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Minnesota Golden Gophers vs. Ohio State Buckeyes Preview and Prediction

Cardale Jones

Cardale Jones

Ohio State fans, coaches, and players alike all looked forward to the bye week. With opportunities to recuperate from the aches and bruises of the 2015 college football season, recruit talented players from around the country, or even promote a newly-released book that discusses leadership, everyone closely associated with the Ohio State football program all looked forward to what seemed like a quiet Halloween weekend.

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As former Texas Governor Rick Perry might say, "Oops".

Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett, recently promoted to the starting position, was cited by Columbus police for OVI in the early morning hours of Oct. 31. Urban Meyer promptly suspended Barrett for the game against Minnesota, and announced that Barrett's scholarship would be revoked for the summer of 2016. Meyer also stated that Barrett would have the opportunity to earn his scholarship back, based on Barrett's behavior going forward.

While the national media has been focusing on Barrett's suspension, and Meyer's handling of it, Minnesota has had more issues to confront and deal with over the past two weeks. On Oct. 28, Jerry Kill announced his immediate resignation, due to health issues related to epilepsy. Kill had battled seizures since his tenure began as Minnesota's head coach, but the concerns became more pronounced to effectively force Kill's retirement. Interim head coach Tracy Claeys led Minnesota admirably against the Michigan Wolverines, yet Minnesota was unable to defeat Michigan in the closing seconds. The painful loss, at home, only seemed to conclude what was already a difficult week.

Minnesota at Ohio State

Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV: ABC

Spread: Ohio State -23.5

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Three Things To Watch

1. The Return of Cardale Jones as Ohio State's Starting Quarterback

Jones has been named the starting quarterback by Urban Meyer for the Minnesota game, with former quarterback-turned wide receiver Braxton Miller listed as Jones' backup. With Barrett suspended, the opportunity is there for Jones to reclaim the starting quarterback position with a strong performance against a solid Minnesota defense. Ohio State fans easily recall how Jones played last season during the 2014 national championship run. Will Jones duplicate his 2014 carefree style of play, with Barrett suspended?

2. Braxton Miller And the Ohio State Red Zone Offense

The move of Miller to the backup quarterback position behind Cardale Jones sparked speculation that Miller would be the designated red zone threat, in the fashion that Barrett was before he was suspended. If Miller lines up behind the center, will Miller merely run the ball, or has Miller's shoulder improved enough to allow him to throw it?

3. Minnesota's Recovery

Difficult to gauge until the game begins, but what is the collective confidence level of this Golden Gophers squad? Minnesota enters the game at Ohio State with a 4-4 record. Unexpectedly losing their respected head coach, coupled with a painful home loss, leads to the questions wondering how much intensity this team has left in the tank.

Final Analysis

Minnesota has not visited Ohio Stadium since the 2009 season. Any night game in Ohio Stadium usually brings out the best in Buckeye fans, who relish the opportunity to tailgate all day prior to kickoff. Cardale Jones has a chance to reclaim the starting quarterback position, knowing the coaching staff does not have the luxury of J.T. Barrett on the sidelines for this game. Look for Jones to play with a more relaxed and confident demeanor, similar to his performances against Wisconsin, Alabama, and Oregon from the 2014 national championship run.

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Prediction:  Ohio State 35, Minnesota 14

— Written by Chip Minnich, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a diehard Ohio State fan. Minnich also writes and podcasts for menofthescarletandgray.com, a site dedicated to Ohio sports with a special emphasis on the Buckeyes. Follow him on Twitter @ChipMinnich.