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October 5, 2013

Keys To The Game: U-M vs. Minnesota

Keys To The Game

The Basics
Quote of the Week
The Teams: Michigan (4-0) at Minnesota (4-1)
The History: The two teams play for The Little Brown Jug. Michigan holds a 72-24-3 all-time advantage.
The Depth Charts: Minnesota and Michigan
The Place: The Big House, Ann Arbor, Mich.
The Time: 3:30 p.m. EST
The Line: Michigan -20.5
The Broadcast: ABC/ESPN2
The Updates: Follow the game on The Fort or follow us on Twitter: Borton, Balas, Spath, Reid and Sullivan.

"Just the fact they almost lost to Akron, they're human. You know what I mean? Everybody praises them to be elite, and I just feel like they're a regular football team."

-- Minnesota Defensive tackle Ra'Shede Hageman to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, talking about the Wolverines. Between that and Minnesota safety Cedric Thomas talking ill of redshirt junior quarterback Devin Gardner, Michigan has plenty of bulletin board material.
The Essentials
By the Numbers
  • Game Preview: TheWolverine.com speaks with Minnesota play-by-play man Mike Grimm to talk about the game and what it means for Minnesota. Click here to listen to the podcast.
  • Staff Predictions: For two straight games, TheWolverine.com writers have pegged blowout wins and been wrong. What did we say this time around? Click here to find out.
  • Matchups: TheWolverine.com takes a look at the most important matchups on the field, including the young interior offensive line vs. Minnesota DT Ra'Shede Hageman. Click here to read the rest.
  • Roundtable: The staff members of TheWolverine.com debate the biggest issues about Michigan sports every Saturday. Click here to read.
3: The number of wins the Golden Gophers have in this series since 1968, compared to 38 wins for the Wolverines. That's about as lopsided as things can get. Michigan last lost The Jug in 2005, when Minnesota won on a last-second field goal, 23-20.
8: The difference in turnover margin between Minnesota (plus-two) and Michigan (minus-five) this year. After surrendering eight turnovers in the last two games, the Wolverines must be more careful with the ball against the Gophers.
1-7: Minnesota coach Jerry Kill's record in Big Ten road games. His lone victory was a 17-3 decision last year over Illinois, which went 2-10 and winless in the Big Ten that season.

Five Players To Watch
1. Devin Gardner, redshirt junior quarterback: There has been a lot of talk about Gardner's last two games. This week, he said, in response to the criticism he has heard, "When you play as bad as I did, you kind of earn that." With a week to shake of the rust, Gardner will be back at it Saturday. Will he fall victim to turnoveritis once again? Minnesota's secondary has collected five interceptions this season. Or will he come back with a vengeance? The Gophers ranked 93rd nationally in passing defense (259 yards per game).

2. The Interior Offensive Line: This has been the big story of the week. Michigan coach Brady Hoke has switched things up inside, relegating redshirt sophomore center Jack Miller to the bench, moving redshirt sophomore Graham Glasgow from left guard to center and promoting redshirt sophomore Chris Bryant to starting left guard. Redshirt freshman Kyle Kalis will remain at right guard. The Wolverines have had big issues along the offensive line - will the change-up boost the production?

3. David Cobb, junior running back: The Michigan defense has been attacked through the air all season, seeing an average of 40.5 passing attempts per game. Saturday, it will be the opposite, led by Cobb, who's 13th in the Big Ten in rushing, with 70.4 yards per game. The Gophers tore teams up on the ground in the first four weeks, including 353 yards vs. San Jose State and 342 vs. New Mexico State. Iowa held Minnesota to 30 yards on 27 carries in last weekend's 23-7 Hawkeye win. Cobb had eight carries for 20 yards. Shut down the ground attack, win the game.

4. Jehu Chesson, redshirt freshman wide receiver: Chesson had some chances at big plays at Connecticut, but he misread a deep ball in the end zone and lost it and was outjumped for another one, which was picked off. Chesson has a lot of raw talent - and once his experience catches up, he will he a dangerous target. Will be break off a big one against the Gophers? Time will tell, but the Wolverines still need more playmakers to emerge to take the heat off Jeremy Gallon.

5. Ra'Shede Hageman, fifth-year senior defensive tackle: As mentioned above, the Wolverines are shaking up the offensive line this week - and they're running into a big test in Hageman, one of the Big Ten's best, most athletic interior defensive linemen. If Bryant, Glasgow and Kalis can control Hageman up front, it will be a very positive sign as the Wolverines move deeper into the Big Ten season.

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