The Gophers have shot out to a 2-0 start after two fairly impressive wins to begin the year. They'll look to keep that success going against a Miami team still looking for its first victory of the 2018 season.
While coaching at Western Michigan, P.J. Fleck faced the RedHawks twice, defeating current Miami head coach Chuck Martin in both matchups.
Miami (Ohio) at Minnesota
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 15 at 3:30 p.m. ET
Spread: Minnesota -13.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Zack Annexstad's continued development
The true freshman held his own last week against a pretty good Fresno State team. He managed the offense and avoided any "rookie" mistakes that could have cost his team in such a close game. This week against Miami, look for Fleck to give the kid a slightly longer leash in terms of having him push the ball downfield through the air — particularly in the red zone. These are the games that will build the foundation of whatever Annexstad is to become.
2. Can Miami slow down the run?
The RedHawks are giving up more than 175 yards per game on the ground at just about four yards per carry through their first two contests. That needs to improve if they are going to win some -- if any -- games this season. Both of those stats are in danger of increasing this week, as Minnesota is a team who — despite losing starting running back Rodney Smith for the season — still has the horses to pound the ball (213 rushing ypg, 4.6 ypc).
3. What more can we learn about the Gophers?
As previously mentioned, Minnesota has been impressive through two games this season. They have a blowout win over an inferior opponent as well as a hard-fought win over one of the best Group of 5 teams in the nation. Are these Gophers good enough to make some noise in the Big Ten West? If they can take care of business in this one with a sound win with little-to-no hiccups, we could be looking at a sleeper team to keep an eye on moving forward.
Minnesota is bigger, stronger, faster and better coached than Miami — it's that simple. P.J. Fleck has some very talented players with a lot of promise on his squad, and he'll be looking to make a statement every week leading up to Big Ten play. The only way to make a statement against an 0-2 team from the MAC is the blow them out with ease, and I believe that's just what we'll see. A couple of early explosive plays through the air should be enough to give the Gophers a lead they won't give up. From there, Minnesota can just out-physical Miami on the ground and cruise to an easy win.
Prediction: Minnesota 45, Miami 13
— 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.
(Top photo courtesy of gophersports.com)