Fresno State dropped a slugfest against one of college football's blue bloods to open the season a week ago. A late surge against USC fell short, and the Bulldogs began the 2019 campaign with an 0-1 record.
It was a disappointing start for a team that won 12 games a season ago. They'll be looking to log their first win of 2019 this week against yet another Power 5 opponent.
The Minnesota Golden Gophers head into Week 2 as the survivors of quite the scare against a tough South Dakota State squad from the FCS ranks. P.J. Fleck's team was favored by 13 points heading into the contest, only to come away with a hard-fought 28-21 victory.
The Gophers will fly to the West Coast this weekend looking to stay unbeaten against one of the better Group of 5 programs in college football.
Minnesota at Fresno State
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 7 at 10:30 p.m. ET
Spread: Minnesota -3
When Minnesota Has the Ball
The Gophers are going to want to take advantage of their bigger receivers and push the ball down the field through the air early on. That should loosen things up in the box for the running back duo of Rodney Smith and Mohamed Ibrahim, who combined for 128 yards on the ground a week ago.
Minnesota quarterback Tanner Morgan should enjoy a clean pocket most of the night. His offensive line is probably a little more talented than USC's, and Fresno State had a hard time getting much penetration against the Trojans. As a result, you'll probably see Minnesota consistently moving the chains and dominating time of possession.
When Fresno State Has the Ball
You'll see a pretty balanced attack from the Bulldogs. This is a team that wants to run the ball, but they have a dual-threat quarterback in Jorge Reyna who can sling it if and when he needs to. Ideally, Minnesota would prefer to keep Reyna in the pocket and allow the Fresno signal-caller to try to beat their secondary deep. The Gophers have an advantage in their defensive backfield if they play man coverage. They'll need to contain Reyna's running ability in order to exploit that advantage.
Expect a slow start on the road for Minnesota offensively. The Gopher defense shouldn't have too many issues limiting the damage caused by Reyna and the Bulldog offense most of the night. That will allow P.J. Fleck's offensive unit to settle in after a quarter or so and take control of the game against a team that they should be able to dominate in the trenches. Look for a big game by Minnesota receiver Tyler Johnson after a fairly quiet outing a week ago.
Prediction: Minnesota 31, Fresno State 20
— Written by J.P. Scott, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. His work has appeared on SI.com, FoxSports.com, Yahoo!, SBNation, USA Today and Bleacher Report. He is a three-time FWAA writing contest award winner. Follow him on Twitter @TheJPScott.
(Top photo courtesy of @FresnoStateFB)