Breaking it down: Minnesota has to rebound offensively vs. Ohio
Who: Ohio vs. Minnesota
When: Saturday, 2:30 p.m. CT
Where: TCF Bank Stadium, Minnesota
TV: Big Ten Network
Spread: Minnesota -10.5
Matchup to watch: Brendan Cope vs. Briean Boddy-Calhoun
Every week, Boddy-Calhoun seems to draw the opposing team’s best offensive weapon. This time around will be no different. He’ll get the matchup against the Bobcats’ big-play receiver. Cope already has catches of 50, 65 and 67 yards this season, but he hasn’t faced anybody like Boddy-Calhoun yet. The Minnesota corner helped bail out the Gophers in their poor offensive showing against Kent State last week. He’s led a pass defense that ranks 18th in the country, despite having played against arguably the nation’s top quarterback. If Boddy-Calhoun can prevent Ohio from hitting the home run plays with Cope, the Gophers shouldn’t have much of a problem locking down the rest of the offense.
Thing I’m excited for: Mitch Leidner’s response
The Minnesota quarterback has been getting blasted by Gopher fans all week — and probably before that — after his showing against Kent State. It’s one thing to be stifled by a MAC school. It’s another to be stifled by the same MAC school that allowed 52 points to Illinois two weeks earlier. Now, the running game wasn’t up to Jerry Kill standards, but with a freshman tailback, that’s going to happen. Leidner has to be the one to right the ship in that situation. He was indecisive, inaccurate and unreliable. His touchdown pass was a swing play to K.J. Maye, who did all the work. Leidner has to improve, and he knows it. Unfortunately for the Gophers, their best backup option, Chris Streveler, has been basically a receiver all year. Minnesota doesn’t need a ton from Leidner if the running game is re-established, but Minnesota certainly needs more than what it got last week.
Number to remember: 16.7
That’s how many points per game the Gophers are averaging…on both sides of the ball. That’s the reason a Big Ten West contender is only favored by 10.5 at home to a MAC school. Minnesota needs that non-conference rout that every Power Five school seems to get at least one of. Frank Solich has a stout defensive group with more talent than Kent State had. The Bobcats held a solid Marshall team to 253 total yards. If Minnesota doesn’t improve on that 35-percent third-down conversion rate, this could be another long day for the offense.
Prediction: Minnesota 21, Ohio 7
I said this even when I was watching the Gophers against No. 2 TCU in the opener. They aren’t ever going to be a team that blows people out. They don’t have the guys with uncatchable breakaway speed at the skill positions and they’re going to be successful only if they can establish the run. Saturday will have moments that will feel like Kent State all over again, but this defense is too good to allow the Bobcats to string together scoring drives. The Gophers survive the non-conference slate with a 3-1 mark and head into B1G play still with some offensive questions.