Skip to main content

Gophers vs. Ohio State: 5 things you can count on

The Gophers will look for their first win over the Buckeyes since 2000.
  • Author:
  • Publish date:

The Minnesota Gophers will look to avoid their third straight loss, but it won't be easy as they travel to No. 3 Ohio State on Saturday afternoon.

The Gophers haven't won in The Horseshoe since 2000 and are coming off a pair of painful losses to Purdue and Illinois. The Buckeyes, meanwhile are 10-0 and looking to stay on pace for a spot in the College Football Playoff ahead of next week's matchup against Michigan.

Here are five things you can count on for Saturday's game.

1. The Gophers establishing the run

One of the strengths of Ohio State this season has been its defense. The Buckeyes are allowing just 9.7 points per game and have completely shut down opposing offenses with 23 plays of 20 or more yards this season.

Airing it out with Athan Kaliakmanis isn't a good strategy, but it's one the Gophers weren't going to deploy anyway as one of the most run-heavy offenses in the country.

The key will be for the Gophers to get efficient gains against a Buckeye defense that's allowing just 3.4 yards per carry and 112.4 rushing yards per game. If the Gophers can do that, they'll have an easier time converting against a defense that has allowed just a 26.4 percent conversion rate on third down this season and produce long drives that can keep the ball out of Ohio State's hands.

2. Conservative play-calling from the Gophers

If the Gophers have to establish the run it could lead to a conservative approach from P.J. Fleck. But if Minnesota wants a legitimate chance to beat Ohio State, they'll have to be more aggressive than they have been this season.

In their loss to Northwestern, Fleck let off the gas in the fourth quarter to allow the Wildcats to pull off a 17-point comeback. Against Illinois, the Gophers opted for field goals, allowing the Illini to throw the dagger late in the fourth quarter. Even against Purdue, Fleck opted for a field goal down 22 points in the fourth quarter instead of going for six with nothing to lose.

Operating with nothing to lose is the best strategy for the Gophers in this game. The Action Network lists Minnesota as a 27.5-point underdog, so why not be aggressive? 

The Gophers won't pull off the upset if they're conservative and it will be on Fleck to bring their best toward the Buckeyes.

3. More big plays against the Gopher defense

The Gophers have sprung leaks defensively over the last two games, allowing a last-minute touchdown in a loss to Illinois and 604 total yards in last week's loss to Purdue.

Things will only get tougher against Ohio State, which is loaded with weapons at every position. Marvin Harrison and Emeka Egbuka are two of the top receivers in the nation and tight end Cade Stover is also a threat to catch passes. The Buckeyes also have TreVeyon Henderson in the backfield, who leads the Big Ten with 6.3 yards per carry.

With the Gophers prone to allowing big plays, the Buckeyes offense could have one of their best games of the year on Saturday.

4. Dragan Kesich making his push for the Lou Groza Award

This season hasn't been all bad for the Gophers as Dragan Kesich is having one of the greatest seasons ever for a Gophers kicker. 

Kesich is 21-for-25 on field goals this season and his 21 field goals are four shy of Dan Nystrom's school record of 25 in 2000. 

A semifinalist for the Lou Groza award, which is given to the best kicker in the nation, Kesich should have a chance to add to that total if the Gopher offense can get into Buckeye territory.

5. Ohio State continuing its domination over Minnesota

The Gophers haven't beat the Buckeyes since Ron Johnson was catching touchdowns and Glen Mason was on the sidelines but it's just a sample of the dominance the Buckeyes have in their history with the Gophers.

Ohio State is 7-47 against the Gophers all-time including a 24-2 record at The Horseshoe. The Gophers have just two wins over the Buckeyes since a 27-0 victory in Columbus in 1949 and its hard to imagine that streak coming to an end on Saturday.

With their defense and shambles and their kicker their most consistent threat to score points, this has the look of another tough loss ahead of next week's season finale against Wisconsin.

Prediction: Ohio State 56, Minnesota 6