Minnesota-Michigan Preview

Minnesota-Michigan Preview

Published Oct. 1, 2013 3:29 p.m. ET

Michigan won its opener by half a hundred, then put on an impressive offensive display in knocking off Notre Dame in Week 2.

The 19th-ranked Wolverines' last two wins, however, have left quite a bit to be desired.

Brady Hoke is hoping a bye week gave his team ample time to fix its issues heading into Saturday's Big Ten opener against visiting Minnesota.

Hoke has had some success at Michigan, winning 11 games in his debut season, eight a year later and the first four in 2013.


The coach, though, covets a Big Ten championship - something the Wolverines haven't won since 2004 - after going 6-2 in conference play in each of his first two seasons.

"We understand what the expectations are and should be for this program,'' Hoke said Monday.

Michigan (4-0) looked capable of delivering with a 59-9 season-opening rout of Central Michigan and a 41-30 win over then-No. 14 Notre Dame on Sept. 7. But after barely surviving 1-4 Akron at the Big House on Sept. 14 and needing to rally from 14 down in the third quarter to beat winless UConn a week later, the Wolverines have plenty of work to do.

After the win against Akron, offensive lineman Taylor Lewan was among Michigan's most vocal critics. Lewan repeatedly said the Wolverines' performance was "embarrassing,'' and vowed such a lackluster effort wouldn't happen again in practice or a game.

Instead of striking the same tune following the unimpressive win over the Huskies - who this week fired coach Paul Pasqualoni - Lewan wasn't willing to lash out again.

"I'm not apologizing for being 4-0,'' he said. "Obviously, I said a lot of strong things after the Akron game and they didn't turn out the way I wanted to. But this team is still 4-0. We did do something right.''

Lewan, though, knows a lot of people who follow college football's winningest program expect more.

"When you play at Michigan, there's a lot of fans and those fans will get you if you're not doing what they like,'' he said. "People are upset about the way we played the last two weeks. We haven't played perfect.''

The Wolverines can start making people forget about their sluggish second half of September with an impressive performance against Minnesota (4-1, 0-1) in their conference opener.

"We're excited to start the Big Ten season, excited to play in the oldest trophy game that there is for the Brown Jug with Minnesota,'' Hoke said. "And, we got a lot of work to do as you all know.''

The Golden Gophers lost their conference opener 23-7 to Iowa on Saturday at home after starting the season with four nonconference wins.

The Wolverines are a three-touchdown favorite to defeat Minnesota, but they will have tough tests the following week on the road against Penn State and in November at Michigan State, against Nebraska and in the regular-season finale against Ohio State at the Big House.

To win the Big Ten title, Michigan has to figure out a way to do a better job of moving the ball on the ground to take pressure off quarterback Devin Gardner. Part of the solution might include benching center Jack Miller or one of both of the offensive guards, Graham Glasgow and Kyle Kalis. Hoke would like the trio of first-year starters to stick together and jell, but he seems to be losing patience while waiting for production.

"That might be more critical than chemistry,'' Hoke said. "We have to put the guys in there that give us the best chance to be successful.

"We wouldn't have a problem making a change, if that's what we deem we ought to do.''

The Little Brown Jug hasn't changed hands often over the past few decades. Michigan has won 21 of the past 22 meetings, including the past five by an average of 28.2 points.