Game Five: Minnesota Golden Gophers
Location: Ohio Stadium (Columbus, OH)
Head Coach: Tim Brewster
Minnesota Players Who Were Recruited By Ohio State: OL DJ Burris attended Ohio State's football camps while in high school, but was not offered a scholarship by Ohio State.
Minnesota Rushing Offense vs Ohio State Defense: Minnesota's rushing attack has been limited due to injuries sustained by RB Duane Bennett. Unlike the years under former coach Glen Mason, Minnesota does not have power backs such as Lawrence Maroney, Marion Barber, or Gary Russell on its roster. Minnesota will use a running back by committee approach, similar to what Ohio State has done with Chris Wells' injury status. Minnesota's rushing offense comes into this game ranked 8th in The Big Ten; Ohio State's rushing defense comes in ranked 5th. It will be important for Ohio State's linebackers to shut down Minnesota's rushing attack. Slight Edge: Ohio State.
Minnesota Passing Offense vs Ohio State Defense: QB Adam Weber is arguably one of the most underrated players in The Big Ten. Weber currently ranks 2nd in The Big Ten in passing efficiency and 3rd in total offense. Weber's primary target is WR Eric Decker, who leads The Big Ten in pass receptions (32) and has already scored 4 touchdowns this season. I believe CB Malcolm Jenkins will be tasked with blanketing Decker. Minnesota has only given up 6 sacks this season. If Ohio State cannot get adequate pressure on Adam Weber, who is fairly mobile, it could lead to a frustrating day for the Ohio State defense. Slight Edge: Minnesota.
Ohio State Rushing Offense vs Minnesota Defense: The news that RB Chris Wells will return for Ohio State in this game has been understandably well-received by Ohio State fans. The reality is Wells will play, but I highly doubt that Coach Tressel will give Wells his customary 20+ carries when a big game against Wisconsin is on the horizon. I would look for RB Daniel "Boom" Herron to carry the ball the majority of the game, with QB Terrelle Pryor also involved in the rushing game on planned QB keepers and option plays. Minnesota currently ranks 9th in The Big Ten in rushing defense, so I look for Ohio State to control this game on the ground. Edge: Ohio State.
Ohio State Passing Offense vs Minnesota Defense: QB Terrelle Pryor threw four touchdown passes last week against Troy. With Pryor's mobility, Ohio State has the flexibility to spread teams out in the passing game, forcing teams to play Ohio State's wideouts one on one. Considering Minnesota ranks last in The Big Ten in pass defense, I look for the possibility of big plays from Ohio State's wideouts. I will be curious to see if WR Ray Small gets more playing time in this game, or if he is still myseriously in Coach Tressel's doghouse for some undisclosed reason. Big Edge: Ohio State.
Special Teams: This could be an interesting area to watch between these two teams. Ohio State's kickoff coverage currently ranks as the best in The Big Ten, while Minnesota is ranked 3rd. Ohio State is currently ranked 3rd in punt returns; Minnesota 4th. Ohio State is ranked 2nd in punting; Minnesota 5th. Minnesota is 3rd in kickoff returns; Ohio State is last in The Big Ten in this category. Edge: Even.
Intangibles: Minnesota truly has an opportunistic defense, with a +11 turnover margin. While Minnesota ranks 3rd in The Big Ten in scoring offense, one needs to keep in mind that Minnesota has played Northern Illinois, Bowling Green, Montana State, and Florida Atlantic. While I am a frequent critic of Ohio State's non-conference schedule, Ohio State's schedule looks much more demanding by comparison to whom Minnesota has played. Edge: Ohio State.
Prediction: Ohio State has looked lethargic in its games this season so far, but Coach Tressel has supposedly been in his players' faces this week to play faster and with more intensity. I believe this is a good barometer game for Ohio State. Considering Ohio State has defeated Minnesota 44-0 in 2006 and 30-7 last year, one has to wonder if Minnesota's players truly believe they can play with Ohio State. I look for Ohio State to control the clock by running the ball as much as possible, and win this one by the beginning of the 4th quarter. I will predict Ohio State 35, Minnesota 14.