Drew Thurman (4:33 pm)
Mascot: Golden Gophers
Stadium: HHH Metrodome (64,172)
2007 Record: 1-11
2008 Record: 4-0
Coach: Tim Brewster (2nd Season at Minnesota, 5-11)
Letterman: 42 Returning, 18 Lost
Returning Starters: Offense - 8, Defense - 7, Specialist - 2
Base Defense: 4-3
Base Offense: Ace (3 Wideouts)
Returning Stars: QB Adam Weber, DE Willie VanDeSteeg
After winning only one game a year ago, Minnesota has come out 4-0 to start the 2008 season off. The level of competition they have played has been average at best, but they are undefeated regardless. They struggled in week one against Northern Illinois (1-2), but then have won rather easily over Bowling Green (1-2), Montana State (1-2), and Florida Atlantic (1-3) since.
On offense the Gophers have been very balanced thus far. They are led my quarterback Adam Weber. Weber has thrown for 967 yards with 7 touchdowns with an impressive one intereception. Weber has one extreme favorite target in wideout Eric Decker. Decker was almost an 1,000 yard receiver last season, and already has 454 yards and 4 touchdowns to start the 2008 campaign. Besides Decker, expect Weber to hit Duane Bennett and Ben Kuznia as well. Don't count out Weber's feet either. Despite being sacked 6 times, he still has accumulated 149 yards on the ground with 2 touchdowns.
The ground game is "done by committee," in typical Minnesota fashion. The man that will lead the charge is running back DeLeon Eskridge. So far, Eskridge has 211 yards 5 touchdowns. He is averaging 4.3 yards a carry which is the worst of any of the running backs that get significant playing time. Those other runners are Duane Bennett (147 yards, 2 TD) and Shady Salamon (122 yards, 2 TD).
On defense, Minnesota brings a much more mature unit than a year ago. They have given points though. Besides the Florida Atlantic game where the gave up just three points, the Gopher defense has let some weak opponents accumulate a lot of points. So far Minnesota has actually been led by it's defensive backs. That unit has come up with 6 of the 8 interceptions forced by Minnesota, and have three of the top four tacklers on the team. The most impressive of the defensive backs in probably junior safty Tramaine Brock. He already has 28 tackles, 21 of which are solo and an interception.
Outside of the defensive backs the Gophers also have very strong defensive ends. Expect to hear the names Lee Campbell and Willie VanDeSteeg a lot on Saturday, especially Van DeSteeg who already has 6 tackles for loss.
Bob Dylan - Singer/ Songwriter
Peter Graves - Actor
Ron Pearlman - Actor
Flip Saunders - NBA Coach
Tony Dungy - NFL Player and Coach
Marion Barber III - Cowboys RB
Herb Brooks - Hockey Coach (1980 Olympics)
Kevin McHale - NBA Player
On offense I think you see the Buckeyes really try to pound it at Minnesota's defensive tackles and linebackers. With strong defensive ends and a quick secondary, look for the Buckeyes to keep it between the tackles a lot. Beanie will probably get 8-12 carries at most I would think, so you will still see a lot of Boom Herron. Of course Pryor will once again be a huge factor for the Buckeyes. I think Tressel opens up the playbook even more for Pryor this week, and we get to see him run some interesting formations. Once again, his ability to extend plays with his feet will set up the long ball to our wideouts.
On defense I could see the Buckeyes struggling against Minnesota's spread. The Gophers do a little bit of everything, and once again this could be very frustrating to watch our defense defend. The key will be stuffing the run early and forcing Weber to throw the ball for the victory. Look for Malcolm Jenkins to guard Decker and keep him in check for most of the game. I think Minnesota will move the ball with lots of quick hitting passes and some draw plays out of the backfield.
Overall, the biggest advantage the Buckeyes have is that they are playing at home. Oh, and also the fact the Glen Mason will be an honorary captain on the sideline. I think Minnesota will move the ball, but I expect our defense to clamp down in the red zone and force field goals. If Beanie stays healthy, look for us to get our mojo and confidence back. I think it will be a fight early on, but the Buckeyes break away in the fourth quarter. Time for the Big Ten schedule...
Final Score: Ohio State 33 Minnesota 16