Game Week: Minnesota

Ohio State travels to Minnesota with the Buckeyes flying high after knocking off Michigan State last week. Do the Gophers have a chance in this game, or will the Buckeyes destroy yet another Big Ten foe?

- This game is a tough one for me, and I see it as the complete opposite of last week's game with Michigan State. After having had total confidence in a Buckeye win last week against the Spartans, this game is not so easy to pick for me.

- Can Minnesota win this game? Is there a path to victory for the Gophers? I believe there is, but it's very thin and will require a lot of things to break Minnesota's way. There are a lot of things they don't do well enough to beat Ohio State, but there are a few points that could break in their favor.

- Minnesota has been able to force turnovers in wins over Iowa and Michigan, and they need to be +2 or better Saturday or they are in deep trouble. They have had some good moments defending the run and the secondary is pretty good, so Part-One is stuffing the Ohio State running game. Can they take away the inside read? If they can't, they cannot win this game.

- If, big IF, they can stop the run and force Ohio State to pass, can they rattle J.T. Barrett into some errant throws that result in picks? This has been the clear path to beating Ohio State in the Urban Meyer era for the few teams that have succeeded in three years, but that might not be as easy with Barrett throwing the football. There were obvious struggles against Virginia Tech, and some not so good moments with Penn State, but as Barrett continues to get better these struggles might disappear.

- Simply put, if Barrett and Ezekiel Elliott are off early and doing their things, this party is over. As in most matchups in football, the Minnesota D-line has to dominate the Ohio State O-line, and put Barrett and Elliott in chains, similar to Penn State. If they can take away the run and pressure the quarterback, they can keep Ohio State around 28-31 points. Anything more than that and they cannot win the game.

- Offensively, Minnesota cannot throw the football well enough to score many points. They need to establish David Cobb on the ground and play keepaway from Ohio State. To do this their O-line must control Ohio State's D-line, and Michigan State was able to run it well last week so maybe there's hope for the Gophers. Minnesota has to be in a position where they're throwing the football when they WANT to throw it, like second-and-four, NOT when they HAVE to throw it, like third-and-ten.

- Minnesota cannot win a shootout. They need to shorten the game, run the football, punt the football to control field position, and play defense out of their minds and cause turnovers. If they repeat efforts like they had against Iowa and Michigan, they can hang around and try to steal the game in the fourth quarter. If they play like they did against TCU, Purdue and Illinois, then Meyer gets to name his score.

- As you all know, I'm not big on all the extraneous junk a lot of people get worked up about. Playing on the road? Weather? Noon starts? Who cares? How did the awesome crowd work out for Ohio State in their night game opener against Virginia Tech? What about going on the road to play the Spartans at night? Forget that stupid stuff, because it's mostly media blather. The team that plays the best for three hours usually wins, and that's not always the best team.

- I give Minnesota a puncher's chance in this game, but a Gopher win will be a huge upset. They need to pitch a perfect game to win, and they need help from an Ohio State team that could be hungover from reading how great they are this week. Too many things have to go right for the Gophers, while Ohio State needs to show up and just be Ohio State.

- I do not expect to see a hungover Buckeye squad because this team is too young and has not tasted a lot of success for complacency to set in. Remember the number-one ranked Brew Crew going to Wisconsin as fat-headed and fat-assed prima donnas that spent all week planning their fourth quarter jump-around moves? Don't see that happening with this team, and this is a case where having so much youth and inexperience works for them. If they're in a dogfight in the fourth quarter, it can work against them, but not for the start.

- While I don't see Ohio State running the Gophers out of their building to the tune of 56-10, that absolutely could happen. In the end, I see a workmanlike effort on both sides of the football, and Ohio State grinds out out a victory. Might not be pretty like some of the earlier romps, but a win is a win is a win.

THE PREDICTION: Ohio State 34 Minnesota 17.

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