Stadium: TCF Bank Stadium (50,805)
2009 Record: 6-7 (Lost to Iowa State 14-13 in Insight Bowl)
2010 Record: 1-7
Interim Head Coach: Jeff Horton (0-1)
Lettermen Returning: 38 (22 lost)
Returning Starters: Offense - 9; Defense - 2; Specialists - 1
Base Offense: "I" formation
Base Defense: 4-3
Returning Stars: QB Adam Weber & S Kyle Theret
Tony Dungy, NFL player, coach and analyst
Harry Reasoner, ABC and CBS news anchor
Bob Dylan, Singer/songwriter
Bronco Nagurski, NFL Hall of Famer
Walter Mondale, U.S. Vice President (1977-81)
Dave Winfield, MLB Hall of Famer
Loni Anderson, Actress (WKRP in Cinicnnati)
Herb Brooks, Coach of USA 1980 Olympic Hockey team
Ohio State travels to Minneapolis for a night game, affording the team their first look at Minnesota's new TCF Bank Stadium. Although the Buckeyes never lost in the Metrodome it was a terrible atmosphere for college football, and they will surely be happy to move to a new venue.
Minnesota is currently 1-7 and preparing to play their second game under interim head coach Jeff Horton following the firing of Tim Brewster. The team has played better than their record, however, only being outgained by 20 yards per contest, and have actually earned 19 more first downs than their opponents. The Gophers have lost a game by one point and another by three, and the only one-sided loss was 41-23 at Wisconsin. So Ohio State might want to think twice about phoning in a victory.
Offense is the strength of this Gopher squad, and it all starts with quarterback Adam Weber. A four-year starter, Weber has thrown for over 10,000 yards in his career and is having a fine senior season, having passed for 1,961 yards with 17 TD's and 7 INT's. Not known for his running ability, Weber has done a pretty good job of using his legs this season (34 carries, 111 yards). Possessing a strong arm, you can expect Adam to throw the ball repdeatedly Saturday night, as any hopes of an upset rest squarely on his back.
Like most seasoned quarterbacks, Weber loves to use his tight end, which in this case is junior Eric Lair. Although not particularly big (6'3" 238), and just average as a blocker, Lair can haul in the pigskin (29 catches, 407 yards & 2 TD's), and the Buckeye linebackers should be on notice.
A year ago Minnesota struggled to run the ball (99 ypg), but have improved this season, averaging 141 ypg at 3.7 per carry. Sharing the load are a pair of junior tailbacks in Duane Bennett and DeLeon Eskridge. Both backs have totaled exactly 444 yards to this point, but Bennett has the better per carry average (4.3 to 3.8) and is a much better receiver, having caught 17 passes for 186 yards and 1 touchdown. Neither is blessed with blazing speed, but they are solid, experienced players. Physical fullback Jon Hoese is injured, so Minnesota will turn to Ed Cotton. Realizing that, look for the Gophers to use more of the ace formation with three receivers like they did in past seasons.
Minnesota's offensive line is big and experienced, anchored by huge senior tackle Jeff Willis (6'7", 350). Center D.J. Burris, who hails from Kenton, Ohio, has started the most games of any of the lineman at 36, and is a smart player who is always in the right spot. All five starters are over 300 pounds, as is top reserve Dom Alford, who was a starter in '09. Interestingly he was replaced this season by redshirt freshman Ed Olson. Built for pass protection, the line has surrendered only 9 sacks and has been better at run blocking than last year.
The good news for the Gophers ends with the offensive preview because the defense is pretty bad. They are surrendering 406.4 yards per game, including 194 on the ground, and have managed only 3 sacks. Realizing that it is not surprising that teams are scoring 32 points per game on Minnesota.
Up front the Gopher defense has good size but seems to lack quickness. The best of the bunch is defensive end Anthony Jacobs (6'2" 300) who has 22 tackles including 4 behind the line of scrimmage. Also keep an eye on huge tackle Jewhan Edwards (6'2" 330) who has 18 tackles, 8 tfl and 1 sack. Considering the sorry season numbers that Minnesota has accumulated, it is obvious the line has not performed too well.
Minnesota had a decent crop of linebackers last year but all of them graduated and they are experiencing growing pains in 2010, starting two sophomores and a junior. Middle backer Gary Tinsley is the team's leading tackler with 63, including 6.5 behind the line, and has one interception and a forced fumble. Keanon Cooper has also been productive with 41 stops, but the Gophers are looking for a solid third option. Mike Rallis, Aaron Hill, Ryan Grant and Spencer Reeves have all started this season, with Rallis putting up the best numbers (27 tackles, 2 for loss and 2 interceptions).
The secondary has the most experience of any defensive unit, and is led by senior safety Kyle Theret. Despite missing two games he has 47 tackles and an interception. Ryan Collado is also a senior and the strong safety has 39 tackles and an interception. Corner is manned by true freshman Brock Vereen, who can be exploited, and sopohomore Michael Carter who is decent (24 tackles, 2 INT's). A number of other players contribute including Christyn Lewis, Kyle Henderson, and James Manuel. This isn't a bad unit, but suffers from the lack of pressure the front seven is able to put on the quarterback.
Special teams are not helping the Minnesota cause with freshman punter Dan Orseske averaging only 37.7 yards per punt, while kicker Eric Ellestad is 7-11 on field goals with a long of 42. Troy Stoudermire shows potential returning kicks (24.4 average) while Bryant Allen and Brandon Green have done fairly well bringing back punts (combined 10 yards per return). The Gophers have given up one touchdown on a kick return and had a punt blocked but have not given up as may big plays as Ohio State's un-special teams.
A glance at Minnesota's 1-7 record combined with the dismissal of Tim Brewster would indicate an easy "W" for the Buckeyes. However, neither Ohio State nor Terrelle Pryor has played well on the road. And, as indicated earlier, the Gophers have been competitive in most every game, they just don't have the defense to close the deal. Realizing that it would be advantageous for the Buckeyes to put them away early. If Ohio State can jump to a quick lead look for Minnesota to fold, and it could get ugly. On the other hand, they do not turn the ball over much (11 times in 8 games), and Weber will generate some offense.
Knowing Jim Tressel, he will come out running the ball with Boom Herron and try and punch the Gophers in the mouth. With the run established, Pryor will start picking apart the young Minnesota defense. It wouldn't surprise me to see Pryor use his legs a little more in this contest, although most of that is being saved for the last couple of games on the schedule. Minnesota will throw the ball a ton, and the wounded Buckeye back seven had better be ready, because they will be tested. This is a good opportunity for the big guys to get some sacks, since Weber is not the most mobile guy out there, and he will be dropping back a great deal. I think the Silver Bullets will give up some real estate but still be strong enough to get the job done. It may not be the prettiest game of the year, but will be a victory nevertheless.
Father vs. Son Predicitoon Battle:
Dave: OSU 34-13
Drew: OSU 38-9