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Fresno State Bulldogs vs. Minnesota Golden Gophers Prediction and Preview

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Minnesota Golden Gophers RB Rodney Smith

Minnesota Golden Gophers RB Rodney Smith

The Fresno State Bulldogs and Minnesota Golden Gophers combined to score a total of 127 points last weekend, with both teams coming away with wins.

Those two high-powered offenses will square off Saturday night in a game with low-key postseason implications for both teams. Head coach Jeff Tedford's Bulldogs have visions of competing for the coveted New Year's Six bowl bid that goes to the highest ranked Group of 5 team. In order to keep that dream alive, they'll need to pull off a tough win on the road against a Big Ten team.

P.J. Fleck's Gophers are staring down a schedule where wins will be at a premium. There's a chance that this game is the difference between Minnesota going bowling or staying home in December.

Fresno State at Minnesota

Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 8 at 7:30 p.m. ET

TV: FS1

Spread: Minnesota -2.5

Three Things to Watch

1. Who starts faster?

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Despite both teams hanging big numbers on the scoreboard last week, Minnesota and Fresno State both looked fairly pedestrian in the first quarter against inferior competition. A slow start this week could doom either team, as there is a chance that the last team with the ball wins this one. Despite respectable rushing efforts from both squads a week ago, look for Tedford and Fleck to unleash aerial assaults early on when their teams have the ball.

2. Two pretty good receivers

We'll call them Johnson and Johnson. Fresno State's KeeSean and Minnesota's Tyler both eclipsed the 100-yard mark in receiving yards last week. They are the focal point of their teams' respective passing attacks, and each player has the ability to take over the football game. If you like talent at the skill position, you'll tune in just to see these two exciting wideouts.

3. Is Annexstad up to the challenge?

Minnesota quarterback and true freshman Zack Annexstad demonstrated poise and a short memory in last week's contest -- both traits you need to be a solid collegiate quarterback. The stakes are raised and the opponent is more talented this week. The Gophers will lean much more heavily on Annexstad's arm as opposed to Rodney Smith's legs this time around in order to keep pace with a high-powered Fresno State offense. This will be a night where we either see a future star grow before our eyes or a young, experienced kid crumble under the pressure.

Final Analysis

From coaching right down to talent, these teams are pretty equal. As stated earlier, if you like points -- this one will be fun. I see Fresno State taking an early lead and holding onto it for most of the game. In the second half, look for Minnesota's defense to buckle down and make a couple of key stops to change momentum. Minnesota safety Antoine Winfield -- one of the best defenders in the Big Ten -- will play a key role down the stretch. Look for him to make a big play on defense or special teams that ultimately swings this one in favor of the Gophers.

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Prediction: Minnesota 41, Fresno State 34

— Written by J.P. Scott, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. His work has appeared on SI.com, FoxSports.com, Yahoo! SBNation and Bleacher Report. He is a three-time FWAA writing contest award winner. Follow him on Twitter @TheJPScott.