Game Matchup: Ohio State Vs. Minnesota

Ohio State is back in action Saturday in Ohio Stadium with a night-time affair against Minnesota. Both teams have been in the headlines of late but the Buckeyes will look to show they're deserving of their top-four playoff ranking in front of the eyes of the nation.

Minnesota at No. 3 Ohio State

Matchup Preview  |  Nov. 7, Ohio Stadium, 8 p.m., ABC.
vs.
Minnesota Golden Gophers (4-4, 1-3)
Ohio State Buckeyes (8-0, 4-0)

Five Fast Facts About Minnesota
1. 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.

2. 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. In addition, 11 starters have missed at least one game because of injury.

3. Interim Head Coach Tracy Claeys is one of nine current Division I FBS head coaches who did not play collegiate football. Claeys, who attended both Kansas and Kansas State, graduated with a degree in mathematics education in 1994 from Kansas State. The other eight coaches who did not play collegiate football are: Sonny Dykes (California), David Cutcliffe (Duke), Paul Johnson (Georgia Tech), Todd Berry (Louisiana-Monroe), Hugh Freeze (Ole Miss), Chad Morris (SMU), Dennis Franchione (Texas State) and Mike Leach (Washington State).

4. Starting quarterback Mitch Leidner has started 24 career games and thrown 22 career touchdown passes, though he does have 21 rushing scores as well. He threw for a career-high 317 yards last week vs. Michigan, giving him back-to-back games with 300 yards, making him the first Gopher to reach that mark since Cory Sauter in 1995.

5. Kicker Ryan Santoso is a Lou Groza Award semifinalist. He has made 14 of 17 kicks this year, including all nine from inside 39 yards.

Game Breakdown
OHIO STATE RUSH OFFENSE vs. MINNESOTA RUSH DEFENSE
The Golden Gophers have gotten gashed at times on the ground, including giving up 203 yards rushing to Nebraska earlier this year. They also gave up over 200 yards to TCU and 184 at Northwestern. Overall the Gophers have average numbers but have struggled in short-yardage situations while managing to prevent a lot of big plays on the ground. Meanwhile, Ohio State will have to make due without the run threat of J.T. Barrett, but the run game has been cranking in recent weeks. EDGE: OHIO STATE

MINNESOTA RUSH OFFENSE vs. OHIO STATE RUSH DEFENSE
After a strong running game was part of the foundation of Minnesota’s success last season, this has been a disappointing area in 2015 as the Gophers are averaging only 155.1 yards per game on the ground, a stat that leaves them in the bottom third of the Big Ten. While Minnesota piled up 326 yards at Purdue, the Gophers managed only 139 rushing yards combined in losses to Northwestern and Nebraska. Ohio State has had some trouble containing opposing running games this season, though, and freshmen running backs Rodney Smith and Shannon Brooks have flashed some potential at times. The big play threat is lacking, though, as Minnesota has four games this year without a run of at least 20 yards. EDGE: EVEN

OHIO STATE PASS OFFENSE vs. MINNESOTA PASS DEFENSE
Minnesota has had better luck stopping teams through the air than on the ground so far this season, particularly at preventing big plays. Ohio State’s passing game remains a work in progress, which is understandable given the fluctuations that have occurred at the quarterback position for the Buckeyes. Injuries at wide receiver probably have played an even larger role, but Cardale Jones gets another chance this week and will have to go against one of the better cornerback duos in the league in Eric Murray and Briean Boddy-Calhoun. EDGE: EVEN

MINNESOTA PASS OFFENSE vs. OHIO STATE PASS DEFENSE
Entering the season, Leidner was expected by many to be the key to whether or not the Golden Gophers would be able to take another run at the Big Ten West title or just be another also-ran in the division. As it turns out, The U has had bigger problems, losing its last two games against Nebraska and Michigan despite getting a combined 617 yards from Leidner, whose top target K.J. Maye averages only 51.0 yards per game. Ohio State has had one of the best pass defenses not only in the Big Ten but the country. EDGE: OHIO STATE

SPECIAL TEAMS
While likely outmatched offensively and defensively, this is an area the Golden Gophers could try to make up some ground, but they have not gotten much from their return teams this season. While Peter Mortell has been one of the better punters in the Big Ten over the last couple of seasons, Ohio State’s Cameron Johnston ranks ahead of him. While Minnesota has been good at covering kicks, Ohio State has been a little better, at least statistically. Both teams have missed three field goals, and Ohio State’s return teams have been a little stronger. EDGE: OHIO STATE

INTANGIBLES
These are two teams that have had some shocks in recent weeks with Jerry Kill's sudden health-related resignation and the suspension of OSU's J.T. Barrett. Despite that, te Buckeyes will be playing in front of a night-time crowd that should be excited about seeing them back home for the first time in three weeks. Despite Minnesota’s disappointing first half of the season, the Buckeyes are likely aware they can be dangerous after getting pushed for four quarters in Minneapolis last season. EDGE: EVEN

STAFF PREDICTION
Minnesota’s status as a dark horse candidate to win the West did not last past the first weekend in October as a 27-0 loss at Northwestern followed three consecutive three-point wins, two of which came over Kent State and Ohio. Assuming everything goes well at the quarterback spot, the Buckeyes should have few problems taking care of the Golden Gophers, who might be deflated after last week's crushing home loss to Michigan on the final play. OHIO STATE 38-17

The staff pick is an average of predictions by staffers Ryan Ginn, James Grega, Tim Moody, Jeff Svoboda and Blake Williams


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