Minnesota (4-4) vs. Ohio State (8-0)
Time: 7:00 P.M CT, Saturday, November 7th
TV: ESPN - Brad Nessler (play-by-play), Todd Blackledge (Analyst) and Holly Rowe (Sideline)
Last week: Minnesota lost at home to #15 Michigan, 29-26, Ohio State was on bye
All-time series: Wolverines lead the series 44-7 (31-24 Ohio State in Minneapolis, November 2014)
Vegas betting line: Ohio State (-13.5) Over/Under (53 points)
Know Your Enemy: Five questions with Ohio State beat writer Ryan Ginn.
Five things you need to know
1) Minnesota travels to Ohio State on Saturday for a game with the No. 1 Buckeyes. Minnesota played Ohio State last season in Minneapolis and lost to the No. 8 Buckeyes 31-24. Minnesota has not played in Columbus since 2009 (38-7 loss to the No. 18 Buckeyes), which means there are zero current Gophers who have played a game in Ohio Stadium. Ohio State leads the all-time series 44-7 and is 21-3 against the Gophers in Ohio Stadium. Minnesota last beat Ohio State in 2000, which was a 29-17 road victory against the No. 6 Buckeyes. Minnesota also beat Ohio State in Columbus in 1940 (13-7) and 1949 (27-0). Ohio State is the third team from Ohio that Minnesota plays this year (beat Kent State and Ohio).
2) Minnesota is in the midst of playing its toughest stretch of football since 1990-91 seasons. Ohio State enters Saturday’s game ranked No. 1 in the AP poll. The Buckeyes will be the fourth ranked team that Minnesota will play this season, as the Gophers opened the season hosting No. 2 TCU and have played No. 15 Michigan and No. 16 Northwestern. Dating back to last season - and including upcoming games at No. 1 at Ohio State and at No. 10 Iowa - Minnesota will play nine of 14 games against ranked teams. The Gophers ended last year with four straight games against ranked foes in No. 8 Ohio State, No. 21 Nebraska, No. 14 Wisconsin and No. 16 Missouri. Minnesota also faced nine raked opponents in 14 games during the 1990-91 seasons. The Gophers ended 1990 with games against No. 24 Michigan State, No. 16 Michigan and No. 13 Iowa. In 1991, Minnesota played 11 games and six were against ranked teams in No. 4 Michigan, No. 8 Iowa, No. 18 Pittsburgh, No. 19 Colorado, No. 19 Ohio State and No. 22 Illinois.
3) The Gophers will play at No. 10 Iowa on Nov. 14, which means that Minnesota is also in the middle of playing three straight games against a top-15 teams (AP poll rankings at time of game) in No. 15 Michigan, No. 1 Ohio State and No. 10 Iowa. The last time Minnesota played three straight games against top 15 teams was 2002 when it played No. 6 Ohio State, No. 13 Michigan and No. 6 Iowa. Baylor is the only other team that is currently scheduled to play three straight top 15 opponents, as it will face No. 14 Oklahoma, No. 12 Oklahoma State and No. 5 TCU from Nov. 14-27.
4) Minnesota plays at No. 1 Ohio State on Saturday and at No. 10 Iowa on Nov. 14. Ohio State and Iowa are both 8- 0. Minnesota is one of three Big Ten teams to play both No. 1 Ohio State and No. 10 Iowa (Indiana and Illinois are the others). The Gophers and Indiana are the only Big Ten teams to face No. 1 Ohio State, No. 10 Iowa and No. 15 Michigan this year. Minnesota is the only Big Ten team to play No. 1 Ohio State, No. 10 Iowa, No. 15 Michigan and Wisconsin (first team receiving votes). Minnesota’s remaining opponents - Ohio State (8-0), Iowa (8-0), Illinois (4-4) and Wisconsin (7-2) have a combined record of 27-6.
5) Minnesota is the only team that plays No. 1 Ohio State and No. 2 TCU (L, 23-17) in the regular season (rankings at time of game). The last time Minnesota played the No. 1 and No. 2 in the same year was 1986. Minnesota lost 63-0 at No. 1 Oklahoma and won 20-17 at No. 2 Michigan.
Ohio State players to watch
1) Cardale Jones, quarterback: Jones becomes the Buckeyes starting quarterback after the J.T. Barrett suspension and Jones has been okay this year for Urban Meyer and company. Jones has seven passing touchdowns and five interceptions and is throwing for an average of 158 yards per game, so is susceptible to turnovers.
2) Ezekiel Elliott, running back: Elliott has surpasses 100 all-purpose yards in every game so for in 2015 and already surpassed the century mark as well for rushing yards. With 13 rushing touchdowns and an average of 141 yards on the ground per game, Minnesota is going to contain the Buckeyes running back.
3) Joey Bosa, defensive line: A lock to be top 5 pick in the 2016 NFL Draft if he stays healthy. Bosa leads the Buckeyes with 11 tackles for loss nine quarterback hits, plus has 3.5 sacks. Minnesota is going to have their hands full with Bosa all night.
Keys to the game
1. Quick start: It's been well documented how Minnesota has been sluggish in the first quarter as their opponents are outscoring them 54-13 and if they're going to keep the Buckeyes in check, that has to change starting tomorrow night. Limegrover and this Gopher offense have to have something up their sleeve as Ohio State's defense is averaging less then 16 points a game. For an offense that's had some success in recent weeks, that needs to continue to be the norm.
2. Turnovers: Quarterback Cardale Jones is willing to throw 50/50 balls to his receivers downfield and the Minnesota defensive backs are going to have to win some of those balls if the game is to remain close. The Buckeyes have also fumbled 17 times in their first eight games, so if Minnesota can win the turnover battle, the game can remain within striking distance.
3. Special Teams: If Minnesota has any shot of beating the Buckeyes, they must be flawless in all facets of the game, including special teams. The Gophers are averaging 2.2 yards per punt return, while opponents are averaging over 11. That can't happen again, especially going against Jalin Marshall who's averaging 13.4 per punt return. Whoever is punting has to keep it away from Marshall's hands and force Cardale Jones to beat you.