Michigan

Keys to the Game, Scouting Both Teams, Fast Facts, Players to Watch, Injury Watch, Game Prediction.

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Saturday, noon ET
GAMEDATE: 10/1/11
SITE: Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, Mich.
SURFACE: FieldTurf
TV: Big Ten Network
SERIES: Michigan leads 69-24-3 (last meeting, Michigan 39-6)
RECORDS: Minnesota 1-3, 0-0 Big 10; Michigan 4-0, 0-0 Big 10
POLLS: Michigan (No. 19 AP, No. 19 USA Today)
PREDICTION: Michigan 42-10

KEYS TO THE GAME:
-- For Minnesota: Keep an eye on the quarterback. Of course, that's easier said than done when the quarterback in question is Michigan's Denard Robinson, who's a nightmare for defensive coordinators. Robinson can make a big play even if the defense does everything correctly from covering receivers to pressuring the quarterback.

-- For Michigan: Take command early. Michigan is facing a Minnesota team that is stuck in the doldrums, and the Wolverines need to keep the Gophers down there. An early mistake or two could give the Gophers some hope.

SCOUTING THE TEAMS:
MarQueis Gray and Max Shortell both saw time at quarterback for Minnesota against North Dakota State. That unsettled situation doesn't help the big picture since their strengths are so different. Gray, who is still learning the passing game, likes to take off and run. Shortell is a pocket passer. Gray is coming off the worst game of the season. He completed 5-of-12 passes for 53 yards, no touchdowns and an interception that was returned for a touchdown. Gray also picked up only 23 yards on 13 rushing attempts after cracking the 100-yard mark in his two previous games.

Minnesota's defense allows an average of 26.8 points a game, a total that's a bit inflated since North Dakota State returned two interceptions for touchdowns last week. The Gophers give up an average of 104.8 yards per game on the ground, but that will be tested by Michigan QB Denard Robinson, the nation's leading rusher. He is averaging 168.7 yards per game.
v Michigan leaned heavily on QB Denard Robinson last week in the win over San Diego State, and no one expects that approach to change too radically. Robinson rushed for 200 yards and a career high-equaling three touchdowns in that game. As the opposition gets more film to review, the Wolverines will need to pass more and explore other run options.

The Wolverines have made big strides on defense, enough so that coach Brady Hoke is comfortable bragging a bit about its play. They are giving up 156 yards a game on the ground, which is mediocre at best, but holding opponents to just 195 through the air. They also have given up only 51 points in four games.

FAST FACTS:
Gophers: The Little Brown Jug will be on the line for the first time since 2008 when Minnesota visits Michigan. The Gophers have won only once in the last 20 meetings with the Wolverines, beating them 23-20 in Ann Arbor in 2005. ... The punting game has improved significantly since last year, thanks to sophomore Dan Orseske's turnaround season. Orseske is averaging 45.9 yards on 12 punts, which puts the Gophers No. 8 in the country in net punting. Orseske averaged 36.1 yards per punt last season, ranking No. 94 in the nation. ... The Gophers have yet to have a conventional punt return in four games. Duane Bennett's return of a blocked punt for a touchdown against Miami (Ohio) is Minnesota's only punt return of the season. ... RB Donnell Kirkwood rushed for a career-high 70 yards on 10 carries and two touchdowns against North Dakota State. Kirkwood ran for a 30-yard score in the second quarter.

Wolverines: Michigan is playing its conference opener at homes for the fifth straight season. ... The Wolverines have won 41 of their last 43 Big Ten openers with both of the losses coming at Wisconsin (1982 and 2005). ... The Wolverines finished off the season's first month by going 4-0 in September, giving them 13 consecutive wins in September going back to a loss to Notre Dame in 2008. ... The Wolverines are 36-3 in the last 39 meetings with the Gophers. The two teams did not meet in either of the last two seasons. ... C David Molk, a first-team all-Big Ten pick in 2010, has made 33 starts in his Michigan career. He can be a dominant player in the middle of the offensive front. ... P Will Hagerup missed the first four games of the season while serving a suspension for a violation of team rules. He is expected to compete for the starting job now that he has returned to the active list.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

Gophers:
-- CB Brock Vereen -- He has made big strides from his freshman season when he appeared in nine games. Vereen is second on the team with 27 tackles, including 2.5 for a loss of yardage. He also as recovered a fumble, intercepted a pass and broken up four other passes.
-- LB Gary Tinsley -- The senior is having another solid season. Tinsley is third on the team with 26 tackles. He plays well against the run and the pass. Tinsley has two tackles for a loss of yardage while breaking up two passes and defending two others.
-- RB Duane Bennett -- He gained a team-high 74 yards on 13 carries against North Dakota State. Bennett ran 70 yards on seven attempts in the first half.

Wolverines:
-- LB Kenny Demens -- Demens has started all four games in the middle of the Michigan defense and is tied for the team lead in tackles with 30 stops.
-- QB Denard Robinson -- Robinson has been electric in becoming the nation's leading rusher (168.7 yards per game). He has had six runs of 20-plus yards this season, including runs of 53 and 52 yards.
-- WR Junior Hemingway -- Hemingway leads the Wolverines with 211 receiving yards. He is averaging 42.2 yards per catch, best in the nation.

INJURY WATCH:
Gophers:
LB Brandan Beal (knee, out), OT Josh Campion (concussion, out), WR A.J. Barker (hamstring, doubtful), MarQueis Gray (toe, questionable).

Wolverines:
LB Cameron Gordon (back, doubtful), CB Troy Woolfolk (ankle, probable).


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