The Little Brown Jug is at stake when Minnesota and Michigan go at it, and this one promises to be quite a contest. Minnesota is coming off a 23-7 home loss to Iowa, while Michigan is undefeated but playing nowhere near like a Top 25 team, barely escaping against Akron and at UConn (who just fired its head coach in September).
This game will be crucial for Michigan's offense to get back on track, as both the offensive line and QB Devin Gardner have looked startlingly mediocre in the early going. Minnesota can be run upon, so establishing tempo and controlling the line of scrimmage are key tasks for the Wolverines.
Rankings and records: Michigan enjoys a 4-0 record and a No. 19 rank, but it takes an especially shaky first few games to go undefeated and still move down in the rankings; the Wolverines came into the year at No. 17 in the AP. Minnesota is 4-1 and unranked, and it's facing an uphill battle in this one. The Gophers have taken home the Little Brown Jug just twice in the last 35 years, with the last victory in 2006.
Vegas: Michigan is favored by 19 points, according to OddsShark, and the over/under is 49. The spread started at Michigan -21, so there's that.
Weather: Ann Arbor will be in the mid-70s with a light chance of rain at kickoff and staying mild throughout the day.
Three names to know
Jeremy Gallon has emerged as Michigan's first, second and third option on the outside in the passing game, and that's scarcely an exaggeration; Gallon has 22 catches for 328 yards and four scores on the year, which by far leads all of Michigan's receivers. Gallon's not a big man at 5'8" and 187 pounds, but he can shake open and make moves in space, and he'll likely have a field day against the Minnesota secondary.
At tailback, Fitzgerald Toussaint has emerged in front of a crowded pack and is getting virtually every rush from that unit, especially in the last three weeks. He still hasn't reclaimed his form from a breakout sophomore season, and a badly broken leg last year didn't help. He does already have five TDs, though, and 4.1 yards per rush isn't horrible. Michigan needs more consistency out of Toussaint this week.
If Minnesota's going to have any shot at a win, defensive tackle Ra'Shede Hageman has to be a major factor. He's by far the best member of the Gophers' front four, and a legit NFL prospect to boot. He also disappeared during the Iowa game and he's not going to get much of a respite against Michigan's physical line. He'll be getting double-teamed a lot; can he find a way to make plays anyway?
Two things at stake
Minnesota's 4-0 start tantalized Gopher fans, getting them thinking about another bowl bid after a 6-6 regular season last year. But Iowa dashed dreams of a special season by demoralizing Minnesota on both sides of the ball, and Iowa is hardly the most physical team the Gophers will face this season. A win would right the ship in Minneapolis and get that program back to thinking about big things.
The Wolverines, meanwhile, need to prove themselves capable of high-level production against an inferior foe, and Minnesota qualifies. It doesn't have to be 56-3 at halftime or anything, but a demonstration that this is a team worthy of Top 25 recognition would be nice. Otherwise, Michigan's dreams of finally getting to Indianapolis for a Big Ten Championship bid might have to wait another year.
How to witness
TV: This game is on ABC and ESPN2 at 3:30 ET; check your local listings.
Online streaming: WatchESPN. XFINITY customers can stream online here.