Gophers @ Ohio State: Week 12 Preview

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Broadcast Info:

  • Date: Sat., Nov. 18
  • TV channel: BTN
  • Time of kickoff: 3:00 p.m. (CST)
    • Betting line: Minnesota (+27.5) @ Ohio State, o/u: (50 points)

Opponent Information (Ohio State):

  • 2023 record: 10-0
    • @ Indiana 23-3 W
    • V. Youngstown State (FCS) 35-7 W
    • V. Western Kentucky 63-10 W
    • @ Notre Dame 17-14 W
    • V. Maryland 37-17 W
    • @ Purdue 41-7 W
    • V. Penn State 20-12 W
    • @ Wisconsin 24-10 W
    • @ Rutgers 35-16 W
    • V. Michigan State 38-3 W
  • Head Coach: Ryan Day (5th year)
  • Players to watch: Marvin Harrison Jr. (WR), Denzel Burke (CB), Tommy Eichenburg (LB), Emeka Egbuka (WR), Josh Proctor (S), Kyle McCord (QB)

Given all of the circumstances, the Gophers are amidst one of the most frustrating losing streaks of the PJ Fleck era. It does not get any easier Saturday as they travel to Columbus, Ohio for a matchup with the big, bad Buckeyes of Ohio State. The Buckeyes are 10-0 and in the thick of a National Championship race, as Minnesota is 5-5 battling for a Bowl Game birth. With a GIGANTIC season-finale matchup on the horizon against Michigan, this is a classic lookahead spot for OSU as PJ Fleck looks to become the first Big Ten coach other than Jim Harbaugh to unseat Ryan Day.

Ohio State Season Storylines:

  • Are the Buckeyes too focused on Michigan?:

Rumors have directly connected Ohio State to rival Michigan which is fully entrenched in the biggest story in college sports. Whether or not Ohio State hired a private firm to investigate Michigan is not something that we will dive into today, but the fact that it’s even a rumor bares the question, “Are the Buckeyes too focused on the Wolverines?” Ryan Day obviously knows that he is judged on how well his team performs against Michigan, especially when The Game has as big of stakes as it has had over the past two seasons.

Harbaugh has led his alma mater to their first two-game winning streak in the rivalry since the turn of the millennium. It is all good and fun to talk about potentially the biggest regular season college football game of all time, but Ohio State does not play Michigan on November 18. In year five Ryan Day has still yet to lose a conference game to a team that isn’t Maize and Blue, so it would make sense why he only cares about one game. Nevertheless, when a bunch of college kids seem laser-focused on one game and one team it always opens the door for a potential trap game.

  • Replacing CJ Stroud with Kyle McCord:

Much like Alabama and Georgia, Ohio State was tasked with replacing its veteran QB this offseason. In the era of the transfer portal, all three schools decided to deploy a signal caller already on their roster and it’s worked out well for everyone. CJ Stroud is the overwhelming favorite to win Offensive Rookie of the Year in the NFL and the Buckeyes are now led by redshirt sophomore Kyle McCord. As a former top-50, four-star prospect, McCord came to Columbus with plenty of expectations himself, which only ramped up with two future first-round NFL draft picks, Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka as wide receivers.

Well into week one, redshirt freshman Devin Brown was alive and well in the QB battle, but it looked like McCord slightly edged him out. It was not smooth sailing, as McCord through for 239 yards, 0 TDs, and 1 INT in week one vs. Indiana. But he has started to find his rhythm as of late with 19 TDs and 3 INTs and the Buckeyes’ offense is starting to rev its engine. It might not be the same explosive offense it was under Fields or Stroud, but McCord has found his role on this football team.

  • Becoming a more physical/defensive team:

Since 2021, Ohio State has only lost four football games to Oregon, Georgia and Michigan (x2). There is one thing that all those teams had in common, they were more physical than the Buckeyes. The Ryan Day era started in Columbus with high-flying offense and flashy weapons. While this team certainly still has those traits, they have a different identity. Ohio State has the 2nd-ranked scoring defense (9.9 PPG) in the country, which would widely be their best mark under Day. Under DC Jim Knowles, this team no longer wants to just outscore you, they want to physically dominate you for 60 minutes and make you concede.

JT Tuimoloau is the type of defensive lineman who could take over a football game whenever he wants, while DT Tyleik Williams and LB Tommy Eichenberg are two of the most physical front seven players in the conference. Their grinding win over Penn State showed how this team wants to win in big games, they might’ve only surpassed 40 points once this season over an FBS opponent, but don’t get it twisted this Ohio State team is still DOMINANT.

Gophers’ path to victory:

Bill Clinton was president the last time Minnesota beat Ohio State in Columbus and I wasn’t even born yet. If the Gophers were to come away with a win on Saturday, I believe that it would undoubtedly be the biggest upset in the sport this season. Very reminiscent of Nate Diaz handing Conor McGregor his first loss in a UFC octagon at UFC 196 and Joe Rogan proceeded to ask, “[Nate Diaz], you just shook up the world!” The Gophers have a chance to shake up to world on Saturday and completely ruin the biggest regular season game the sport has had in quite some time.

With all that being said, Minnesota would have to play its best game of the season perfectly for 60 minutes and Ohio State would have to completely implode at the seams. An upset would take multiple forced turnovers from the Maroon & Gold and a near-perfect performance from Athan Kaliakmanis and the Gophers offense. Ohio State’s gross 24-10 win on the road at Wisconsin gives Minnesota some film of what they can exploit, but that game was obviously on the road.

Tyler Nubin would need to make 2-3 game-changing plays in this game and Athan would likely have to throw for 300+ yards and 3 TDs. Both of those things happening while Ohio State also plays its worst game of the season is very unlikely. For that reason, I think Minnesota covers the spread and loses 35-10 in a game where the Buckeyes let up at the end to prepare for next weekend’s marquee matchup.

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