Game Nine: Minnesota Golden Gophers
Location: TCF Bank Stadium (Minneapolis, MN) 8pm EST, ABC
Interim Head Coach: Jeff Horton Minnesota Players Recruited By Ohio State: WR MarQueis Gray, LB Brendan Beal, DE Ra'shede Hageman. Gray was recruited as a QB but chose Minnesota as Ohio State was also recruiting Terrelle Pryor. Beal originally signed with Florida, but transferred to Minnesota. Hageman was recruited by Ohio State as a TE and signed with Minnesota. OL D.J. Burris was on Ohio State's recruiting radar, but not offered a scholarship by Ohio State.
Minnesota Offense vs Ohio State Defense: Minnesota ranks near the bottom of the conference at around 387 yards/game, while Ohio State is leading the conference in defense at allowing around 234 yards/game. Minnesota QB Adam Weber will start his fourth time against Ohio State, having played as a redshirt freshman in 2007.
Weber has two solid receivers in Gray and Da'Jon McKnight, so Ohio State may try to shade safeties Jermale Hines and Orhian Johnson to assist Chimdi Chekwa and Devon Torrence. McKnight had a good game last week against Penn State with three touchdown receptions. For all of the years under Glen Mason, Minnesota was used to a power running game.
DeLeon Eskridge and Duane Bennett are good running backs, but not the caliber of former Gopher standouts such as Laurence Maroney or Marion Barber. Ohio State's run defense was able to shut down Purdue last week, and will try to force Minnesota to beat them through the air.
Edge: Ohio State. Even though Wisconsin was able to run right at Ohio State, I do not believe Minnesota has the personnel to beat Ohio State with the same strategy. If Ohio State can effectively pressure Weber when he passes, it could be a long night for Gopher fans.
Ohio State Offense vs Minnesota Defense: While Minnesota has been somewhat respectable on the offensive side of the ball, Minnesota's defense ranks tenth in the conference in total defense. Conversely, Ohio State ranks second in the conference in total offense. Ohio State exploded for over 400 yards of offense in the first half last week against Purdue.
Pryor threw for 270 yards and three touchdowns, while Ohio State's rushing game was able to gain almost 200 yards on the ground with multiple ball carriers. For a team like Ohio State, that is seemingly trying to establish its running game going into the November stretch run, this looks like a game where the Buckeyes will try to wear down Minnesota by pounding the ball. With the Minnesota defense giving up nearly 200 yards a game, this one could go fast as Ohio State pounds the ball and drains the clock.
Edge: Ohio State. This might be the game where RB Daniel "Boom" Herron finally cracks the 100 yard game threshold.
Intangibles: Here is the area where Minnesota will have the decided edge over Ohio State. Minnesota has nothing to lose with its head coach already fired and its season over within a few weeks. Why not try anything and everything to ruin Ohio State's season? The game will not kickoff until 8pm EST, so the Minnesota fans will have plenty of time to enjoy themselves on what should be a chilly but beautiful evening in TCF Bank Stadium.
Prediction: Quick soapbox moment. I wrote this over two years ago, and I will again point to Joni Mitchell's song "Big Yellow Taxi" ~ "Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you got till it's gone...". Why, oh why, did Minnesota fire Glen Mason, to hire an unproven commodity like Tim Brewster? Were you still that peeved that Mason wanted the Ohio State job back in 2001, when Tressel was hired over him? All Mason did was take Minnesota to seven bowl games in eight years, and actually defeated Ohio State back in 2000 soundly.
Yes, I understand Minnesota fans would like to compete for the Rose Bowl. All I am saying is you had a coach who had your program competitive within the conference against your biggest rivals (Wisconsin, Iowa), and you completely disregarded what you had. I will get off the soapbox now.
Ohio State knows it needs to keep winning in order to have any chance of another Big Ten title. Minnesota may be a wounded animal, but Ohio State has too much talent on both sides of the ball. Ohio State will try to run the ball, and get into their bye week intent on getting healthy for the Penn State game in two weeks. Ohio State 42, Minnesota 14.