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A college sports blog from The Oakland Press, dedicated to covering Michigan and Michigan State athletics as well as former Oakland County athletes at other schools.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Five Keys for Michigan today vs. Minnesota

Michigan comes in ranked No. 19 in the country and with a perfect 4-0 record. Minnesota enters coming off back-to-back losses against New Mexico State and North Dakota State. This one could be ugly. Nonetheless, here are five keys to the game for the Wolverines today in their pursuit of winning the Little Brown Jug, which has been on hiatus since 2008:

1. Let Denard be Denard -- I've said it all season, just let Denard say hut and see what happens. He leads the Big Ten in rushing and is fourth in the country. Passsing, however, has not been very effective. Just let him go.

2. Find a back -- Fitzgerald Toussaint has been sharing time with Vincent Smith, but this may be an opportunity for Toussaint to establish himself as the feature back. I say give Toussaint 25-plus carries today, regardless of how the game's going, and see how he does.

3. Every win is a win -- Michigan has not fared well in Big Ten play the past three seasons. The Wolverines are undefeated in the past three Septembers, all non-conference games, but have fallen quickly in October. Starting 1-0 in a winnable game at home is critical.

4. Get a look at Gardner -- There's no reason Michigan shouldn't be able to jump on the Gophers and get out to a big lead today. If the Wolverines can do so, Brady Hoke should get backup quarterback Devin Gardner into the game, and much earlier than he did against Eastern Michigan. With the way Robinson plays, he's one hit away from being sidelined. Gardner is going to need game action at some point.

5. Keep it rolling -- We still don't really know how good this Michigan team is. The body of work isn't there yet. However, the Wolverines think they're really good. Good enough to win a Big Ten title even. Their very confident, perhaps overconfident. But in the words of George Costanza, "It's not a lie, if you believe it." Michigan needs a big win to keep its momentum and confidence sky high as it approaches two tough road games at Northwestern and Michigan State the next two weeks.

Follow me on Twitter @Maghielse for commentary during the game.


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