For just a few hours Thursday night, the Gophers have the ability to capture the eyes of the nation.
Playing in prime time against a top tier opponent, plenty of people will gather to see how Jerry Kill's squad fares in the Gophers biggest home opener in decades. Can the Gophers contend with the No. 2 team in the nation? A full breakdown and score prediction can be seen below:
When the Gophers have the ball:
The Gophers offense turned in a horrific performance when these two teams matched up a season ago, turning the ball over five times in a 30-7 loss. Having quarterback Mitch Leidner healthy, after he played through a toe injury in the game last year, and with a year of starting experience under his belt should help the Gophers cause, but it may not be enough.
TCU head coach Gary Patterson's 4-2-5 defense has been tough to match up against for years and last year's 16th ranked scoring defense in the country should remain strong despite losing six starters. The Gophers may have caught a break when the Horned Frogs' returning sacks leader, defensive end James McFarland, was not listed on TCU's depth chart for the game, but it will be tough for the team's offensive line to keep Leidner clean all game.
It’s unlikely that the Gophers will suffer a complete meltdown again, and Leidner should be able to move the team down the field multiple drives. But the Gophers will have quite a few new starters on offense and some new contributors at wide receiver, and it will be hard to beat such a proven scheme.
When TCU has the ball:
Jerry Kill thinks this year’s defense is the best he’s had at Minnesota, but the Horned Frogs’ offense is on another level.
TCU returns 10 starters to a unit that finished No. 2 in the FBS last year with 46.5 points per game. Quarterback Trevone Boykin is a likely Heisman finalist, and his top target Josh Doctson returns to the team.
The Gophers did a good job limiting TCU’s offense last year despite their offense giving the ball away five times, holding the Horned Frogs to a season low in points. But TCU has too much returning firepower to be held down for long again this year.
On the plus side for Minnesota, TCF Bank Stadium should be sold out and as loud as can be. The Gophers truly have nothing to lose in this game because few expect them to win, but everything to gain with what would be the team’s biggest win under Jerry Kill. TCU, on the other hand, knows one slip up will severely undermine their chances to go to the College Football Playoff.
A couple timely plays on either side of the ball for Minnesota, and intense pressure could shift swiftly to the TCU sideline.
Prediction: TCU 37, Minnesota 24
The Gophers play TCU much tougher than last season, but still can’t pull out what would be by far their biggest win under Jerry Kill.
TCU comes back and shows they expect to contend for the College Football Playoff again in 2015, while the Gophers show that just like last year at Ohio State, they won’ t be run out of their own building by even the best teams in college football.