Friday, October 26, 2007

Wolverines have plenty of reasons not to overlook lowly Gophers

AP Sports Writer

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) - Michigan has plenty of reasons to be motivated to beat Minnesota.

That's despite the Golden Gophers not exactly inspiring teams to be focused on them this season.

Minnesota (1-7, 0-4 Big Ten) has won only once - over Miami of Ohio and in triple overtime - and is coming off a loss to North Dakota State that rivals its embarrassing setback against Florida Atlantic.

But the 19th-ranked Wolverines (6-2, 4-0) insist they will not overlook an opponent again, no matter how lowly it appears, after their stunning loss to Appalachian State in the season opener.

``I think we learned early in the season not to take any team for granted,'' guard Steve Schilling said.

Still, Michigan might not have - or need - two of its senior offensive stars against Minnesota on Saturday.

It is unclear whether banged up running back Mike Hart and quarterback Chad Henne will play - either because their injuries are too severe or because Michigan's coaches want them at 100 percent for the season's stretch run.

Hart has missed 1 1/2 games after appearing to injure his right ankle Oct. 13 against Purdue, and Henne was in and out of last week's win at Illinois because of an unknown injury.

The Wolverines know the last time Minnesota played in Ann Arbor, the Gophers won and stormed across the field to snatch the Little Brown Jug.

``I wouldn't want to experience that again,'' safety Brandent Englemon said. ``That was by far one of the worst feelings I've had here.''

Michigan also is driven to extend its six-game winning streak, heading into a challenging stretch to end the regular season: at Michigan State and Wisconsin before closing at home against top-ranked Ohio State.

Even though the Gophers' season is far from finished, they already are eliminated from earning a bowl bid for the first time in six years.

Minnesota does, however, have trophies at stake in three of its final four games - the Little Brown Jug against Michigan; Floyd of Rosedale versus Iowa; and Paul Bunyan's Axe in the finale against Wisconsin.

``Being a senior, if we can bring home three of those trophies that'd be amazing,'' safety Dom Barber said.

Claiming the first of the three trophies truly would be amazing.

Michigan is favored to win by more than three touchdowns against a defense giving up 534 yards a game - more than any other major football program - with injuries making a poor unit worse.

The Gophers expect to start three freshmen in the secondary as part of a defense that will be without five starters in front of about 110,000 fans at Michigan Stadium.

``I think about my favorite movie of all time, ``Hoosiers,'' and that basketball court where they go in with the tape measure. It's a certain number of feet here and that rim is 10-feet high,'' Minnesota's first-year coach Tim Brewster said. ``I don't anticipate them being in awe or anything like that. It's a football field, it's 100 yards long and we're going to go play.''