With the Golden Gophers kicking off their 2015 season is less than three days times, I thought it was about time to reveal my predictions for one of the most anticapted seasons in Minnesota football history. Let's do this.
Gophers vs. TCU: 28-24 L
I've been thinking about every possible scenario in which the Gophers pull this one out, and I found quite a few. I do honestly believe this game is going to come down to a couple of plays in the 4th quarter as this will be an extremely movitated Minnesota team in front of a huge crowd on national television. Wouldn't be surprised to see Minnesota score on a gadget play or a special teams touchdown, but ultimately I think Minnesota loses a close one for the home opener.
Gophers at Colorado State: 31-17 W
Yes I know Colorado State won ten games last season, but it's asking a lot replace two NFL guys such as QB Garrett Grayson and RB Dee Hart. Plus replacing head coach Jim McElwain will be a tall task for such a successful program, so new head coach Mike Bobo has a lot on his plate. Luckily, he has All-American wide receiver Rashard Higgins coming back, but considering that the Gophers have two of the best corners in the nation, I'm not very concerned. I think Minnesota's offense gets on track early and doesn't look back for a two touchdown victory.
Gophers vs. Kent State: 38-10 W
Coming off a two win-season last year, the Golden Flashes lost a lot of close games last year and return both their starting quarterback and running back. This could be a little bit of a trap game for Minnesota coming off two games against teams who won 10+ games last year, but I can't see a let down game for this Jerry Kill coached team and all the senior leadership they have coming back. Wouldn't be surprised to see the game close at halftime and then Minnesota pulls away for an easy victory toward the end.
Gophers vs. Ohio: 31-13 W
Ohio won six games last season and return a majoriry of their starters on both offense and defense, including their top three leading tacklers, top quarterbacks and running back. This is I see for Ohio is they didn't beat anyone in those six games last year and while this could also be a trap game for Minnesota with the Big Ten schedule opening the following week, the Gophers are too talented on defense and I believe the offense will start to be gelling and it'll be a nice two score victory.
Gophers at Northwestern: 27-20 L
Going to be a very tough game for the Gophers going on the road in Evanston, and this is a much trickier game than I believe fans anticapate. Northwestern is returning stud sophomore running back Justin Jackson, and will be also breaking in a new quarterback in freshman Clayton Thorson. I project the Wildcats to be 2-2 with losses to Stanford and Duke, so while Thorsen has seen some pretty good defenses before he faces this Tracy Claeys defense. Minnesota and Northwestern always seem to have tightly contested games in recent years and I think the ball takes a few bounces toward the home team for the Wildcats, which means a loss for Minnesota to open Big Ten play.
Gophers at Purdue: 34-17 W
I understand that Purdue is going to be an improved team from last year, as they should be as 2014 was dreadful for the Boilermakers. They'll be coming off a very tough game before against the Michigan State Spartans in East Lansing and have the Badgers the following week, so it'll be interesting to see how they handle the grind. Minnesota won a nail-biter against Purdue last season as the Boilermakers rushed for nearly 300 yards on the ground, but they're losing running backs who tore up the Gophers defense. Another game that Minnesota has to come out and get a double digit lead or else the Boilermakers could get some hope.
Gophers vs. Nebraska: 27-24 L
Nebraska will be coming off their arguably biggest game of the year with a showdown against Wisconsin at home the week prior and could be riding either a huge wave of emotion off a win, or could be disappointed off a tough loss. While Minnesota has won in back to back seasons, this is true toss-up game to me right now and I believe Tommy Armstrong and the Huskers pull off an upset for Minnesota at home. Injuries are going to play a huge part in this game.
Gophers vs. Michigan: 30-20 W
Coming off both a tough loss at home, a bye week to prepare, and Halloween night at home on national television, yeah I think the Gophers will be a little motivated to prove to the country that last year wasn't a fluke against the Wolverines. I don't buy all the hype that new coach Jim Harbaugh has brought to campus and I believe this Gopher defense stiffles the Wolverines all night. A late score makes it a closer game than it looks on the field as Minnesota flexes their muscle and physicality for a very important Big Ten win.
Gophers at Ohio State: 38-21 L
Beating Ohio State in the horseshoe is something that Gophers have done only twice in the past 66 years and while I believe the Gophers will be a tough test for the Buckeyes, Ohio State just has too many talent at home. They're the National Champions for a reason and have a bye week to prepare for Minnesota. A lot of factors going in the way of Ohio State, but a respectable loss for the Gophers.
Gophers at Iowa: 20-17 W
Minnesota has not beat the Hawkeyes in Iowa City since 1999, and I believe that ends this year. The Gophers never seem to play well in Iowa City and I get that, but I believe it a much more talented team than Iowa and that'll show Saturday night. It'll be a low scoring rough and tumble Big Ten game, but a late field goal off the foot of Ryan Santoso puts the Gophers ahead and Minnesota keeps Floyd. This game also might put the nail in Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz's coffin.
Gophers vs. Illinois: 31-14 W
This may be the biggest trap game on the entire schedule for Minnesota in between the Iowa and Wisconsin games, but Illinois has just too many issues going on for me to forecast a loss here. The Illini will have played Ohio State the week before and I can't see the Gopher seniors letting this one get away. I'm seeing a lot of the Minnesota power running game in the future here and I think Rodrick Williams will ware down the defense for a two touchdown win.
Gophers vs Wisconsin: 21-20 W
Yes folks. This is the year. Minnesota gets the Axe back in Dinkytown for the first time since 2003. There isn't another game all year that the Gophers will be as motiviated for, plus the game may have Big Ten West championship implications on the line. I don't necessarily trust either quarterbacks in this game, but the Badgers OL has been a mess so far in 2015 and I think Hank Ekpe, Theiren Cockran and Steven Richardson go off and really harass Stave and this passing game. A late PA score from Lediner to Nate Wozniak in the redzone over Sojourn Shelton puts Minnesota ahead in the 4th quarter and Gopher fans storm the field in late November.
Bowl Game: W
Not sure who Minnesota plays in their bowl game this fall, but I also believe this is the year Minnesota gets their first win under Jerry Kill in January.
At Colorado State
Vs. Kent State
At Ohio State