Monday, March 17, 2014
Snapping the streak: Minnesota-Michigan
By Adam Rittenberg
No league has more longstanding historic rivalries than the Big Ten, but several of these series are becoming one-sided of late. We're taking a closer look at these games and whether things will change or remain the same in 2014.
We've already looked at the two Paul Bunyan trophy games: Wisconsin-Minnesota and Michigan-Michigan State. Has anyone seen the Little Brown Jug? It has been in Michigan's possession for quite a while.
Series: First meeting in 1892. Michigan leads 73-34-3. Little Brown Jug was introduced in 1909.
Last meeting: Michigan thumped Minnesota 42-13 on Oct. 5, 2013, at Michigan Stadium.
The streak: Michigan has won six consecutive matchups, 22 of the past 23 and 38 of the past 41. Minnesota's last win came in 2005 at Michigan Stadium.
Next meeting: Sept. 27 at Michigan Stadium
The skinny: The history always will be there with this series, but the rivalry factor has waned as Minnesota's struggles against Michigan coincide with its lengthy Big Ten title drought (no Big Ten titles since 1967, only three wins against Michigan). Minnesota had excellent opportunities to beat Michigan in 2008 and 2012 but fell short both times. The Gophers now will try to end the streak at the Big House, where they've dropped their past three meetings by a combined score of 134-23.
Both teams are looking for more on offense, and both want to base their identity around the power game. Minnesota achieved it to a degree in 2013 and should have plenty of options at running back, including Berkley Edwards, the younger brother of former Michigan star wide receiver Braylon Edwards. Michigan finished 102nd nationally in rushing last year and looks for a spark with new offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier and sophomore backs Derrick Green and De'Veon Smith. Wolverines quarterback Devin Gardner has had two strong performances against Minnesota, connecting with tight end Devin Funchess for 151 yards and a touchdown last year. A Gophers defense led by Damien Wilson, Eric Murray and Theiren Cockran must contain the Devins.
The (very early) prediction: Minnesota will keep it closer than its last three games at Michigan Stadium, but the Wolverines have more offensive firepower and home field on their side. Gardner has been at his best against the Gophers and fires two touchdown passes in a seven-point win.