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Sports

College Football In the Trenches: Michigan Wolverines @ Minnesota Golden Gophers

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College Football In the Trenches: Michigan Wolverines @ Minnesota Golden Gophers

2020-10-24 09:01:23

 

-by Scott Farrell, Contributing Writer; Image: Michigan Wolverines left tackle Jalen Mayfield. (Image Source: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports)

This week’s top Outland Trophy feature puts us inside Big Ten territory – and we’re glad to see you guys back – for the Gophers and Wolverines settling the nation’s oldest trophy game as to who will win the 97th Little Brown Jug (they’ve played 104 times). And for the first time since 1968, a ranked Minnesota team (No. 18) is facing a ranked opponent (No. 21 Michigan) in its season opener.

It’s been a lonely offseason for Michigan right tackle Jalen Mayfield (#73, Jr., Grand Rapids, Mich.) as the only returning starter on Big Blue’s offensive line – the other four from last year were all drafted into the NFL. Mayfield’s at home on the right side after starting there in all 13 games of 2019. The honorable mention All-Big Ten lineman played left tackle in three games in the 2018 season. 

Mayfield’s 13 starts are second on an offense that averaged 401.5 yards per game last year, 150.7 on the ground and 250.8 per game through the air. Perhaps the Wolverines’ line’s best statistic from a year ago was that they were second in the Big Ten and 22nd nationally in fewest tackles for loss allowed (4.85 per game average). 

Opposite Mayfield is Minnesota left guard Blaise Andries (#77, Jr., Marshall, Minn.), who has started 26 consecutive games for the Gophers. His job will be protecting Minnesota’s two primary offensive threats, quarterback Tanner Morgan and wide receiver back Rashod Bateman. Morgan kept a roaring pace through his All-Big Ten Second Team season, setting single-season school records for passing yards (3,253), passing TD’s (30), completion percentage (66.0), passing yards per game (250.2), TD/Interception ratio (4.28) and pass efficiency rating (178.7). Morgan is 15-4 as a starter and Andries has been in front of him for every game. Andries’ (pronounced BLAYZ AN-dreez) and the line’s best moment last year came against Purdue when Morgan completed 21-of-22 passes (95.45 percent) for 396 yards and four TD’s, the highest completion rate in Big Ten history for any quarterback who attempted 15 or more passes. 

Bateman originally declined to play the 2020 season due to COVID-19 health concerns but opted back in on Sept. 30 after the NCAA restored his eligibility. The Big Ten Receiver of the Year last year caught 60 passes for 1,219 yards (second most in a single Minnesota season) and 11 touchdowns (tied for second most in a single season).

It’s a beast of a game to open the schedule in a conference well-known for its offensive linemen. Minnesota claims three Outland Trophy winners, the latest in 2005 in center Greg Eslinger.  Michigan has never had an Outland Trophy winner. Big Blue’s last Outland finalist was offensive tackle Jake Long in 2007.

Minnesota hasn’t beaten Michigan at home since 1977.

 

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