Editor’s note: Counting down to Michigan football’s season opener, Land of 10 is taking a look at the Wolverines’ 2017 opponents.
Michigan vs. Minnesota
When: Saturday, Nov. 4
- Kickoff time: TBA
- Where: Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor.
- TV: TBA
- Last meeting: On Oct. 31, 2015, Wilton Speight replaced injured starter Jake Rudock and produced a go-ahead touchdown and 2-point conversion, then the Wolverines’ defense preserved a 29-26 win on the road with a game-ending goal-line stand. Minnesota attempted a quarterback sneak on the final play, but defensive tackle Ryan Glasgow and linebacker Joe Bolden stopped Mitch Leidner short of a touchdown.
Minnesota at a glance
Coach: P.J. Fleck
2016 record: 9-4 (5-4 Big Ten)
Gophers players to watch
Rodney Smith | Running back
Rodney Smith was among the Big Ten’s top players in all-purpose yards and touchdowns last season, even if you don’t hear his name as much as others. He averaged 123.8 yards per game last season, and only Penn State’s Saquon Barkley had more touchdowns than the 17 Smith scored. He and Shannon Brooks make up one of the conference’s best backfield tandems. Fleck and offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca bring an up-tempo offensive style to the Gophers, but Smith is still at the heart of what Minnesota will do.
Steven Richardson | Defensive tackle
Minnesota was second in the Big Ten last season to Wisconsin in rush defense, allowing 117.8 yards per game. Richardson (6-foot-2, 292 pounds) is the frontline of a stingy defense that ranked in the top 25 nationally in points and yards allowed. Richardson has made 25 tackles for loss and produced 12 1/2 sacks in his three seasons. Michigan will have to handle him to get its running game going.
Minnesota is no pushover. Three of its four losses last season were by seven points or fewer, and that’s before Fleck arrived from Western Michigan with his “Row the boat” slogan and infectious enthusiasm. Michigan’s mettle will be tested in this game. This game begins the final month of the season and, with games at Wisconsin and home vs. Ohio State looming, it would be easy to overlook the Gophers. That wouldn’t be wise.
Michigan 27, Minnesota 21