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Will offensive woes keep Minnesota Gophers from being a legit Big Ten West contender?

Struggle on offense and lose TCU? Okay, that’s probably expected.

Go out West and only put up 23 points against Colorado State? Chalk it up to a road trip out West.

Two weeks of offensive ineptness against MAC opponents? Well, Minnesota we’ve got a problem.

After struggling against the woeful Kent State Golden Flashes defense last week in a 10-7 barn burner, the Minnesota Gophers were looking to show the Big Ten and the rest of the college football world they were for serious.

While the Gophers offense scored a season-high 27 points, it was far from the effort that will be needed in the coming weeks against the likes of Iowa, Northwestern and Wisconsin (much further down the road).

Ohio is no slouch on defense to be sure, giving up just 17.3 points per game coming in to this contest (29th nationally) and being very stingy against the pass game. However, the Bobcats of Ohio came in to this one giving up a good chunk of yards on the ground (135 per game to be exact).

So, what did the Gophers offense do in this matchup? It racked up 264 yards in the air and had 204 yards on the ground. Not bad overall numbers, but numbers that should’ve equaled far more than three offensive touchdowns against a MAC opponent.

No doubt it was an improvement over last week’s effort, where the Gophers had just 288 yards of total offense on the day. Yet, it is hard to deny the fact that this team is failing to dominate opponents the way a true contender for the Big Ten West should be doing.

Mitch Leidner improved on a 184-yard, one-touchdown, two-interception day against Kent State — going 22 of 32 for 264 yards in this game against the Bobcats, but he failed to get in to the end zone in the passing game against Ohio.

The Gophers’ running back committee didn’t do too bad either after struggling last week, with Rodney Smith and Shannon Brooks combining for 176 yards in this contest.

Yet, the combination of no true lead back and a very inconsistent quarterback is more than troubling as the Gophers head in to a week against Northwestern’s suddenly difficult defense and having to finish with arguably the four best defenses in the Big Ten in Michigan, Ohio State, Iowa and Wisconsin in the final five games of the season.

While the formula of a stingy defense and a timely offense has worked to get the Gophers to consistent bowl eligibility, it won’t get it to a consistent championship contender level.

Until this offense is capable of scoring more than 27 points in a single game, Minnesota just simply isn’t a realistic contender in the Big Ten West.

Andy Coppens is the Founder and Publisher of Talking10. He’s a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and has been covering college sports in some capacity since 2008. You can follow him on Twitter @AndyOnFootball

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