With games against top conference opponents Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Iowa, as well USC during the non-conference schedule, the Gophers will yet again have a difficult calendar to battle. Headlining this schedule are five individual offensive opponents who promise to keep the Minnesota defense on their toes.
1. Terrelle Pryor
Possibly the best player the Gopher defense will face this year is Buckeye quarterback, Terrelle Pryor. Only a junior, Pryor can be one of the most dominant players in the country. Gopher fans will remember the show that Pryor put on against the Maroon and Gold last season where he threw for 239 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for 104 yards and another touchdown. This type of duel attack was typical of Pryor who threw for over 2,000 yards and 18 touchdowns and ran for 779 yards and seven scores. It is paramount to keep heavy pressure on Pryor to limit his scrambling ability. Pryor is as dangerous as any running back once he gets into open space. The Gophers also must not give Pryor enough time to find his receivers down the field. Putting pressure on Pryor will be key to give the Gophers a chance at redemption.
2. John Clay
Arguably the biggest game of the season for the Gophers will be at Camp Randall Stadium against the hated Wisconsin Badgers. The Gophers have won Paul Bunyans Axe just two times in the past 15 meetings. The close loss to the Badgers last season was caused by massive running back, John Clay. Clay rumbled his way to 184 yards rushing and three touchdowns last October at TCF Bank Stadium. On the season, Clay ran for 1,517 yards and 18 scores while leading the Badgers to a 10-3 record and a victory in Florida Citrus Bowl. If they Gophers want to bring the Axe home they will need to find a way to keep Clay in check. The Gopher line will need to hit Clay and hit him early to keep him from getting to the second level of defenders where he can use his 242-pound frame to demolish smaller defenders. If they can contain Clay, the Maroon and Gold stand a much better chance against the Badgers.
3. Matt Barkley
On September 18, the USC Trojans, led by true-sophomore quarterback, Matt Barkley, will make their first visit to TCF Bank Stadium. The young quarterback had his share of ups and downs last season. Against Notre Dame he showed promise by throwing for an impressive 380 yards and two touchdowns. Barkley's worst game came in a blowout loss to Stanford where he threw one touchdown and three interceptions. Barkley returns to a Trojan team that lost many of its offensive weapons from a team that went just 9-5, including running back Joe McKnight and wide receiver, Damian Williams. This being said, lets not forget how deep the Trojans are every year. As Barkley matures, he will turn players into proven weapons. Although the Trojans appear to be down this year, Matt Barkley has the skill and talent to make for a difficult game against the Gophers.
4. Rick Stanzi
Another rivalry game for the Gophers is the fight for Floyd of Rosedale against the Iowa Hawkeyes to close out the season on November 27. Leading the Hawkeyes offensive attack is senior QB Ricky Stanzi. Stanzi is coming off an impressive junior campaign where he amassed 2,417 yards passing to go with 17 touchdowns while missing the last two games of the regular season. The Hawkeyes went 10-1 with Stanzi under center, including a huge win over Georgia Tech at the Orange Bowl. Although he missed last year's matchup with the Gophers, fans haven't forgotten Stanzi's performance in 2008 where he threw for 255 yards and three touchdowns in route to a 55-0 victory in the final game at the Metrodome. Stanzi is the key to the Hawkeye offensive and also the main weapon the Gophers need to stifle in order to send Iowa home without Floyd.
Fantastic Four: Offense
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