|#7 Ohio State 4-0, 1-0 Big Ten Roster | Schedule||September 29, 2007 8:00 PM ET ------ The Metrodome Minneapolis, MN||Minnesota 1-3, 0-1 Big Ten Roster | Schedule|
After an up-and-down week that saw the young Buckeye offense absolutely throttle an overmatched Northwestern squad only then to wake up Tuesday morning to find out a backup quarterback was trying to score for a Gammons, it's safe to say we're all looking forward to action on the field. The #7 Buckeyes travel to Minnesota this weekend to take on the Golden Gophers in their first prime-time matchup of the season. And by prime-time, I mean a game against a terrible team. In a dome. On ESPN2. Exciting.
I want to say a little about how the Buckeyes can't take the Gophers too lightly, but I just can't bring myself to do it. The way the defense is flying to the ball and delivering wallops is downright scary. What's crazier is that they're still getting better. With 6 sophomores, 5 of which are starting for the first time this season, they're still learning on the job (see you soon H20-3).
You have to like the Buckeyes to continue their roll. The Northwestern, Minnesota, Indiana and Illinois games are where the team traditionally surges ahead in national statistical categories and this year looks to be no different (although Indiana, the weaker of the skinny-state twins, ducks OSU this season). Maybe not Northwestern roll, but it could get ugly.
Opponent: Gopher fans are a tortured lot. The university won an astounding 6 national championships in a 26 year window and then nothing for the next 45+ years. Which brings us to the 2007 edition of the Golden Gophers.
While at first there was great enthusiasm for new coach Tim Brewster, things haven't looked pretty in the Twin Cities as of late. The Gophers managed to lose their home opener to Bowling Green before losing to perennial power Florida Atlantic in week three. To be fair, Brewster's squad is a mere 7 points from being 3-1, but Bowling Green and Florida Atlantic?
Buckeye bridesmaid Glen Mason may be gone, but the Gophers can still rush the rock. Minnesota enters the game averaging 229 rushing yards a contest, good for 15th nationally. The running game gored the woeful Purdue run defense for 232 yards last weekend, powering the way to 3 second half touchdowns.
Senior captain Amir Pinnix (#29) was getting the lions-share of the carries early in the season, but costly fumbles as of late could see freshman Duane Bennett (#22) getting more looks this weekend. Pinnix finished 4th in the Big Ten in rushing last season, going for 1,272, but the fumbling problem and Bennett's explosiveness have fans clamoring for a change in the backfield.
Redshirt freshman Adam Weber (#8) has had an up and down season, at times looking like a future star, but at other times, such as the first half of the Purdue game, looking like a freshman quarterback. The 11 touchdowns are great. The 8 interceptions and costly fumbles.. not so much.
Weber's go-to guy is sophomore Eric Decker (#7) and in spite of his whiteness, has put up some pretty decent numbers on the season with 4 touchdowns and an average of 105 receiving yards per game. His high mark was a 12 catch 165 yard effort in the failed comeback at Florida Atlantic.
The Gopher defense has had its share of problems this season. In 3 of their 4 outings, they have been kind enough to spot the opposition 21-0 leads. Starting free safety Jamal Harris (#15) scooped up a blocked kick against Purdue last weekend, but was kind enough to give the ball back to the Boilermakers when changing carrying hands in the open field on the return.
The Gopher defense can be summed up as thus: the pass defense enters the game this weekend as the worst ranked unit in all of Division I, giving up an astonishing 407 yards per game through the air. Wow.
If there is any real threat on this Gopher team, it's kick returner Jay Thomas (#25). The sophomore leads the Big Ten in kick return average putting up 39+ a pop, including a long of 91 that resulted in a score. Considering the means by which Northwestern scored last weekend and also considering the fact that the Bucks figure to be kicking off a lot, he could get loose on one.
Notes: The Gophers have never defeated Ohio State in the Metrodome... Minnesota last beat the Buckeyes in 2000, ending a streak of 16 straight OSU victories... The Gophers may not make a BCS bowl anytime soon, but they do get a yearly shot at the 4-most hallowed trophies that you're always forgetting the name of.
Buckeye Breakdown: It was a crazy weak in Buckeye land, but I don't expect the Henton ordeal to have much, if any impact, on the team's performance this weekend. With Tressel continuing to show he's willing to air it out this season, he has to be licking his chops at the prospect of throwing against the Minnesota defense. The pass will set up the run, which in turn will set up the rout.
It's crazy that we're at the 5th game of the season and I'm already saying prayers that Todd Boeckman doesn't get hurt, but that's just how good he's been so far. After siezing the reigns in the opener, he's progressed each game to the point where great things are already expected out of him on a weekly basis, and not merely hoped for. I would also like to see Todd overthrow a receiver, just once, to prove to me that he's capable of it, but besides that, I have no complaints.
Last week I mentioned that the new receiving corps, particularly Robo, was off to a great start, but after the Northwestern game, I'm wondering if he's not the best the Bucks have had since David Boston. Ginn was an amazing athlete, but 90% of what he accomplished was just on pure speed. Robo has burners and runs tight routes. There are other similarities to Boston: both have similar builds (before Boston got his swoll-on) and they each have fathers that worked in the NFL.
The Vest should try to use the passing attack to jump out to an early lead, enabling him to go light on Beanie this week. With the injury situation at the running back spot and a night game looming at Purdue next weekend, Wells will hopefully head to the bench early to better preserve him and so he can practice one-handed pushups for those devastating stiff-arms.
Mo Wells would figure to get some additional carries this weekend and beyond that freshman Marcus Williams may see some time. The coaching staff wants to redshirt "Boom" Herron, but if their pressed, he could see the field this weekend. The team already has Wells & Wells Attorneys at Law, but it wouldn't get old talking about Beanie and Boom for the next few weeks.
James Laurinaitis will be enjoying a homecoming of sorts as he was the 2004 Defensive Mr. Football for the state of Minnesota while playing for Wayzata High School just West of the Twin Cities. Hopefully his pops has purchased a block of seats at the Metrodome so we're treated to a 3rd quarter shot of the Undertaker, Paul Bearer, George "The Animal" Steele and other wrestling dignitaries cheering the Buckeyes on.
Regarding the rest of the Silver Buillets, it may be a good time to start up the weekly monster hit pools with your buddies because every week, it's someone new bringing the wood. Tyler Moeller? Donald Washington? Jamario O'Neal? Cameron Hayward? The Gun Show? One of these guys may maim a Gopher (or two).
Notes: Todd Boeckman is leading the Big Ten in passing efficiency with a rating of 172.06... This weekend may give Buckeye fans their first glimpse of Joe Bauserman, the 21 year old freshman quarterback that spent some time in minor league baseball before trying football... Lawrence Wilson appreciates the cards and emails Buckeye fans sent him after his week one injury... We couldn't be the only blog not linking to this: the Anti-Tress.
Jason: OSU 38, Minnesota 0
Chris: OSU 34, Minnesota 3