Ohio (3-0) vs. Minnesota (2-1)
Time: 2:30 P.M CT, Saturday, September 26th
TV: BTN - Tom Werne (play-by-play) and Steve Hutchinson (Analyst)
Last week: Ohio defeated SE Louisiana 35-14; Minnesota defeated Kent State 10-7
All-time series: Gophers lead the series 8-1-1 (42-20 Minnesota in Athens, Ohio in September of 2003)
Vegas betting line: Minnesota (-10)
Know Your Enemy: Five questions with Ohio beat writer Charlie Hatch
Five things you need to know
1) Minnesota hosts Ohio on Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium. The Gophers and Bobcats have met 10 times previously and Minnesota holds an 8-1-1 advantage in the series. The last meeting between the two schools was a 42-20 victory for the Gophers at Ohio on Sept. 13, 2003. Minnesota and Ohio tied in the first meeting between the two schools in 1969 and then the Gophers won the next seven meetings between 1970-1999. Ohio claimed its lone win in the series on Sept. 9, 2000, when it toppled the Gophers 23-17 in Minneapolis. The Bobcats are the second of three teams from Ohio that Minnesota will play this year. The Gophers beat Kent State 10-7 on Sept. 19 and then travel to Ohio State on Nov. 7. Three of Minnesota’s last four home opponents have been from Ohio. In addition to playing the Bobcats today and Kent State last week, the Gophers played Ohio State in their final home game last season on Nov. 15, 2014. Minnesota hosted No. 2 TCU between its Ohio opponents.
2) The first meeting between Minnesota and Ohio was played on Sept. 27, 1969, and resulted in a 35-35 tie, which is Minnesota’s highest-scoring tied game in school history. The game was contested at Minnesota’s Memorial Stadium on a 62-degree day. Barry Mayer, who is the father of current Gopher freshman receiver Adam Mayer, rushed 21 times for 93 yards and two touchdowns. “M” Club Hall of Fame member Jim Carter carried the ball 12 times for 76 yards and one score. Quarterback Philip Hagen also scored touchdowns on the ground and through the air.
3) The Gophers beat Kent State 10-7 on Sept. 19. The 10 points were the fewest scored by Minnesota in a win since it beat North Dakota State 10-9 on Oct. 21, 2006. The victory against Kent State was the 14th time since 1942 that Minnesota won while scoring 10 or fewer points (Gophers won three games in 1941 while scoring 7, 8 and 9 points in games). The last time the Gophers scored less than 10 points in a victory was Oct. 12, 1991, when they topped Purdue 6-3.
4) The Gopher defense allowed zero points in Minnesota’s 10-7 win against Kent State, as the Golden Flashes scored their lone touchdown on an 80-yard fumble return (first fumble returned for touchdown against Minnesota since Nov. 23, 1996, against Iowa). Minnesota's defense stifled Kent State and only allowed three plays to be run in its own territory. The Flashes reached Minnesota's 42-yard line midway through the fourth quarter, which was the farthest they would get. Minnesota has now allowed seven or fewer points in five of its last 43 games. In its previous 43 games, Minnesota allowed less than seven points one time (17-6 win at Purdue in 2008).
5) KJ Maye (16 catches for 298 yards and one touchdown), Drew Wolitarsky (10 catches for 106 yards) and Eric Carter (1 catch for 4 yards) combined to catch 27 balls for 408 yards and one touchdown last year. Through two games this year, they have caught 36 balls for 434 yards and four touchdowns. Wolitarsky has 13 catches for 193 yards and one touchdown, while Maye has 12 reception for 151 yards and three touchdowns. Carter has 90 yards on 11 catches.
Ohio players to watch
1) Derrius Vick, quarterback: Ohio's starting quarterback is completing over 70% of his passes for 548 yards and four touchdowns. Vick also has twenty plus carries on the season, so he's also going to be a threat with his legs as well. Minnesota must keep him contained in the pocket.
2) Quentin Poling, linebacker: Poling leads the Bobcats in tackles through three games with 25 total tackles, with two TFL, two sacks and two forced fumbles. He's going to be someone these tight end and offensive lineman will have to get at the second level for the Gophers running game to get back on track.
3) Josiah Yazdani, kicker: Yazdani is Ohio's kicker and he'll be one to watch if the game is close in the second half. He's only 1 of 3 on the year for field goals, as he's 1 of 2 from 30-39 yards and missed his only attempt from 40-49 yards. If the Bobcats have the ball in the Gophers territory on 4th down, it shouldn't be a surprise to see them go for it.
Keys to the game
1. Quick start: Same as last week. Nothing demoralizes an opponent more than a quick start by the home team in the first quarter. If the Gophers can start fast, which has been a definite point of emphasis for offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover the last two weeks, Minnesota could dash any hopes the Bobcats have of pulling an upset on the Gophers. Getting quarterback Mitch Leidner into a rhythm early in the short to intermediate game is key, as well as getting stud freshman running Rodney Smith going on the ground. If Minnesota can get out to a 10-0 or 14-3 start by the end of the first quarter, they should be able to put the game away with the way the defense is playing.
2. Big plays: Minnesota hasn't had plays over 40 yards yet this season, and I think that changes on Saturday. I have a feeling that either Rodney Smith finally busts a long run or that Leidner and his receivers get on the same page for a play action deep ball for a score. The defense has done a great job as well containing big plays and they didn't allow a play over 50 yards through the Gophers first two games.
3. Staying healthy: This may be the biggest key of all and the one that matters most to me besides a victory on Saturday. Minnesota has already started to see the injury bug bite again this season with five projected starters out in the Gophers fourth game of the year. If Minnesota can get a victory and not lose any more players to injury with the Big Ten schedule starting next weekend, it's definitely a win-win for the Golden Gophers.
I think this Minnesota offense comes out in their first few drives with something to prove and the Gophers get a score early. I am still concerned about how banged up this offensive line is as a group as multiple starters are either playing injured or are out, but they are a prideful group and I believe OC/OL coach Matt Limegrover will simplify things for them this week. I have a lot of trust in Tracy Claeys' defense, especially when he gets a few games on tape to develop a game plan. I see this as a game when Minnesota (finally) connects on one of those play-action deep balls for a score and Rodney Smith gets over century mark on the ground. Don't be surprised to see either a defensive or special teams touchdown this week as well.