|Matchup Preview | November 15, 2014|
|No. 8 Ohio State Buckeyes|
|#20 No. 25 Minnsota Golden Gophers|
Five Fast Facts About Minnesota
1. Minnesota runs the ball on 71.03 percent of possessions, seventh in the FBS behind the three service academies, Georgia Southern, New Mexico and Georgia Tech.
2. Star running back David Cobb actually signed with Minnesota as a three-star prospect in 2011 a week after signing day. He went unsigned and took a trip to Minnesota the weekend after signing day, committing to new head coach Jerry Kill shortly thereafter.
3. Minnesota hasn’t beaten Ohio State since 2000, when it upset the unbeaten Buckeyes in Ohio Stadium, and hasn’t triumphed over the Buckeyes in Minneapolis since 1981 in Memorial Stadium on campus. The Golden Gophers never beat OSU in the Metrodome.
4. The Golden Gophers are 6-0 at home this year. The last time Minnesota got through its home slate unbeaten was 1967, when the team went 6-0 at the Brickhouse by beating Utah, SMU, Michigan State, Michigan, Indiana and Wisconsin. 1967 was also the last year Minnesota began Big Ten play at 5-1, which the team would accomplish with a victory over OSU.
5. Minnesota’s coaching staff is the most tenured in the nation, with Kill’s assistants having worked for him for a combined 131 years. Strength coach Eric Klein leads the way with 21 years under Kill while defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys has 20. Six of the nine full-time assistant coaches have been with Kill for at least 14 years.
OHIO STATE RUSH OFFENSE vs. MINNESOTA RUSH DEFENSE
It stands to reason that Ohio State will try to keep the ball on the ground as cold temperatures are expected, plus the team has a rushing attack that really looks to be clicking right now. Minnesota has an OK rush defense, placing 37th in the nation in yards allowed per game (137.6) and holding opponents to an even 4.0 yards per carry. Linebacker Damien Wilson is a bona fide playmaker with 88 tackles, eight TFL, two sacks and a forced fumble on the season. Ohio State could get a test, too, if Minnesota tries to gum up the middle to keep the rushing attack under wraps. EDGE: OHIO STATE
MINNESOTA RUSH OFFENSE vs. OHIO STATE RUSH DEFENSE
This could be the key matchup in the game based on the fact that Minnesota’s offense is almost entirely driven on the ground. David Cobb is a tough runner and the Gophers play smash-mouth football, as Minnesota rushes on more than 70 percent of its plays. The team piles up 224.3 yards per game, with Cobb by far the No. 1 man in the pecking order with an average of 25.2 carries per game. Quarterback Mitch Leidner is enough of a running threat that he must be watched, too, both on quarterback read plays and while scrambling and on rollouts. EDGE: EVEN
OHIO STATE PASS OFFENSE vs. MINNESOTA PASS DEFENSE
Ohio State’s passing game is coming off its best performance of the year, a contest against Michigan State in which the short and long passing games were effective. It was J.T. Barrett’s best passing performance away from home, and he’ll try to duplicate that vs. the Golden Gophers. This will be a good challenge as Minnesota enters 15th in the nation in passing efficiency having picked off 12 passes against 12 touchdowns. One of the biggest keys to Minnesota’s recent resurgence has been its ability to not allow big plays in the passing game and making teams earn every yard, as Minnesota is second in the Big Ten having allowed just 18 passing plays of 20 yards or more. EDGE: EVEN
MINNESOTA PASS OFFENSE vs. OHIO STATE PASS DEFENSE
Don’t expect the Golden Gophers to be able to do much in the passing game, as the team enters 120th in the nation in passing offense and 65th in passing efficiency offense. Leidner simply put isn’t the most efficient passer, having thrown for 1,225 yards and 10 touchdowns in eight starts this season. He does have a very good tight end, though, in Maxx Williams, who is a matchup nightmare based on his size, athletic ability and hands. Forcing Minnesota to the air, especially given the expected temperatures, would be a big win for the Buckeyes. EDGE: OHIO STATE
Minnesota has one of the best kickers in the league, Ryan Santoso, who drilled a 52-yard field goal to push the team to a win vs. Purdue earlier this year and hasn’t missed from inside 40. The punt game is also solid as Peter Morrell averages 44.7 yards per kick, and both coverage units have been very good when called upon, as teams average just 17.6 yards per return, 12th in the nation. The Gophers also have two return TDs this year. Ohio State’s return men will want to bounce back after two turnovers at Michigan State. EDGE: EVEN
Since before the season began, many have circled this as a game as a potential trap game one week after the Michigan State contest. It’s a road trip to a far-flung destination one week after the most circled game of the year, and the weather isn’t supposed to be very nice, either. Minnesota is well-coached, too, and should be filled with confidence after thrashing Iowa. How Ohio State handles the win over the Spartans will also bear watching, and Urban Meyer has often said that road noon games are tough to handle from an intensity standpoint. EDGE: MINNESOTA
So how will Ohio State respond after putting together the biggest win of the Urban Meyer era? This is perhaps the toughest test the Buckeyes could get in the league given the travel, the unfamiliarity with the opponent, the weather, and the physical nature of both the Spartans and Golden Gophers. But there’s little doubting Ohio State has more talent in this one. The start could be a key – if Ohio State falls behind early and lets Minnesota’s running game get going, the clock will run and it could be a tough day for the Buckeyes. If the Buckeyes get ahead early, Minnesota isn’t put together to come from behind with its passing game. Our best, though, is the Buckeyes will do enough to pull it out. OHIO STATE 31-20 OHIO STATE 42-21
The staff pick is an average of predictions by staffers Kane Anderson, Ryan Ginn, Matthew Hager, Mark Rea, Jeff Svoboda and Blake Williams