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2007 Minnesota Golden Gophers Game Preview

Discussion in 'News' started by 3yardsandacloud, Sep 26, 2007.

  1. 3yardsandacloud

    3yardsandacloud Administrator Emeritus


    [​IMG]

    2007 Minnesota Golden Gophers Game Preview
    written by:
    BB73, BuckeyeRyn, Buckeyeskickbuttocks, Bucklion, DaddyBigBucks, Hubbard, jwinslow, OSUBucks22, and 3yardsandacloud




    Preface
    Well, it's time for the longest road trip that the Buckeyes make within the conference. That's right, the team will be flying up to the Twin Cities, which sounds better than taking a bus ride from Chicago, like someone writing this preview is doing.

    Minnesota plays their home games in the venerable Metrodome, which holds the distinction of being the largest plastic bag to ever host the Super Bowl, two World Series, and a pair of Final Fours. Since they are currently building a new, on-campus facility to be called TCF Bank Stadium, scheduled to be completed for the 2009 football season, this will be the Buckeyes' last game in the Metrodome (tOSU's next game at Minnesota will be in 2010).

    The Metrodome was also the site of this piece of baseball history: On May 4, 1984, Oakland's Dave Kingman hit a ball into one of the roof's drainage holes in a 4th inning at-bat. The ball never came down and Kingman was awarded a ground-rule double. This raises the question: If A.J. Trapasso really booms a punt, and the ball gets stuck in a drainage hole in the roof, how will the referees deal with the ground-rule double in football?

    The Buckeyes have fared well in the Metrodome, winning all 10 contests since the stadium opened in the early 1980s, including an epic comeback from a 31-0 deficit at Minnesota in 1989, which was a 1-A record shared with Maryland's 1984 comeback over Miami, until it was exceeded last year by Sparty turning a 38-3 third quarter deficit into a 41-38 victory that ruined Northwestern's homecoming.

    Speaking of 31-point comebacks, that was the size of the lead that the Gophers surrendered to Texas Tech in last year's Insight Bowl, when they fell 44-41 in overtime. That broke the bowl game comeback mark of 30, when Byron Leftwich led Marshall back against East Carolina in the 2001 GMAC Bowl. Blowing that lead in the Insight Bowl was apparently also the deciding factor in Glen Mason losing the head coaching job, who was fired depite having the best winning percentage of any Minnesota coach since 1950.

    Rookie coach Tim Brewster, who spent the previous 5 years as tight end coach for the Denver Broncos and San Diego Chargers, has gone 1-3 so far, losing in OT as Bowling Green gambled and got a 2-point conversion, winning a double-OT contest with Miami of Ohio, then losing at Florida Atlantic and last week while hosting Purdue.

    The Golden Gophers' last two 10 win seasons occurred in '03 and '05. That would be 2003 and unfortunately for them, 1905. They had a brilliant stretch from '00 through '05; they actually compiled a record of 65-4-5 from 1900 through 1905. In both 1903 and 1904, they gave up less points over the course of the season than the number of games they won. Those years included a 28-game win streak and a 35-game unbeaten streak. Impressive stuff, but obviously ancient history.

    In order to balance the historical look at the Gophers, it's only fair to point out their rich football history:

    They were the very first team ever voted #1 in the AP football poll, back in October of 1936. They went on to claim their third straight national title that year. The most recent national championship in 1960 was their sixth.

    Minnesota is actually tied with tOSU as the Big Ten teams with the most AP national titles in football, with 4. Michigan has 2, Michigan State has 1, and Penn State won two in the 1980s before joining the conference.

    Minnesota has a winning record against the SEC, the Big-12, and the Pac-10.

    They won their only meetings against Texas and Alabama, and have a 29-20 mark against Nebraska. OK, since they've lost the last 14 in the series, they've dropped the Huskers from the schedule.

    Their list of coaches included Fritz Crisler (1930-31), who left for Princeton and then brought along their winged helmet when he arrived in Ann Arbor in 1938. Crisler was succeeded by in Minnesota by Bernie Bierman, who had a .716 winning percentage from 1932-1950 (with a break during World War II), winning 5 national championships in his first decade leading the Golden Gophers. He is also known for teaching the game of football to Bud Wilkinson, who coached Oklahoma to its record 47-game winning streak in the 1950s.

    Other Minnesota head coaches include Wes Fesler, who succeeded Bierman after losing tOSU's Snow Bowl in 1950; and Lou Holtz, who went 10-12 in 1984-85 despite some scintillating pep talks.

    Glen Mason, in 10 years, guided the team to 7 of their 12 all-time bowl appearances (they never went to a bowl during their glory days under Bierman).

    tOSU currently has a regular-season winning streak of 22 games, which broke the team record of 21 straight from 1967-'69. The Buckeyes have also won 15 consecutive Big Ten games, and are approaching the team record of 17 straight wins in conference games (TSUN holds the Big Ten record of 19).

    Counting all games ever played against current Big Ten opponents, Ohio State's winning percentage against Minnesota (.848) is higher than that against any other team in the conference. It's .823 against Indiana and (after last week) is now .801 against Northwestern.

    Last week's victory margin of at least 50 points was the 42nd time that occurred in a tOSU victory, and the first time during Jim Tressel's tenure as head coach. It happened 5 times under Woody, 5 times under Earle, and 3 times under John Cooper. Just in case it happens again this year, the most recent seasons in which it happened twice were 1996 (Pitt and Rice) and 1969 (TCU and Wisconsin).​




    Date and Time
    Date: Saturday, September 29th, 2007
    Time: 8:00 EDT Kick-off
    Location: Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome (Minneapolis, MN)
    Constructed: 1982 (To be replaced by TCF Bank Stadium in the fall of 2009)
    Seating Capacity: 64,172
    Playing Surface: FieldTurf

    Broadcast Information:
    TV Broacast: ESPN2 : Mark Jones (Play-by-play), Bob Davie (Analysis), and Stacey Dales (Sideline)
    Radio Broadcast: Ohio State Radio Network (WBNS 1460TheFan in Columbus): Paul Keels (Play-by-play), Jim Lachey (Analysis), and Marty Bannister (Sideline)
    Sirius Satellite Radio: 140​




    2007 Minnesota Golden Gophers Offensive Preview


    Returning starters: 6

    Next up for the Buckeyes after rolling Northwestern are the Gophers, and Minnesota has a solid tradition on the offensive side of the football, most of which centers around their running game. Bruce Smith won Minnesota's only Heisman Trophy in 1941, and perhaps the toughest back in the history of the sport, NFL HOFer Bronko Nagurski, was also a Gopher. Recent stars Marion Barber III and Laurence Maroney, both current standouts in the NFL, are indicative that the tradition of the Minnesota ground game continues. Add in the rich tradition at the tight end position (recent grads and current NFL players Ben Utecht and Matt Spaeth, and recent NFL HOF inductee Charlie Sanders are good examples), and the Gophers have had their share of excellent offensive players.

    Last season, Minnesota moved the ball effectively for most of the year. Minnesota finished the year a very respectable 30th nationally in total yards per game, at 383.4. Surprisingly, unlike some recent seasons, the Gophers managed a very well-balanced attack in 2006, ranking 42nd at 154.4 yards per game running the ball, and 41st passing the ball at 221.1 yards per contest. The Gophers were also skilled at putting points on the scoreboard, finishing 30th at 28.9 points per game. They were also able to move the chains pretty well (18.9 1st downs per game, 43rd), but they were not especially effective at converting 3rd downs (36.7%, 73rd). All this ended up in a very up and down season, with the Gophers scoring over 60 twice but less that 20 5 times (including being shut out by the Buckeyes in Columbus). Gone is Glen Mason, in is a new coaching staff, and there were plenty of questions about the offense going into 2007.

    This year, though the team is off to a 1-3 start (0-1 Big Ten), moving the ball is not the problem. Minnesota has piled up 490 yards per game (15th), and they are well-balanced and rank in the top 40 in both rushing the ball (229.8 YPG, 15th) and passing the ball (257.8 YPG, 37th). They've also been converting a huge number of 3rd downs thus far (55.2%, 5th), leading to piling up a large number of 1st downs per contest (26.5, 8th). They've dented the scoreboard every game, scoring at least 30 each time out en route to a 35.5 points per game average (30th). So, though it hasn't translated to wins, the team has at least been fun to watch if you like offense. They'll have to be at their best Saturday, and that still may not be enough.


    Quarterbacks
    QB #8 Adam Weber (6-3, 220, FR, Mounds View HS, Shoreview, MN)

    Gone is long-time starter Bryan Cupito, and he took over 2800 passing yards and 22 TDs with him from 2006. Enter Weber, who so far this season hasn't missed a beat. He's a strong player with deceptive speed that has emerged as a dual threat this season. He's already thrown for over 1000 yards and 11 TDs in 4 games, and he's already had his first 300 yard passing game as a Gopher and has already thrown for 4 TDs in a game twice. He's also only been sacked 3 times, but he has thrown for 8 interceptions, not a surprising statistic for a young QB throwing the ball around a lot. His best game was clearly the win over Miami in week 2, when he completed 65% of his throws for 271 yards and 4 TDs and also ran for 97 yards on 16 carries with a score. He threw for 335 yards and 4 TDs against Florida Atlantic, but he also threw 4 INTs and had his worst game on the ground (25 yards) in that loss. To open Big Ten play, he threw for 237 yards and TD against Purdue, and added 63 yards and a TD on the ground. Clearly there will be some growing pains as he makes some rookie mistakes, but he is a gunner who can throw the ball around and also create some big plays on the ground. He appears to be similar to, and perhaps a better version of, last week's opponent from Northwestern.

    The backup is veteran Tony Mortensen (#17), a player that has been around the program a while and has some game experience, including one start. He threw just 10 passes last year, with 2 picks, so it's definitely Weber's show.

    QB Rating: B

    Head-to-Head: Minnesota versus Ohio State QBs

    Weber (P/R): 95/162 (58.6%), 1031 yards, 11 TDs, 8 INTs, 124.6 rating; 62/257, 2 TDs

    Boeckman (P/R): 56/85 (65.9%), 753 yards, 10 TDs, 3 INTs, 172.1 rating; 8/-19, 0 TDs

    Weber appears to be a star in the making, and has certainly opened some eyes with his play thus far. He acquitted himself well last week to open conference play, and can create plenty of headaches for defenses with his feet as well as his arm. Boeckman has been very good in the Buckeye system so far, and has done exactly what's needed to be done to win. He had a great game last week, has a high rating, and has won a tough game in a hostile environment as well as his opening Big Ten game. Both players will be fun to watch, and though Weber has the bigger numbers, Boeckman has proven more to this point.

    Edge: Ohio State


    Running Backs
    TB #29 Amir Pinnix (6-0, 205, SR, Malcom X Shabazz HS, Newark, NJ)

    Pinnix is the latest in a long line of effective Gopher backs. After gaining 1272 yards last year, he's on pace for a big year again in 2007. He's a tough runner with decent speed and the ability to make extra yards in the secondary. He gained 168 yards and scored twice (once receiving) in the opener, and followed that with 126 yards and a score in the win in week 2. He's tailed off a bit, gaining 92 yards in week 3 and just 53 yards in 4 carries last weekend against Purdue as Minnesota played from behind most of the game. At his best he's a tough runner in the 2nd half who can help the Gophers control the clock and put effective numbers up on the board.

    The backup is Duane Bennett (#22), a youngster with plenty of game-break ability, as evidenced by his YPC of over 9. He had his best game against Purdue, gaining 81 yards on only 7 carries and scoring a TD. Expect to see him carry the ball against the Buckeyes, and the defense better watch him closely, or he can break off a big gain in a hurry. He's still young and fairly inexperienced, but his future appears very bright.

    RB Rating: B+

    Head-to-Head: Minnesota versus Ohio State RBs
    Pinnix: 77/439 yards, 3 TDs, 5.7 YPC; 10 rec/60 yards, 1 TDs, 6.0 YPR
    Bennett: 13/122 yards, 1 TD, 9.4 YPC; 2 rec/8 yards, 0 TDs, 4.0 YPR

    C Wells: 72/424 yards, 3 TDs, 5.9 YPC; 2 rec/7 yards, 0 TDs, 3.5 YPR
    M Wells: 37/122 yards, 2 TDs, 3.3 YPC; 5 rec/31 yards, 0 TDs, 6.2 YPR
    Saine: 28/153 yards, 2 TDs, 5.5 YPC; 3 rec/8 yards, 1 TD, 2.7 YPR

    Both Pinnix and Wells are effective runners with good YPC and an equal number of TDs. Pinnix has greater success over his career in terms of stats, but Wells has played in plenty of big games too. Both squads also appear to have good depth and multiple options off the bench, including promising young freshmen. Both teams will try and run the ball effectively early, so this position battle should be evident by halftime, and the score on the board might also play a part. For now, call it even.

    Edge: Even


    Wide Receivers
    WR #1 Ernie Wheelwright (6-5, 215, SR, Walnut Ridge HS, Columbus, OH)
    WR #7 Eric Decker (6-2, 215, SO, Rocori HS, Cold Spring, MN)
    WR #6 Tray Herndon (5-10, 180, FR, The Bolles School, Jacksonville, FL)

    There goes the Payne ... that's Logan Payne, who led the team in yards with 59 catches for 804 yards and 9 TDs. Decker, after being 4th on the team in all major categories last season, has emerged as the go-to man for the Gophers in 2007. He, like Wheelwright, has good size and can be effective both down the field and in the red zone. He's been good in all the games so far, catching 7 for 128 yards and 2 scores against Miami, 12 for 165 and a TD against Florida Atlantic, and 7 for 79 and a score against Purdue last week. Wheelwright has the look of being a dominant wideout, but has never quite lived up to that billing. He's been solid throughout his career, but hasn't been the dominant force that perhaps he could have been. This season he's been solid, and has already matched last year's TD total, so perhaps he will finally fulfill his total promise and have a season of creating multiple matchup problems and being dominant in the red zone. In the 4 games so far, he has 4 catches for 50 and a TD, 2 for 31 and 2 TDs week 2, 5 for 43 and 2 TDs week 3, and 5 catches for 81 yards against Purdue last week, so he is starting to look like a really good player. Time will tell if he can sustain that through the grueling conference slate. Herndon is a youngster with good speed that is just establishing himself at the position. He had just one catch last week, but caught 60 yards worth of passes and scored once in the two weeks prior.

    Quality depth is a bit of a concern, at least in terms of production so far. Ralph Spry (#81) has caught 4 passes thus far, and Mike Chambers (#12) has caught 6, but there is little else in terms of production to go on.

    WR Rating: B+

    Head-to-Head: Minnesota versus Ohio State WRs

    Wheelwright: 16 catches, 205 yards, 5 TDs, 12.8 YPR
    Decker: 30 catches, 421 yards, 4 TDs, 14.0 YPR
    Herndon: 9 catches, 66 yards, 1 TD, 7.3 YPR

    Robiskie: 20 catches, 431 yards, 5 TDs, 21.6 YPR
    Hartline: 16 catches, 175 yards, 1 TD, 10.9 YPR
    Washington: 3 catches, 46 yards, 1 TD, 15.3 YPR

    Both of these corps have good players and are very solid at the top. Decker and Robiskie have emerged as similarly dominant front men, while Wheelwright probably has the edge on Hartline at the 2 spot thus far in terms of production and experience. Herndon is emerging as a decent #3, while the Buckeyes use far fewer 3-receiver sets. Neither team appears to have a myriad of depth here. This is another discussion for the water cooler, so for now it looks to be too close to call, though the answer will be clear by Sunday morning.

    Edge: Even


    Tight Ends
    TE #80 Jack Simmons (6-4, 240, JR, Carmel HS, Libertyville, IL)

    Simmons started 9 games last season, and in 2007 has mostly been a blocker (and a good one), though he does have 5 catches after recording 17 last season. Backup TE Nick Tow-Arnett (#48) appears to be the next in a long line of pass-catching TEs and Minnesota, as he has caught 7 passes for 113 yards thus far, though he didn't have a catch last week against Purdue. Both of these players have good size and are solid in their blocking assignments.

    TE Rating: B

    Head-to-Head: Minnesota versus Ohio State TEs

    Simmons: 5 catches, 27 yards, 0 TDs, 5.4 YPR

    Nicol: 6 catches, 35 yards, 0 TDs, 5.8 YPR

    The Gophers are two-deep and have a downfield weapon in Tow-Arnett (longest catch of 56 yards). Nicol is solid, but the Gophers use their TEs more and get the edge here.

    Edge: Minnesota


    Offensive Line
    LT #64 Steve Shidell (6-5, 290, SR, Coon Rapids HS, Coon Rapids, MN)
    LG #66 Ned Tavale (6-2, 320, SO, Cretin-Derham Hall HS, St. Paul, MN)
    C #77 Tony Brinkhaus (6-3, 305, SR, Jefferson HS, Bloomington, MN)
    RG #74 Ryan Ruckdashel (6-5, 275, SO, Eastview HS, Apple Valley, MN)
    RT #79 Matt DeGeest (6-5, 285, JR, Harrisburg HS, Harrisburg, SD)

    This is a veteran group with a lot of game experience. Unlike last week's opponent, these are big, physical linemen who love to mix it up in the trenches and plow over opponents moving forward. Shidell is the best of this group, a 2007 captain who started all 12 games last year. Brinkhaus is the anchor in the middle, with 25 career starts behind him coming into 2007. He started his career at right tackle, then moved to center last season and has done a very good job there. Tavale started all 13 games last season as a freshman, a testament to his quality. DeGeest started 2 games last season and has held up well on the right side. Ruckdashel is getting his first chances to start this season. So, if one side is more vulnerable it is definitely the right side, because the left side of the line is well entrenched.

    DJ Burris (#53) is a top backup on the interior, while the tackle spots are manned by several promising young players, including Dominic Alford (#76) and Jason Meinke (#73).

    OL Rating: B

    Head-to-Head: Minnesota versus Ohio State OL

    The Gophers are very solid on the left side and in the interior, but the right side has little starting experience. The line has protected Weber well thus far (3 sacks in 4 games) and has opened holes for an effective ground attack, as usual for the Gophers. Both lines are physical, and both like to establish the run, but given the slightly higher caliber of competition and the success that the Buckeyes have had, they get a slight nod, though the Gopher line always seems to play well.

    Edge: Ohio State


    Overall Offensive Analysis

    The Gophers are a quality offense, who have moved the ball effectively and scored at least 30 points in each of their 4 games thus far. Unfortunately, they've been playing from behind a lot and have managed only 1 win. It will be imperative for the Gophers to get off to a good start and not dig themselves a hole (OK, really bad pun) in the 1st half, especially after watching what happened to Northwestern last week. They will need to run the ball effectively early and complete a high percentage of passes to keep the clock moving and their defense off the field. There are a lot of young players on the Gopher's roster that indicate the future looks bright ...however there have been some growing pains, and will continue to be this season as they make their way through the conference slate. The experience Buckeye defense will need to rattle Weber and get him off rhythm, as well as shutting down Pinnix and the running game. The Gophers are solid, but if they don't get some big plays it still doesn't appear they will be good enough to move the ball up and down the field deliberately and consistently. Avoiding turnovers, especially interceptions, will be a must, or it will be a long day.

    Overall Offensive Rating: B+




    2007 Minnesota Golden Gophers Defensive Preview


    Returning Starters: 9

    It's been a rough start for new Defensive Coordinator Everett Withers and the Gophers. Despite a wealth of expirience returning, playing the same base 4-3 defense as the previous administration, and a good deal of depth, the former Tennessee Titans DB coach, cannot be pleased with this unit so far. While the Gophers are not afraid to bring the wood (as Ohio State WR Ray Small may well remember) and take some chances, thus far it has not translated in to success.

    The most obvious deficiency through the first four games of 2007 has to be the secondary. The Gophers have been simply dreadful against the pass, placing dead last in the the nation in yards against, giving up an astonishing 407.8 yards per contest. While some of these yards are owing to a philosophy of taking chances (32 turnovers in 2006), thus far the Gophers have only 3 INTs while giving up 14 TDs.

    At first glance the rush defense, giving up 135.5 yards per game, appears serviceable. However, hidden in these numbers is that Minnesota has faced less rushing attempts per game than all but 20 teams in the country. They allow opposing ball carriers 4.2 yards per run, placing them 10th in the Big Ten and 70th in the nation. Likewise, the unit has only 3 sacks and 1 fumble recovery so far in 2007.

    While some teams might give up yards between the twenties (and the Gophers give up a Big Ten and D-I worst 543.3 per contest), but then stiffen up near their own end zone, Minnesota also gives up a league worst 38.5 points per game. Not what Withers had in mind.

    Ohio State, on the other hand, enters this contest giving up only 1.9 per rush (57.5 per game), second best in the conference (Penn State), and 6th in the nation. Likewise, Ohio State's pass defense has been superior, allowing only 120.3 per game (1st in the Big Ten, 5th nationally). Ohio State leads the Big Ten in scoring defense (7.2) as well as in total defense (177.8 yards/g) where the Buckeyes are 3rd and 2nd in the nation respectively.


    Defensive Line
    LE #30 Lee Campbell (6-3 250 SO)
    LT #51 Eric Small (6-1 280 SO)
    RT #70 Todd Meisel (6-4 275 SR)
    RE #91 William Van DeSteeg (6-4 255 SO)

    Van DeSteeg is a "non-stop motor" guy who is the most talented linemen on the roster. He has shown ability to get in to opposing backfields, recording 10 sacks and 14.5 TFLs in 2006. He has yet to record a sack in 2007, but does have 4.5 TFLs. Meisel is the lone senior on the line. While fairly quick for a DT, Meisel has to improve his run defense in 2007. He has 7 tackles and 1.5 TFLs thus far. Eric Small is a JUCO transfer who has plenty of potential. He has recorded 1 of the Gophers 3 sacks, along with 10 tackles and 2TFLs. Campbell leads the linemen with 15 tackles. He has also recorded 2.5 TFLs and 1 sack.

    Depth is provided by DEs #93 Derrik Onwauchi (6-5 250 SO), #90 Raymond Henderson (6-6 250 SO), #96 Matt Stommes (6-7 270 SO), #92 William Brody (6-4 240 JR), and DTs #99 Garrett Brown (6-2 290 SO), #75 Otis Hudson (6-5 300 SO), #98 Neel Allen (6-3 300 SR) and #79 Barrett Moen 6-3 270 SO). Each of Stommes, Brody, Allen and Brown have seen action in all 4 games to this point, and each has recorded at least 2 tackles. Stommes leads the reserves with 4 tackles. Moen has played in 2 games, Hudson one, each having recorded a tackle.

    OL Rating: C

    Head-to-Head: Minnesota versus OSU DL

    Gholston - 10 Tackles, 3.5 TFL, 3 Sack, 1 Fumble Rec (TD)
    Worthington - 9 Tackles, 1 BrUp
    Denlinger - 7 Tackles, 1.0 TFL
    Rose - 2 Tackles, 1 BrUp

    Much the same as last week, the individual numbers might appear to slightly favor the Gopher line. However, as it was with the Wildcats, the Buckeyes front four is the more talented unit. Again, the Buckeyes line has proven to be a wall against the run and also has established the ability to get in to the opposing backfields in a hurry. There will be no defensive lineman on the field better than Gholston and Freshman reserve Cam Heyward (3.5 TFLs, 1 sack) is quickly making himself a household name.

    Edge: Ohio State


    Linebackers
    OLB #56 Steve Davis (6-2 225 JR)
    MLB #58 Mike Sherels (6-0 240 SR)
    WLB #46 John Shelvin (6-1 225 SR)

    The relative strength of the Gopher defense is the linebackers. Sherels is second on the team in tackles with 30. He also has 3.0 TFLs and 1 sack. Shelvin has recorded 22 tackles with 1.5 for loss in 2007. Having started 36 games in his career, Shelvin has plenty of expirience, but must improve his pass defense. Davis is the youngest of the three, but may be the best of the three at getting to the QB. A former DE, he had 4.5 sacks in 2006. He has 12 tackles and 1 TFL in 2007.

    Backing up the starters are #28 Kevin Mannion (6-2 215 JR), #24 Brody Grandas (5-11 210 JR), 44 Deon Hightower (6-3 215 JR), #59 Steve Moore (6-2 230 JR), 32 Nathan Triplett (6-3 240 SO), and #94 Willie Dyson (6-3 230 SO). Hightower, backing up Davis on the strong side, has starting expirience and is 6th on the team in tackles with 17. Hightower has good speed, but needs to establish himself more as a force at the point of attack. Mannion has spelled Shelvin on the weak side in 3 of Minnesota's 4 games this year, recording 4 tackles. In the middle, Triplett backs up Sherels. A former DL prospect, he's recorded 5 tackles and 0.5 TFLs and should take over for Sherels in 2008.

    LB Rating: B-

    Head-to-Head: Minnesota versus OSU LBs

    James Laurinaitis - 29 tackes, 3 TFLs, 3 sacks, 2 INT
    Marcus Freeman - 17 Tackles, 3 TFL, 1 sack, 2 BrUp
    Larry Grant - 10 Tackles, 4 TFLs, 1 Sack

    Laurinaitis returns home to Minneapolis this weekend leading the Buckeyes outstanding LB corps. A physical and fast group, the Buckeyes LBs are among the nations best. Back ups Austin Spitler, Ross Homan and Thad Gibson provide solid depth. Spitler and Homan, in fact, are 5th and 6th on the team in tackles respectively. While it is true that the Gophers LBs are their defenses relative strength, they would have to show a great deal of improvement to be considered the Buckeyes' equal. A "B-" grade for the Gophers LBs may be too high, but this unit is in the unenviable position of having to try and compensate for a line which cannot stop the run with any consistency and a secondary which does little more than occasionally wave a matador's flag at opposing Wideouts.

    Edge: Ohio State


    Secondary
    RCB #15 Jamal Harris (6-0 185 SR)
    WS #9 Curtis Thomas (6-0 200 FR)
    SS #23 Dominique Barber (6-0 210 SR)
    LCB #2 Ryan Collando (5-9 170 FR)

    The secondary is led by Barber, the team's number one tackler with 39. Brother of Marion Barber III, Dominique has very good speed and hits hard. In a more talented secondary, Barber might be billed as one of the Big Ten's better safeties. Harris is a sound tackler, although historically has not been a particularly strong cover man. That said, Harris does have 2 of the Gophers 3 picks this season as well as a fumble recover and 21 tackles. Joining these two seniors are two true freshmen, Collando and Thomas. Collando, a Cincinnati native, has 12 tackles thus far and 2 pass break ups. Thomas, from Aldine Texas, has 9 tackles and one TFL thus far in his freshman campaign.

    Backing up the corners are #13 Michael McKelton (5-10 185 SO), #11 Desi Steib (6-0 195 SR) and #20 Justin Chatman (5-9 180 FR). The Safeties are spelled by #26 Duran Cooley (6-0 215 SR), #17 TJ Wentzel (6-1 205 FR), #27 Kyle Theret (5-10 185 FR), and #34 Scott Jilek (5-11 205 FR) Cooley was listed as the starter coming in to fall and has played extensively in each of the four games this year. He finds himself 3rd on the team in tackles with 24. Steib has also seen action in each game recording 11 tackles and 1 break up. Theret is the only Gopher other than Harris with a pick this year, and has 6 Tackles.

    DB Rating: D

    Head-to-Head: Minnesota versus OSU DBs

    Malcom Jenkins - 11 Tackles, 1 TFL, 1 INT, 3 BrUp
    Kurt Coleman - 17 Tackles, 1.5 TFL, 1 Breakup, 1 blocked kick
    Anderson Russell - 20 Tackles, 1 TFL, 1 Sack, 2 Breakups
    Donald Washington - 8 Tackles.

    The contrast between Ohio State's secondary and Minnesota's should be obvious by the introductory paragraphs above. The Gophers have been nothing short of horrible against the pass, while the Buckeyes are among the nation's best. There is little to be excited about for the Gophers secondary right now and if they're to improve their D grade, a serious reversal of their current trends is necessary. The Gophers secondary was a severe liability in 2006, and it appears to be so in 2007. Statistically the worst secondary in the nation, the edge clearly goes to Ohio State.

    Edge: Ohio State


    Overall Defensive Analysis

    The Gophers return a great deal of expirience and are a generally hard hitting bunch. They take chances, but there has been little pay off this season under first year Coordinator Everett Withers. The Gophers began the year giving up 32 points in a loss to Bowling Green. In each game since, they've been successively giving up more and more points (35 to Miami (OH), 42 to Florida Int'l and 45 to Purdue.). If the Buckeyes come out as they did against Northwestern, this trend will continue in week 5. While stranger things have happened, it would take a minor miracle for the Gophers to provide enough resistance to keep this game close. The Gophers D must show vast improvement over the course of the year, particularly in the secondary.

    Overall Defensive Rating: C-




    2007 Minnesota Golden Gophers Special Teams Preview


    Returning Starters: 2

    The kicking game had quite a bit of experience coming into this season, but after a terrible outing during the Miami(OH) game, the kicker who had seen duty the previous season has been usurped by a fellow junior.

    The return game has been solid. The punt return team hasn't done much, but the kick return team has played well even taking a kick 91 yards to the house.


    Special Teams
    P #42 Justin Kucek (6-0 200 JR)
    PK #36 Joel Monroe (5-11 190 JR)
    PR #3 Harold Howell (5-8 160 FR)
    KR #3 Harold Howell (5-8 160 FR)
    KR #25 Jay Thomas (6-0 195 SO)
    LS #43 Robert McGarry (6-3 215 SR)

    Kicking Game:
    The starting kicker, Joel Monroe was not the original starting kicker. Jason Giannini (from Canton Glen Oak whom some of you may remember) was the starter for the Bowling Green and Miami games, but after going an abysmal 0-3 in the huge triple overtime win versus Miami, he was shelved and Monroe stepped up and took his place and went 2-2 (long of 34) in a heartbreaking overtime loss to Florida Atlantic. Monroe may be an upgrade from Giannini, but is really untested.

    The punting game is headed by another Ohioan, Justin Kucek from Canfield. He has owned this position since he stepped on the field for Minne as a freshman. He has had a solid career averaging just under 40 yards per punt at 39.9 yards, dropping 26 of 93 attempts inside the 20 with only 4 touchbacks. Kucek has had 2 punts blocked in his career, none so far this year, but that could change.

    Kicking Game Rating: B-

    Head-to-Head: Whether it be superior talent scouting or Tressel's emphasis on special teams, I am probably going to be taking OSU's A.J. Trapasso and Ryan Pretorius (even Pettrey if he comes back this year) and nothing changes this week. Although this week, similar to last if it plays out how I think it will, they might not have their chances to prove me right.

    Another reason why I give the edge to OSU is I think Minnesota will have a hard time on punts and field goal attempts. We've blocked kicks in the last two games and I almost expect us to do it again this week. OSU is getting to be pretty amazing at it. All this pressure is making decent to very good kicking games look very poor.

    Edge: Ohio State


    Return Game:
    We'll start with the least impressive; Minnesota's punt return team manned by true freshman Harold Howell is only averaging 5.6 yards per with a long of 14 on 12 attempts. Pretty standard numbers, nothing flashy, but very solid.

    Howell is also the leading return man on kickoffs with 14 attempts averaging 22.6 yards per return, but the bright spot is sophomore running back Jay Thomas. He has only had 6 cracks at returning, but took one to the house from 91 yards out during the Florida Atlantic game and is averaging 39.2 yards per return.

    Return Game Rating: B+

    Head-to-Head: Finally we got to see flashes of what OSU's return game can be. Small adds that je ne sais quoi (haha French). He just needs to be able to hold onto the dang ball. The kick return team will be solid as usual.

    As long as OSU's kick coverage team makes sure they wrap instead of going for that kill shot every time, we will cut down our chances of that little accident we had last week.

    Edge: Even - OSU's got the more talent and I LOVE Small, but the Gophers do have a touchdown on a kickoff, which we are lacking.


    Overall Special Teams Analysis

    Another solid team all around, although if I were Monroe or Kucek I would not be looking forward to this game at all. In the past years it seems to me at least, that the other teams special teams units have over achieved and this year just the opposite, we are demoralizing them.

    Overall Special Teams Rating: B




    Predictions
    BB73's prediction: 37-17, Ohio State
    BuckeyeRyn's prediction: 35-13, Ohio State
    Buckeyeskickbuttocks' prediction: 48-6, Ohio State
    Bucklion's prediction: 38-21, Ohio State
    DaddyBigBucks's prediction: 42-16, Ohio State
    daddyphatsac's prediction: ??-??, Ohio State
    Hubbard's prediction: 41-10, Ohio State
    jwinslow's prediction: 45-3, Ohio State
    OSUBucks22's prediction: 44-6, Ohio State
    OSUsushichic's prediction: 42-9, Ohio State
    3yardsandacloud's prediction: 42-12, Ohio State


    Previous Game's Results (OSU 58 - Northwestern 7)
    Low score wins the year long battle of prediction supremacy! (Difference of actual score versus predicted score. 10 point penalty for picking the losing team.)
    (11, 14, 10, 12 = 47) DaddyBigBucks's prediction: 49-10, Ohio State (9 + 3 = 12 + 47 last week)
    (1, 19, 10, 18 = 48) OSUBucks22's: 41-6, Ohio State (17 + 1 = 18 + 30 last week)
    (4, 29, 9, 23 = 55) BB73's prediction: 38-10, Ohio State (20 + 3 = 23 + 42 last week)
    (0, 29, 15, 22 = 58) OSUSushichic's prediction: 42-13, Ohio State (16 + 6 = 22 + 44 last week)
    (2, 22, 18, 28 = 60) 3yardsandacloud's prediction: 35-12, Ohio State (23 + 5 = 28 + 42 last week)
    (0, 33, 17, 25 = 65) Hubbard's prediction: 34-6, Ohio State (24 + 1 = 25 + 40 last week)
    (59 1st week playing = 76) JCOSU86's prediction: 42-7, Ohio State (16 + 1 = 17 + 59 last week)
    (10, 30, 15, 25 = 80) jwinslow's prediction: 34-6, Ohio State (24 + 1 = 25 + 55 last week)
    (7, 22, 12, DNP (40) = 81) daddyphatsac's prediction: ?-?, Ohio State (Highest Weekly Score (40) + 41 last week)
    (17, 22, 16, 27 = 82) Bucklion's prediction: 31-7, Ohio State (27 + 0 = 27 + 55 last week)
    (7, 25, 14, 40 = 86) Buckeyeryn's prediction: 28-17, Ohio State (30 + 10 = 40 + 46 last week)
    (16, 33, 10, 28 = 87) Buckeyeskickbuttocks' prediction: 31-6, Ohio State (27 + 1 = 28 + 59 last week)

    Adjusted scores for weeks missed. Participant must take the highest score from the week they missed:





     
    Last edited: Sep 26, 2007
  2. Bleed S & G

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