Friday, November 3, 2017

Rosenberg: Fleck and Harbuagh meet under the lights with plenty of fireworks ready to go off

By: Jeremy Rosenberg

The Little Brown Jug is on the line this week as the Michigan Wolverines (6-2, 3-2 Big Ten) host the Minnesota Golden Gophers (4-4, 1-4 Big Ten) in a battle of the two coaches voted “Most Likely to Make a Recruit an Omelette after Spending the Night at Their House.” Minnesota is fighting desperately for bowl eligibility, but it remains difficult to see where the last two wins will come from. Michigan hopes to continue its trend of fattening up on the softer part of its schedule, only to disappoint mightily against the quality teams.

In Ann Arbor, excitement about redshirt freshman quarterback Brandon Peters has hit a fever pitch, with the debate raging as to whether Peters is the next Tom Brady, or merely the next Chad Henne. Never mind the only visual evidence we have of Peters is him taking it to a team was beaten by a 3-6 Eastern Michigan team. Peters played well, but the Michigan fanbase’s tendency to hyperbole has become a million times louder than usual. In their world, J.T. Barrett and Ohio State should probably not even bother showing up to play the Maize and Blue – it’s already over and Peters is on his way to the Hall of Fame.

In the real world, games like this week's against Minnesota are what truly stand between Michigan and a potential ten-win season. In order for the future games against Wisconsin and OSU to really matter, Michigan had better take care of business against Minnesota. Even with a win, Michigan’s season seems hollow, like a Juicy Lucy with no cheese in the middle.

For new Minnesota head coach P.J. Fleck, this year’s inaugural tour of the B1G is a learning experience. Fleck went 1-11 is first year at Western Michigan, but through fanatical recruiting and innovative coaching Fleck turned things around very quickly for the Broncos. He has a taller order at Minnesota, but there are things to like about the Gopher program. A great facility, a young coach who relates to his players, and a chance to play in the lightweight Big Ten West.

As for the game, Minnesota struggles throwing the ball, and will need to establish the running game to have any chance to pull an upset. Not an easy task, especially with big Mo Hurst in the middle of the Michigan line. Mo is a complete wrecking crew, like a demolition ball cracking holes in the offensive line. Do yourself a favor and spend a few plays of the game focusing on Hurst. He is a special player.

Meanwhile, all Michigan needs from Peters is a turnover free game, and the wherewithal to utilize play-action when needed. Other than that, let Karon Higdon and Ty Issac plow through the Gopher line and call it a night.

The future greatness of Brandon Peters notwithstanding, expect the Wolverines to control the game on the ground and rely on their defense for a methodical victory.

Prediction: Michigan 27, Minnesota 10.

You simply cannot expect P.J. Fleck to row his way into Michigan and win his first game at the Big House. The Wolverines will torpedo the Gophers bowl hopes, and the hyperbole surrounding Brandon Peters will continue, at least until the Big Blue travel to Wisconsin.