Jerry Kill and his Minnesota Golden Gophers continue to have issues moving the ball on offense. At some point, the Gophers need to figure it out if they are going to be the contender in the Big Ten West they want to be.
The Ohio Bobcats come to Minneapolis with a 3-0 record and a head coach who knows how to win big games on the road. Their offense has just enough versatile playmakers to do enough damage on the scoreboard to make things interesting against Minnesota.
Ohio at Minnesota
Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: Big Ten Network
Spread: Minnesota -10
Three Things to Watch
1. Can Minnesota find a home-run hitter?
The lack of a legitimate big-play threat to go to when nothing else seems to be working is one of the biggest things plaguing the Gopher offense. Rodney Smith, the team's leading rusher, averages exactly four yards a carry. Minnesota's longest offensive play of the season so far is a 38-yard touchdown pass from Mitch Leidner to Drew Wolitarsky. Until Jerry Kill can show opponents that they have a player who can score from anywhere on the field at any time, the Gophers are going to be a fairly easy offense to prepare for.
2. Who wins the battle of X's and O's?
Both Jerry Kill and Ohio head coach Frank Solich have mastered the art of getting the most out of their talent. They do so with solid preparation and scheming — attacking the opponent's weaknesses and limiting the damage done by their strengths. This has the potential to be one of the better chess matches of the weekend from a coaching standpoint, as the final result could very well come down to one key decision by one of them.
3. Can Ohio move the ball against the Minnesota defense?
The Bobcats average over 33 points and 443.7 yards per game on offense so far this season. They put together three scoring drives of over 45 yards against a tough Marshall team. The Gopher defense is much better than Marshall, especially against the pass. That said, there's no evidence right now that says Ohio couldn't pull out a win with a touchdown and a couple of field goals — especially given the struggles Minnesota has had on offense this season. If Ohio is able to somehow find the endzone more than once, this one could be very interesting.
Minnesota can't continue to win games simply by playing not to lose on offense. At some point, teams are going to crack that defense. My best guess is that it happens this weekend. Frank Solich will find a way for quarterback Derrius Vick and the Bobcat offense to put up just enough points to make Minnesota open up on offense and go for the big play to win the game. When that happens, I expect Ohio's underrated defense — led by defensive end Tarrell Basham — to exploit a sketchy Minnesota offensive line and make a play to seal the upset win.