Tuesday, October 27, 2015

No. 15 Michigan and Minnesota come into Saturday's game with plenty in common

                                   Photo Credit: Geno Green

Things happen sometimes in threes. 

For the No. 15-ranked Michigan Wolverines and Minnesota Golden Gophers, losing their last games at home, not playing the week before because of a bye and playing for the Little Brown Jug are the common threads.

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh played in this rivalry game as a coach and lost the 1986 matchup to Minnesota, 20-17 on a last-second field goal.

Fast forward to last season's meeting at Michigan Stadium as the Gophers dominated the Wolverines on both sides of the ball in a 30-14 loss giving the possession of the Little Brown Jug back to Minnesota for the fourth time since 1968.

Harbaugh relishes the chance to be on the coaching side of things under the lights at TCF Bank Stadium, but sees similarities and differences in terms of preparing for Minnesota.

"Preparation as a player is both mental and physical," Harbaugh said in Tuesday's Big Ten teleconference. "I would say as a coach, it is more studying from a mental standpoint than being a player. There's a lot of contrast between the two."

After losing to Michigan State 27-23 on Oct. 17, Harbaugh and the Wolverines used the bye week as a chance to regroup and work on some fundamentals to get ready for Minnesota.

"We have had an opportunity last week to practice and I was very impressed with our team," Harbaugh said. "[Last] Tuesday's practice was much like a training camp practice. Half of our preparation was for Minnesota and the other half was getting fundamentals with our units down packed."

The Harbaugh-Kill connection:

The connection with the Harbaugh family and Kill goes as far back as 2001 and 2002 when Kill coached at Southern Illinois and went head up against Jim Harbaugh's father, Jack at Western Kentucky.

Harbaugh respects what Kill brings to table and expects to see the full package Saturday.

"I see the way [Minnesota] executes their schemes and the Harbaugh family has deep respect for Jerry Kill," Harbaugh said.

"I've seen it from all phases from my perspective. [Minnesota] plays the game like it is supposed to be played and as my dad has always said, great, honest, fair competition when you play a Jerry Kill-coached team."

The Gophers' first quarter struggles on offense have been the norm all season, mustering 10 points, while allowing 47 on defense.

Minnesota associate coach Tracy Claeys knows a good start against a top-tier team like Michigan will be critical to keeping the Little Brown Jug in Minneapolis for another season.

"It still comes back to eliminating the negative plays and having third downs that are manageable," Claeys said. 

"Those are things that we haven't done out of the gate and it takes a little bit to get adjusted. The main thing we have been stressing in the off-week is to eliminate the bad plays to give us chances to convert on third down. It's all about taking care of the ball."

All-Time History:

Michigan leads the all-time series 73-25-3 over Minnesota. The Gophers are looking to win two straight games against the Wolverines for the first time since taking four in a row from 1960-63.

Game Planner:

No. 15 Michigan (5-2, 2-1 Big Ten East) at Minnesota (4-3, 1-2 Big Ten West)

Location: TCF Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, Minn.

Time: Saturday, 6 p.m. CT

TV/Online: ESPN/WatchESPN

Line: Michigan (-13.5)

Social Media:

Follow Geno Green on Twitter @GenoSportsguy.