The Gophers end their non-conference schedule with another easy game, this one coming against Colorado State. A full breakdown, prediction, and other notes can be found below:
When Minnesota runs the ball:
The Gophers have rushed for at least 150 yards and ran for at least three touchdowns in both of their games so far, and that’s without last year’s leading rusher Shannon Brooks. He’s been cleared to play Saturday after missing the first two games with a foot injury, but his role is likely to be limited.
The opponents have been favorable, but the two running backs who have played during Brooks’s absence — Rodney Smith and Kobe McCrary — had encouraging games and should be able to continue that against Colorado State.
The Rams’ rushing defense was 107th in the FBS last year and allowed 180 yards against Minnesota in their 2015 game. Their rushing defense has been a bit better this season, but that can be attributed to a small sample size and weak opponents. The Gophers could very well top their mark from last year with the way they’ve been performing on the ground so far.
Matchup to watch: RB Rodney Smith vs. LB Kevin Davis
When Colorado State runs the ball:
The name to know is Dalyn Dawkins. The redshirt junior running back had a breakout year last season and has had a good start to 2016, but he missed the Rams’ last game with a hamstring injury. Dawkins appears likely to return for Saturday, but may be limited. His backups, Marvin Kinsey and Izzy Matthews have been decent fill-ins, but having Dawkins would give Colorado State a big boost.
The Rams rushed for 172 yards and Dawkins rushed for 92 last time against Minnesota, so he and his team could create problems for the Gophers again.
Minnesota’s rushing defense has been good so far – 23rd in the FBS – but it hasn’t seen a running back as skilled as Dawkins. He will be Minnesota’s first true test if fully healthy.
Matchup to watch: RB Daryl Dawkins vs. LB Jack Lynn
When Minnesota passes the ball:
Quarterback Mitch Leidner has had a hot start to the season. He has thrown and ran for six touchdowns, completed almost 60 percent of his passes and committed no turnovers. Although these were weak passing defenses, Colorado State should be easy, too.
The Rams are 114th in the FBS this year in yards allowed through the air, with an average of 290.7 per game, even with a favorable schedule. Colorado State had an elite passing defense last year, but four players in their defensive backfield graduated. The group accounted for 75 percent of interceptions. Chalk this one up as another good game for the veteran Minnesota quarterback.
Matchup to watch: WR Tyler Johnson vs. CB Jordon Vaden
When Colorado State passes the ball:
The Rams will have unpredictable true freshman Collin Hill making his second career start at quarterback. Hill had a great first start with over 300 yards and four touchdowns through, plus a 51-yard touchdown run to top it off. But similar to Leidner’s game, that was against a FCS opponent.
Minnesota’s passing defense has taken a hit with cornerbacks KiAnte Hardin and Ray Buford suspension — and it showed at times during the Indiana State game. The Sycamores scored four touchdowns through the air.
The Gophers are currently is in the bottom half of the FBS in passing defense. They still have key players, like safety Damarius Travis and cornerback Jalen Myrick, in the secondary, but this matchup could be closer than it may seem.
Matchup to watch: QB Collin Hill vs. CB Jalen Myrick
Minnesota 38, Colorado State 23.
There are some concerns with the Gophers defense, but Minnesota shouldn’t struggle to put enough points on the board and win by a sizeable margin.
Prediction record: 2-0
Around the web on the Gophers and the Rams:
-Favorite read of the five listed here. It’s a different story about something that probably hasn’t happened before: a college football running back who quit the game to legally grow marijuana. The Coloradoan’s Matt L. Stephens does a deep dive into the story of Treyous Jarrells, a Florida native that came to Colorado because of the state’s legalization of Marijuana. He treated his chronic pain from playing football with marijuana, and dropped out over concerns that he had failed a drug test. This in-depth feature goes into Jarrells’ constant discomfort from injuries sustained from football and the NCAA’s policy on marijuana use by its athletes. It’s an entertaining read accompanied by great visuals.
-“Riddick Moss is who I’ve always been. I just now have a platform to show my personality. I refer to myself as a bad boy.” Andy Greder of the Pioneer Press did a Q and A with Mike Rallis, the former Minnesota linebacker who is now in the WWE and goes by Riddick Moss. Rallis talks about how he got into the WWE, his brother, Gophers linebacker Nick Rallis who he calls a “pyscho”, and his Brock Lesnar sightings.
-The Rocky Mountain Collegian’s Eric Wolf writes a story about the large number of freshmen making an impact on CSU football this year. These players have a ways to go, but could be the future stars of the program.
-Tyler Johnson has had a promising start to his collegiate career, and his lasting influence on his old high school, Minneapolis North. Joe Christensen of the Star Tribune writes about the “magician’s” impact on his alma mater and what he’s done for the school.
-Here’s another one from the Coloradoan’s Matt L. Stephens and it’s a worthwhile read if you’re interested by collegiate sports team’s media policies. It’s a strong opinion, and not one I agree with on all fronts, but it was well argued and thought provoking.
1. Minnesota’s passing defense may have season-long problems
-It’s only been two games but there are some signs this isn’t the Minnesota passing defense from last year. I don’t think it will be a major concern until they lose a game or barely win one as a result, but it looks like they have had a hard time adjusting to the loss of Eric Murray, Briean Boddy-Calhoun, and the suspensions of defensive backs KiAnte Hardin and Ray Buford. The Gophers are one of six teams in the Power 5 to have allowed seven or more passing TDs, and they’re the only one in that group to have played just two games. A good game against Colorado State would go a long way for this group and show that they may be turning around.
2. This offense looks a lot better than last year, but nine successful attempts isn’t enough to determine if this team has improved in the red zone.
-This offense has looked a lot better than they were last year. Leidner is doing well against easy competition, something he failed to do last year at times, and the running game is looking as strong as ever. One statistic that has been brought up is the Gophers’ red zone percentage, where they are nine for nine in converting their opportunities into touchdowns. Minnesota was 105th in the FBS in converting red zone opportunities into touchdowns last year. Let’s wait until they get to around 20 attempts and face harder opponents to determine whether or not they’ve actually improved in that area.
3. These Minnesota linebackers are really, really good and have a lot of depth.
-The Gophers were down redshirt senior Nick Rallis for all of the Indiana State game and junior Jonathan Celestin for part of it and the linebackers didn’t seem to miss a beat. Redshirt senior Jack Lynn, redshirt junior Cody Poock, and sophomore Julian Huff are some of Minnesota’s best defenders and have excelled at stopping the run game. Freshman Kamal Martin has made some nice plays in his minutes as well. The group has a lot to look forward to this season.
The Minnesota Daily’s coverage of the team from this past week:
-Minnesota’s passing defense has struggled and there’s no way around it. An article with reactions from head coach Tracy Claeys and defensive coordinator Jay Sawvel.
-Two games against non-conference opponents, but Leidner has made
-The second installment of a weekly Q and A interviewing someone knowledgeable on Minnesota’s opponent. This week’s subject was the Rocky Mountain Collegian’s Eric Wolf, who broke down Colorado State and gave a score prediction.
-The update on where Minnesota stands after an early bye week.
-A story from the Indiana State game about McCrary’s breakout performance.
-Game recap from Sept. 10.
Everything else you need to know:
Start time: 11:00 a.m. CST
Radio: KFAN 100.3 FM
Line: Minnesota by 17