The Minnesota Golden Gophers start 2016 with the goal of playing spoiler in the Big 10. Minnesota, and everybody knows, that they have an uphill battle ahead of them if they want any kind of chance at playing for something. Does this mean that they are a bad team? No, not at all. Minnesota is fairly decent team. Problem being, they’re playing in a conference stacked to the brim more than ever. We can safely place them behind Michigan, Ohio State, Michigan State and Iowa in the Big 10. But past them, they might be able to quietly assert themselves ahead of Wisconsin if they play solid football. It’s a very big might, though. That would be a win, and accomplishment for them in 2016. Along the way, dashing the hopes of Iowa could be in their future.
Minnesota does not need to play Michigan, Ohio State, or Michigan State, which is a huge sigh of relief. They have an extremely favorable schedule, with their toughest opponents coming against Iowa and Wisconsin. The verdict is still out on Penn State, I want to see what comes of them early in the season. With good games, they could very well beat both Iowa and Wisconsin. They would need to play mistake free football at their full potential, which is easier said than done. The Golden Gophers catch Iowa at home on October 8th, which could be shaping up to be a big game for both programs.
Minnesota went 6-7 in 2015, capped off by a win against Central Michigan in the Quick Lane Bowl. They had one heck of a difficult schedule, which is why their record should improve in 2016. They should also continue to improve as a team. Minnesota had games against TCU, Michigan, and Ohio State last season, knock them off of their schedule in 2016. If you recall, they opened the season against the TCU Horned Frogs, a game in which the battled hard against a national contender, holding the offense at bay and nearly pulling the upset. Minnesota ultimately fell 23-17, but it was a valiant effort nonetheless.
They also competed against Michigan and Ohio State, coming up 3 points short of Michigan, 29-26, and 28-14 to the Buckeyes. Throw in a 5 point loss to the Hawkeyes, and the Gophers had a bunch of hard losses against good teams. Like I said, they play mistake free football, and they might have won a couple of those. Especially the Michigan game, which ended on the 1-yard line for them. What looked like a go-ahead touchdown on a 23-yard pass, resulted in being down at the 1-yard line. Redemption starts tonight for Minnesota at home, against the Oregon State Beavers.
Oregon State Beavers vs. Minnesota Golden Gophers NCAAF Betting Odds:
Oregon State +13(-110)
vs. Minnesota -13(-110)
Odds provided by Bovada.lv
Oregon State vs. Minnesota Pick:
Oregon State were a complete and utter mess last season. They have been on a steady line of regression for a few years now. Ever since Sean Mannion departed for the NFL, Oregon State has been in a shock of, what should I say, embarrassing football? In what was a game people looked forward to, the Civil War between Oregon and Oregon State. Oregon State went 2-10 with their only wins against Weber State and San Jose State. The Weber State win wasn’t even that impressive, a 26-7 win that came against them in Week 1. Offenses absolutely floored them the rest of the way. In seven games, they allowed more than 40 points. After they collapsed in the second-half against Michigan in Week 2, the wheels came falling off for them the rest of the season.
Minnesota will be getting their veteran signal-caller back, Mitch Leidner. Leidner is adequate. He passed for 14 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in 2015. He’s the type of quarterback who can be a game manager, allowing the running game and defense to dictate the ball game. For Minnesota, they’re going to be in good shape on the running game front, as they get a host of backs returning to the offense. Shannon Brooks and Rodney Smith, who were freshman a year ago, combined for 1,379 yards on the ground. The offense ranked last in the Big 10, scoring only 22.5 points per game. I expect them to be better on offense this season with a more experienced cast of players. They should move up to around 25 points a game in 2016.
The defense is the main focal point of Minnesota, a unit which ranked highly in the country. Notably, the pass defense was 11th. On the other side, Oregon State has a lot of things to fix this season. This will be Gary Andersen’s second season as head coach, and the school needs to see some improvement from his program. Are they going to see it?
For starters, there are only ten starters returning between both units, and there are new coordinators for the offense and defense. Oregon State went through a bunch of quarterbacks last season, three made starts to finish 116th in the country, nearly last in passing. They were 115th in total offense, scoring just 19 points per game. They bring in Utah State transfer, Darrell Garretson, who totalled 18 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in two seasons there. I don’t see how they get the passing game going against Minnesota on the road. TCU and their vaunted passing attack couldn’t even get on track. 13 points is not enough in this matchup, this line should be hovering around 17 points. The Golden Gophers will get this season started the right way, with a big win over the Oregon State Beavers.
PICK: MINNESOTA -13 (-110)