Game Preview: Gophers Host Nebraska, Look to Continue Perfect Season!
We are at the halfway point of the Gopher football season, and they could go...wait a second...6-0? What? No way!
The Minnesota Golden Gopher football team will host the Nebraska Cornhuskers Saturday for a prime time showdown. A win would give the Gophers their sixth win in six games, in other words, they would be 6-0. But that's a big hypothetical at this point because they still need to play and win the game, obviously, and it might not be so easy against a balanced Nebraska team.
However, the chances of victory are certainly in Minnesota's favor. The Gophers lead the all-time series over the Huskers 32-25-2. And even though they were dominated last year in Lincoln, they annihilated Nebraska two years ago in Minneapolis winning 54-21.
In addition, the Gophers are on fire right now and everything seems to be clicking. They have now won seven straight games dating back to last season. That is tied for the fifth longest winning streak in the country, and they now sit as one of just 16 undefeated teams.
More impressive yet, Minnesota's offensive production has been stunning this season. They come into the game averaging over 35 points per game. The last time they did that was in 2005 when they still played in the atrocious white bubble, the Metrodome.
And it just keeps getting better. Minnesota scored a total of 78 points in its first two conference games, something they have not done in its first two Big Ten games since 1986, over 30 years ago. It's weird to have so many positive stats to discuss about the Gophers. It is just not normal. Usually, this would be the point in the article where I would write about how bad the team is. Little different this year (so far).
In comparison, the Huskers come into Saturday's game averaging almost 29 points per game after starting the season 4-2 (2-1). Their two conference wins came against Illinois and Nortwestern, two struggling teams in the Big Ten West. And they only beat Illinois by four 42-38, an Illini team the Gophers dominated last week 40-17. They also only beat the Wildcats 13-10, in Lincoln, in front of their "Sea of Red". How do you not score more than 13 points in front of practically 90,000 home fans?
On the other hand, Nebraska sophomore quarterback, Adrian Martinez is one of the more talented players on this Nebraska team that could be a potential issue for the Gophers defense. He is one of the top dual-threat QBs in the country, leading the team in both passing yards (1,245) and rushing yards (341).
And none other than JD Spielman, the son of Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman, has been a popular target for Martinez. He leads the team in receiving with 410 yards on only 21 receptions through six games.
If the Gophers want to get to 6-0, here are the keys.....you know what? I don't need to bore you (the reader) with more "keys to the game" crap. It is redundant and at this point, after five games, it is apparent what the Gophers need to do to win. And I think I covered it all in my previous game previews.
Here is a quick rundown: Gophers quarterback Tanner Morgan needs to keep throwing accurately like he has been, the O-line needs to keep improving and making key blocks creating space for the running backs, the wide receiver trio consisting of Rashod Bateman, Tyler Johnson and Chris Autman-Bell needs to keep getting open and making spectacular catches, Rodney Smith and Shannon Brooks need to be utilized as much as possible, and the Gophers defense needs to play consistent. That's it! Nothing more needs to be said.
I do want to say, however, Tanner Morgan has been unreal this season. He has thrown for 1,250 yards with 13 touchdowns and only 3 interceptions through five games. Not to mention, he has completed over 70 percent of his passes. And Autman-Bell and Johnson are having a great season, but Bateman has been outstanding this year with 537 yards receiving and four touchdowns.
Rodney Smith has also been stunning. He has over 530 yards on 100 carries. And Shannon Brooks had 111 yards in last week's win over Illinois in only his second game back. This team has some talent, and if the O-line and defense can play consistent and do their job, they can get to 6-0.
All in all, both teams have some playmakers, and I think the Gophers could have some trouble with Martinez or Spielman. Those guys would be the only thing standing in their way to getting a victory. We shut those two down, it may be win number six.
The game is slated for 6:30PM CT on Fox Sports 1. And brace yourselves if you are going to the game because it might be snowy and cold. I will certainly be there bracing the elements. Nothing better than snow on gameday.
Row the Boat, Ski-U-Mah, Go Gophers!