The four victories are nice — and are three more than last year — but now they travel to Ohio State to face the three-time Big Ten champions and preseason conference favorite. Just how much progress Minnesota has made will be plain as day after the Sept. 27 game in Ohio.
"We wanted to be a 4-0 football team at this point, and we are," Gophers coach Tim Brewster said. "There is nobody patting us on the back. There are some people saying how great we are, but we also know if we don't play well against Ohio State, they can embarrass us in their backyard. There is a certain amount of level-headedness to what we're doing."
That's a good thing. After all, the Buckeyes hammered Minnesota last year in the Metrodome 30-7, while nearly doubling the Gophers' yardage output — 459-277. Now, though, Minnesota is plus-11 in turnovers, good for fourth in the nation.
Quarterback Adam Weber has thrown just one interception in 110 attempts, while freshman DeLeon Eskridge is beginning to solidify the running game. The defense still has concerns, ranking in the lower half of the conference in most significant categories, but the Buckeyes have shown flaws this year, proving anything is possible in a weakened Big Ten.
"Based on our four non-conference games, we are an improved team," Brewster said. "How improved? Shoot, we'll find out Saturday."
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: Adam Weber has thrown seven touchdowns and one interception, gaining him early recognition as a candidate for most improved player in the Big Ten. Weber had a big day last season against the Buckeyes, throwing for 232 yards on a night when little else went right for Minnesota. His ability to move typically frustrates the Buckeyes, who have struggled historically against mobile quarterbacks. Tailback DeLeon Eskridge has five touchdowns in the last two games.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The biggest difference has been turnovers. The Gophers are one turnover away from equaling the 14 they forced all of last year, and they've done it in only four games. Turnovers are the great equalizer, meaning if they continue to force so many, they just might find themselves in most conference games this year. They need to keep getting the ball, because the defense ranks ninth in the conference in yards allowed (354.8) and seventh in points allowed (17.5).
PLAYERS TO WATCH
QB Adam Weber — Continues to do a masterful job of leading the offense. Weber is completing 72 percent of his passes, and he's already thrown for 967 yards, seven touchdowns and just one interception.
RB DeLeon Elkridge — Injuries forced the freshman into the starting lineup, and he has responded with five touchdowns over the last two weeks. The job is his until he proves incapable of handling it.
DB Kyle Theret — Has intercepted passes in each of the last two games. The Gophers will be facing a true freshman quarterback in Terrelle Pryor, which means he could be susceptible to interceptions.
THIS WEEK'S GAME: Minnesota at Ohio State, Sept. 27 — The Gophers believe they have a chance, based on Ohio State's struggles with inferior opponents and the whipping it took at USC. At 4-0, the Gophers' confidence is at an all-time high. If they force a couple turnovers early, anything is possible. Minnesota's last win in Ohio Stadium came in 2000, John Cooper's final year with the Buckeyes.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Based on our four non-conference games, we are an improved team. How improved? Shoot, we'll find out Saturday." — coach Tim Brewster, on this week's game against Ohio State.