When: Thurs. Sept. 1, 2016; 9:00 pm ET
Where: Minneapolis, MN; TCF Bank Stadium (50,805)
All-Time Series: Minnesota leads 2-1
Last Meeting: Minnesota won 42-12 (in 1981)
Line: Penn State -13
What no TCU to begin the season and an actual chance against a fellow Power 5 opponent? What a novel concept for the Minnesota Gophers. It also couldn’t come at a better time, as new (sorta old) head coach Tracy Claeys leads his experienced Gophers against a very young and inexperienced
Gary Andersen may have yet to have a loss to the Gophers on his record, but he’s not wearing the ‘Motion W’ anymore and he may find out that heading for the academically easier Oregon State isn’t exactly equipped to beat the Gophers.
1 Burning Question: What Kind of Tone Will the Golden Gophers Set in Game One Under Tracy Claeys?
Yeah, yeah, the Golden Gophers already have a few games under their belt with Claeys calling the shots, but this season means more. He’s been parked alongside Jerry Kill for as long as anyone can remember, and for all intents and purposes, the scheme and philosophies won’t change much — if any. As we all know though, a coach will ultimately be judged by wins and losses, and for Claeys that means he’ll be judged by what he does from this point forward, rather than his ability to fill in for Kill over the years.
So it begins. Claeys came close to putting his stamp on 2016 by almost upsetting the Wolverines and Hawkeyes, all while being very competitive in the remainder of games, but the cruel reality is that the Gophers finished just 2-5 under his watch after he inherited a team that was 4-3. With the schedule Minnesota has this year, a winning season is more than plausible, but a win in week one is a must for not only the program, but for the Claeys era to hit the ground running.
2 Key Stats:
— 18.4. That’s the average points scored for Oregon State in 2015 — good for 114th in the country. Ouch. They say defense wins championships, but you also need to put some points up on the board to have a chance. The Beavers had serious trouble moving the chains last year, and it goes without saying that things need to change this year. Meanwhile, Minnesota finished 20th in the nation in total yards allowed on defense in 2015. It’s a different year, but there are seven returning starters on that side of the ball for the Gophers. Advantage Minnesota at home.
— 2,701. That’s the passing yards for Minnesota quarterback Mitch Leidner in 2015. He’s always had the measurables and tools, and although he had a bit of a slow start last year, as the season progressed Leidner began to heat up and add a passing option not many believed the Gophers had. He is getting a lot of preseason hype as a potential NFL high round draft pick, but he’s got to focus on this season first. He should get a chance to air it out a bit in week one, and the Golden Gophers will need him to be even better in 2016 to take further steps forward for the program, and to win this one.
3 Key Players:
Mitch Leidner, Minnesota QB: Keeping with the theme, Leidner is not only a key for this game, but for the grandiose bowl hopes for the Golden Gophers in 2016. He lost his best receiver in K.J. Maye, but he should be able to take that next step in his progression via pure inertia in the program and his understanding. The Gophers will never abandon the running game, but Leidner should be able to put up some big numbers in this one to get him going in 2016.
Rashad Still, Minnesota WR: In order for Leidner to continue his progression, he’ll need to find a replacement for the departure of leading receiver K.J. Maye. Perhaps the next man up is Rashad Still. At 6-5, 205 lbs., he has the size to go up in coverage and make the sensational play, but is speedy enough to get separation from opposing defenders. His stats weren’t that eye-popping last year as a freshman, but he was just getting his feet wet as a freshman as a red zone threat. The Gophers will need to be balanced, and as Leidner stretches the defense, Still could be the No. 1 target.
Victor Bolden, Oregon State WR: To say that the Beavers struggled to score points last year would be an understatement of epic proportions. If there is one lone bright spot coming into this year, it’s Bolden. He runs smooth routes, has great hands, and is always a threat to make a big play — IF … he has someone to throw to him. Darrell Garretson is now eligible to play under center for OSU, and it will be a significant upgrade over who was calling the signals last year. For the Beavers to pull off the upset, Bolden will have to be an electrifying part of this contest against what should be a rather stout Gopher defense.
4 Bold Prognostications:
— Mitch Leidner will throw for three touchdowns. The Gophers would love to balance out the rushing and passing games on offense, but in the red zone they’ll utilize Leidner’s arm to take advantage of some size matchups on fade and out patterns. It’ll pay off to the tune of three TDs through the air.
— There will be at least four turnovers in the game. It’s game one and there are new faces at quarterback, wide-receiver, offensive-line positions and more. That’s a recipe for sloppiness and it’ll come to fruition on both sidelines. The team that makes the least mistakes will walk away with a victory in game one.
— There will be a kick return for a TD. It could come from either sideline, but of all the phases of the game that take time to get together, perhaps special teams is the most fragile. There is a mesh of new faces, and with all the limitations on practice time nowadays and needs elsewhere, someone somewhere will miss an assignment or get out of their designated lane and open up the opportunity for a big return.
— There will be a Jerry Kill sighting. He’s gone but not forgotten, and while Kill will mostly stay out of the limelight to let his good friend start his own era in the Twin Cities, the team, fans and Claeys himself will welcome Kill into the locker room or on the sidelines to still be connected to the team he brought back to respectability in week one. Look for some camera shots of Kill mingling with the coaches and administration that love him so.
5 Staff Predictions:
Andy: Minnesota 27-24
Dave: Minnesota 27-14
Phil: Minnesota 24-16
Philip: Minnesota 28-10
Zach: Minnesota 24-10
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?
talking10 Pick’Em league has arrived!
Join our staff in a season-long Big Ten predictions challenge! Come on…you know you want to know our picks and beat up on us for bad plays!
We’ve had fun on the talking10 podcast giving you previews and predictions over the last few seasons. This year we’re turning that up a notch around here.
Yes, you can now play along with us each and every week! Welcome to the talking10 Pick’Em league brought you by Yahoo! Sports.
Each week you’ll hear us make our picks on Wednesday night and filling out our sheets live on the Podcast. You can play alongside all of our staff and shame us as you win or we get to laugh at you as we rise to the top.
This Pick’Em league is free of charge and is for more than just bragging rights. The winner at the end of the season gets a special prize package from us here at talking10. So join up with the following information:
League ID: 3991
Finally, please make sure to make your team name your Twitter handle or your first & last name so we have a way to reach out to you once the season is over….if you win!
We dare you to beat us! We double dog dare you!