This is the second season that the Minnesota football team has called the TCF Bank Stadium (The Bank) home for football. However, due to a scheduling glitch the Buckeyes hosted the Gophers two years in a row so this will be the first time that our team plays in the brand new facility. And that is about the most exciting thing about the game Saturday.
The fact is that the Gophers are 1-7 and in the midst of several seasons on general ineptitude. The season had gone so wrong that two weeks ago they fired Tim Brewster as head coach. They replaced him with the OC Jeff Horton who debuted with a loss to Penn State and honestly has no shot of being the head coach next year. Seriously when you consider how nasty the ground game of Minnesota used to be in the Maroney/Russell days under Glen Mason it just makes me a little sad to see how dysfunctional they have been of late. I don’t take the pleasure of them sucking nearly as much as I do TSUN.
So for all intents and purposes this will be a game much like last week where the Buckeyes cannot sleep on the opponent but are just simply a much better team.
1) #8 Weber is still the QB and it seems like he has been there forever. He has put up decent stats each year but that has not translated into team victories. Look for him to spread the ball around and go downfield. Which would sound alarming considering our MASH unit of a secondary but Weber also excels at bad decisions and interceptions.
2) The running game is basically nonexistent but currently #23 Eskridge and #22 Bennett are handling the ball toting duties. Both juniors have 444 yards and 2 TDs on the ground this year – weirdly the same. Neither have explosive speed and Bennett is the better of the two as a receiver.
3) Gone is Decker – the playmaker on the outside from last year. Now the primary receiver is #6 McKnight who has accounted for 9 TDs and 15 yards per catch this year. Along with him there are #5 Gray (former QB), #81 Allen and the Gophers are another Big Ten team that involves the TE in the passing game with #85 Lair chipping in some catches too.
4) The line is very deep and experienced – which is somewhat misleading because that would lead you to think they are good. But considering the record of the teams that the line has been part of – how good can they really be?
5) Defense? I guess you could say the Gophers attempt to play defense. The truth is that they have let teams in the red zone 13 times and given up 12 TDs (not counting big play scores), gave up 41 to South Dakota, 34 to Northern Illinois, 28 to Purdue. It is bad.
The key points for the Buckeyes in my mind is to finally get a convincing road game win. Our other two away from home outings were a sad act at Illinois and a manhandling at Madison. With a big trip to Iowa on the horizon we need to have some confidence on the road in front of opposing fans. Granted the Minnesota fans may be more excited to be at a televised game on the night before Halloween instead of a foaming at the mouth group of die hards – but it is a road game nonetheless. Same could be said for it being a night game – last on was against the Badgers, and anything we can do to rid ourselves of that memory is a good thing.
I look for the Buckeyes to come out give an encore of last week and establish the run, score some points and get the backups in. Not over confident, just realistic. The defense should handle the Gophers – even with Homan being out again this week and the MASH unit secondary. Heyward said today that he has not been happy with his own play, hopefully this week he breaks loose. Also nice to hear that Sabino is keeping his redshirt, the right move with Sweat, Rolle and Newsome being able to get it done this week for sure.
Ohio State – 45
Minnesota – 10