Michigan vs. Minnesota: Key stats as battle for Little Brown Jug looms


Michigan (2-2, 0-0 Big Ten) and Minnesota (3-1, 0-0 Big Ten) meet for the 101st time since the series began in 1892. The Wolverines, winners of six straight and 22 of the last 23 contests, hold a 73-24-3 advantage.

Kickoff Saturday (Sept. 27) is scheduled for 3:30 pm (ET) at Michigan Stadium.  The Big Ten opener for both teams will be televised by ABC and broadcast by the Michigan IMG radio network. Sirius, XM and American Armed Forces Radio also provide coverage.

75 and sunny

The weather will be perfect. Temperature at kickoff will be 75 degrees with sunny skies with winds at 6 mph from the ESE.Michigan is expecting a Big House crowd of more than 100,000 for the 255th consecutive time.

Both teams will be vying for the Little Brown Jug—a “trophy” which first surfaced at Minnesota in 1903.

Little Brown Jug

Folklore has it that Michigan coach Fielding Yost (198-35-12 career coaching record) feared some type of chicanery from the Gophers who were out to stop Michigan’s 28-winning streak. So Yost had an assistant purchase a water jug and had it filled himself.

After the 6-6 tie, the jug was left behind and when the Wolverines asked for it back , Minnesota’s rep told Michigan to win it back. The two teams failed to schedule a game for six years, so it wasn’t until 2009 that the jug became a permanent part of the Michigan-Minnesota rivalry.

The 2003 tie was a tough one for Michigan, but the 16-0 loss to the Gophers in 1977 disappointing, too.

Michigan rebounds

Coach Bo Schembechler  took his No. 1 Wolverines up to Minnesota with a six-game winning streak and fresh off a 56-0 pasting of then No. 14 Wisconsin.  The loss wasn’t bitter for long as Michigan rebounded to beat Ohio State 14-6 and grab a share of the Big Ten title.

This year’s Michigan-Minnesota contest could have makings of a defensive struggle.   Both teams allow 20.2 points per game, but the paths getting there have been very different.

In total defense, Michigan leads the Big Ten and ranks eighth in the country giving up just 261.0 yards per game. The Wolverines allow just 80.3 rushing, which is third in the league and ninth in the nation. And they’ve done it by only forcing two turnovers.

Gophers force 13 turnovers

Minnesota’s defense has been the most aggressive of the two, already forcing seven interceptions and six (lost) fumbles. Meanwhile, Minnesota’s opponents are moving the ball at a 383.8 yards per-game clip.

Probably the biggest difference in the Michigan defense from year ago was the move of Jake Ryan to middle linebacker from strongside backer. Last year he was still recovering from ACL surgery, and when he did play, he was often forced into pass coverage, certainly not his strong suit.

Jake Ryan excels

Ryan is an outstanding blitzer and tackler. He’s back on top of the Michigan tackles list with 33. The Wolverines (2-2) hang their hat on stopping the run, but they will be challenged by Minnesota tailback David Cobb, who has two 200-yard performances in his first four games.

Offensively, Minnesota is a totally one dimensional team. Starting quarterback Mitch Leidner who is banged up with knee and toe injuries, might not play Saturday. Backup Chris Streveler started a week ago, but only completed one pass.

So moving the ball has primarily been left on the ground with tailback David Cobb, an upcoming star who twice ran for 200 yards this season.  He’s totaled 539 yards (5.9 per carry) for the year. while Streveler, when he plays, has added 217 yards in just 30 carries.

Gardner vs. Morris a game-time decision

Michigan’s one-two punch of Derrick Green and De’Veon Smith have 585 yards between them.

Both of Michigan’s quarterbacks have been turnover-prone which has fans wondering if incumbent Devin Gardner will keep his starting gig.

Wolverine head coach Brady Hoke has been joshing the media all week, but has finally admitted that starting Gardner or backup Shane Morris will be a game-time decision.

Michigan has been listed as a consensus 13-point home favorite, which is up from seven earlier in the week.