When: Sat.; Oct. 17 (3:30p.m. ET)
Where: Minneapolis, MN; TCF Bank Stadium (50,805)
Line: Minnesota -2
1 Burning Question: Who’s Going to Come Back from the Dead?
Both these teams were thought to be potential contenders in the West division, but instead, both jammed their fingers opening the door to Big Ten play. For Minnesota, it’s had a hard time mining for offense, and for Nebraska, it can’t figure out a way to play enough defense to seal the deal in close games. The result has been unfulfilled expectations on both campuses.
Somebody’s going home with more heart-break, while the other team still has a shot at climbing out of the abyss to become a contender in the wide-open West. It’s time to try and wet the palate and wash the bad taste out of everyone’s mouth in and around each program.
2 Key Stats
— 11: That’s the combined points of the four losses the ‘Huskers have endured. It’s a broken record of sorts over the last few years, but the offense hasn’t been the issue this year. More often than not, it’s moved the ball and scored enough points to put the team in position to win, only to have defensive break-downs at the most inopportune time — the end of the game. That can’t happen on Saturday because Minnesota has shown a stingy defense at times, meaning the blackshirts may have to match wits to pull out the victory on the road.
— 19.7: Points per game for the Golden Gophers. That’s good enough (or lack thereof) to rank 117th out of 128 teams in all of FBS, and that’s after scoring 31 points last week against Purdue. It’s been the exact opposite side of the ball carrying the Gophers than what we’ve seen in Lincoln, and Minnesota will likely need to score above this average to beat Nebraska.
3 Key Players
Shannon Brooks, RB, Minnesota: If you didn’t know who this Purdue freshman kid from Pickens High School in Georgia was before last week, you shoud now. The Gophers believe they’ve found something in the 6-foot, 206-lb Brooks. He didn’t really get a chance to show what he could do until two weeks ago against Ohio, but then he blew up last week at Purdue, going for 176 yards on just 17 carries. He’s not super fast, but fleet-footed enough, and is a strong and savvy runner that will get his number called plenty on Saturday.
Jalen Myrick, DB, Minnesota: The Minnesota secondary is a veteran and physical bunch, and Nebraska QB Tommy Armstrong, Jr. promises to test them through the air. When he does, Myrick is a ball-hawking presence that already has 3-picks on the year, one of which he returned for a pick-six against Purdue last week. It only takes one costly turnover to turn the tide in what should be a close battle.
Terrell Newby, RB, Nebraska: I know, I know, you expected Tommy Armstrong to be here, and he will be key, but with how strong the secondary is for Minnesota, finding open windows to throw may be at a premium. With that in mind, the ‘Huskers best chance to move the ball may come on the ground. Newby hasn’t been a break-out performer this year, but he should get more touches to try and make something happen in this matchup.
4 Bold Prognostications
— Tommy Armstrong will rush for over 75 yards. The Minnesota secondary will blanket the Nebraska receivers at times and force Armstrong to tuck it and run. The coaching staff might also be forced to throw some designed runs into the game-plan. Armstrong will get more opportunities to make plays and will get enough positive yardage to have a productive day on the ground.
— The Nebraska defense will have a stand to save the game. It can’t happen again right? The ‘Huskers just can’t finish games, but a lot of it has been an outright bad bounce of the ball. This time, against a Minnesota offense that has a hard time acquiring real-estate, the defense will come up big and be the hero late instead of the goat for once.
— Terrell Newby will go for over 100 yards on the ground. Armstrong will get his yards on the ground mostly from improvising, but Newby will go over the century mark as a part of the game plan. Mike Riley has undoubtedly seen that the strength of the Minnesota defense on film is its pass-coverage, and will look to move the ball more on the ground. that means Newby is on the clock.
— There will be more gambling and aggressive play-calling than you would expect. Neither head-coaches are known as river-boat gamblers. Jerry Kill likes to play sound in all phases and win by not making many mistakes. Mike Riley has had some curious moments with judgement calls on plays late this season, but his background also suggests he plays it closer to the vest than your average guy stalking the sidelines these days. However, both teams’ backs are up against the proverbial wall and need this one big time. Look for some things to come out of the closet for an element or two of surprise that might make all the difference in the world.
5 Staff Predictions (overall season record; record against the spread)
Andy: Nebraska 28-21 (56-13 overall; 30-38 ATS)
Dave: Minnesota 27-24 (58-11 overall; 38-29 ATS)
Greg: Nebraska 24-10 (51-18 overall; 41-26 ATS)
Matt: (56-13 overall; 41-26 ATS)
Phil: Nebraska 23-20 (10-4 overall; 4-9 ATS) *joined in Week 5
Minnesota gets Big Ten off to bright start in bowl season
It’s the one time of the year where almost every fan of a team in the Big Ten can come together — bowl season. After all, a rising tide lifts all boats and no tide is higher than taking a strong narrative in to an offseason.
The Minnesota Gophers got things started on Wednesday and the “Row the Boat” crew started things off well with a 34-10 demolition of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in the Quick Lane Bowl.
Bowl season also seems to provide a glimpse forward from time to time, and in the case of the Gophers they continued to see progression in the run game.
Redshirt freshman Mohamed Ibrahim set a career high with 224 yards on 31 carries with two touchdowns in the win.
That led to no need to test the arm of freshman quarterback Tanner Morgan, who threw just 13 passes on the day. He connected on seven of them for 132 yards and a pair of scores as well.
Star receiver Tyler Johnson caught both of those touchdown passes, including the final score of the game with 6:19 to play in the final quarter.
Overall, this game hit all the marks for the plan to be “elite” at Minnesota.
The Gophers defense had been a sore spot for most of the 2018 season and just like they did in the regular season finale against Wisconsin, they showed up big time.
Minnesota allowed just 283 yards of total offense to Georgia Tech, including just 206 yards on 44 carries for an average of 4.7 yards per carry. The Yellow Jackets went just 4 of 14 on third down in the game as well.
It all added up to a very positive performance for the Gophers and a nice start to what could be a very difficult bowl season for the Big Ten.
The cautionary tale may be reading too much in to a big win on the scoreboard. After all, Georgia Tech is in the process of a major transition away from the triple-option offense as Paul Johnson was removed as head coach following the regular season.
Still, the details suggest this is a Gophers program heading in the right direction at the very least. Dare we say it was an “elite” win for a program needing momentum going in to this offseason?
It certainly was a nice way to start things off if you want the Big Ten to do well this bowl season.
Annexstad shows promise in Gophers debut
Plenty of people were curious about the Minnesota Gophers starting quarterback coming in to the season opener. After all, it’s not often that a true freshman walk-on gets the starting nod.
But, the attention and pressure of the first college game was not too much to handle for Gophers quarterback Zack Annextad. After a few shaky moments early on, Annexstad looked like he belonged on the field in the Gophers 48-10 victory over New Mexico State.
Annexstad wasn’t super accurate, completing just 48 percent of his passes. But, he more than made up for it with a blistering 220 yards and two touchdowns. Additionally, he kept the Aggies from picking him off all game long.
Perhaps the best bit of news is that it appears the Gophers may have more than one good target for Annexstad to work with. Veteran wide receiver Tyler Johnson was on point, catching five passes for 100 yards and both of the touchdown throws.
Rashod Bateman caught five passes and Chris Autman-Bell had four to his name as well.
Meanwhile, sophomore wide receiver Seth Green looked dangerous as an all-around player. He touched the ball in the backfield twice and scored on both of those touches, giving future opponents plenty to think about when it comes to game-planning for the Gophers.
Minnesota also showed off an impressive run game after a rocky start on the ground. Star running back Rodney Smith racked up 153 yards and the Gophers ran for 295 yards and three touchdowns as a team.
Add in a defense that allowed just 38 yards on the ground and only 10 points and there is a recipe for success going forward.
Of course, one has to take in to consideration the caliber of opponent, but for a team with a lot of question marks on offense, there’s little doubt this was a confidence builder.
While there will be plenty of improvement needed in order for Minnesota to be competitive come Big Ten play, this offense looks and feels different than it did a year ago.
As far as debuts go, there certainly was promise shown from Annexstad and that’s really all you can ask for from a freshman making his first start.
Gophers, Huskers could have games altered by Oregon wildfires
Mother Nature could wreak havoc on college football this upcoming weekend, but the majority of the news has been focused on an impending hurricane barring down on Florida.
A look out West and things are just as dangerous and deadly, as wildfires are raging in California, Oregon and Washington. That could present a big problem for the Minnesota Gophers game on Saturday night with the Oregon State Beavers and Nebraska’s visit to the Oregon Ducks.
The Minneapolis Star-Tribune cites sources within the Pac-12 saying that the game time may be moved or the game moved all together.
While the fire isn’t the problem, it is the air quality in the Eugene area that is. Oregon has already had to move practice closer to the Pacific Coast and the air in Eugene appears to be a major issue.
The smoke in Eugene, where an air protection agency listed the air quality as “hazardous,” prompted Oregon to move its Tuesday practice to Florence, near the Pacific coast.
The good news is that the smoke cleared enough a day later for the Ducks to return to practice in Eugene. But, there is reason to believe the game could still be an issue as smoke is expected to return.
The smoke is supposed to return at some point. But we just don’t know when. … There are too many variables for us to look that far ahead of time.”
Yes, that means we won’t know about the status of Nebraska-Oregon until Saturday itself.
Meanwhile, things don’t look as precarious for the Gophers matchup, but that doesn’t mean change would be out of the question.
“Based upon the information provided by the air protection agency and the expert health and safety advice of the respective University medical professionals, a decision will be made on whether or not to adjust game times and/or dates with the safety of student-athletes and fans as a priority,” Andrew Walker, the Pac-12’s vice president of public affairs, wrote in an e-mail to the (Portland) Oregonian.
Once again, it appears things are going to be in a wait-and-see mode in Corvallis as well.
It hasn’t affected Minnesota all that much, as they are more worried about playing at game that would kick at 9pm in Minneapolis if it were being played at home.
Head coach P.J. Fleck has talked this week about making sure players are staying up later as the week goes on to adjust their bodies. That’s especially important as practices are taking place first thing in the morning this season.
Either way, both of these programs are dealing with a lot of uncertainty right now and that may be the biggest hurdle to get over when prepping for Week 2.
talking10 Power Poll: Surprises galore in Week 1 poll
We’re back…after a long offseason, the staff is finally back to watching football, crunching numbers and giving you our opinions on all things Big Ten football.
It also means our weekly staff Power Poll is back as well.
This season we’ve got five staff members voting every week. That includes the following names:
Andy Coppens – @AndyOnFootball
Phil Harrison – @PhilHarrisonCFB
Philip Rossmann-Reich – @RiseNU
Dave Fitzgerald – @BuckeyeFitzy
Zach Worthington – @Worthyton
Normally the opening week of the season provides little in the way of knowledge, but that certainly wasn’t the case in 2017. Dare we say the first week of action for the Big Ten was highly entertaining?
You can say that, and we did over at the #B1GRewind Show.
But, how did all of that excitement shake out when it came time to vote? Let’s take a look at the official poll for Week 1:
Let’s just say things were a bit wackier than usual, huh?
- Only three teams lost this week, yet it was a winner, Illinois, coming up dead last and it wasn’t even close. The Illini’s unimpressive three-point win was also our winner for “Disappointment of the Week” on the #B1GRewind show…so perhaps their last place finish in the power poll this week was really warranted. It also appears that hanging tough with ranked teams meant a lot to our voters.
- While the rest of the college football world is in love with Ohio State…our staff is much more in love with the Nittany Lions…well not “much more” but they won out with three first place votes and OSU falling outside the top two in one voters mind.
- It appears there is going to be an interesting battle for the middle of the pack over the next few weeks. Michigan State was No. 7 in this poll, but had just a three-point lead on No. 10 Nebraska. Let’s just say the next few weeks should shake out the middle a bit more.
- Speaking of close fights…the battle between Michigan and Wisconsin for the third spot should be an interesting one indeed. Can Wisconsin’s offense keep up the high-scoring and keep UW ahead or will Michigan’s exciting youth movement grow up fast enough to challenge for the top of the East division and thus our poll as well?