THE OPPONENT

Colorado State went 10-3 two years ago under Jim McElwain. When he left for Florida, the Rams hired Mike Bobo, former Georgia offensive coordinator. The Rams fell to 7-6 last year but won five of their final six games. This month, CSU has shown improvement since its opening-week flop against Colorado.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Ryan Santoso and Emmit Carpenter have been terrific for Minnesota. But the Rams have an All-America punter (Hayden Hunt), and Wyatt Bryan is 5-for-5 on field goals. Advantage: Colorado State

º Player to watch

Collin Hill was playing for Dorman High School in South Carolina last fall; now he’s the Rams’ starting QB. He threw four TD passes and completed 21 of 27 passes for 315 yards with no interceptions last week against Northern Colorado.

GOPHERS OFFENSE VS. RAMS DEFENSE

Colorado State is tougher against the run than the pass, so Mitch Leidner will be key. Shannon Brooks has recovered from a foot injury, and the Gophers hope to give him carries. But Rodney Smith and Kobe McCrary are already on a roll. Advantage: Gophers

GOPHERS DEFENSE VS. RAMS OFFENSE

Colorado State had to replace All-America WR Rashad Higgins and all-conference TE Kivon Cartwright. Xavier Williams was the team’s leading returning receiver, with 231 yards last year. The Rams wish they had more receiving weapons to exploit Minnesota’s young secondary. Advantage: Gophers

INTANGIBLES

Kickoff comes at 10 a.m. Mountain Time, so Bobo had the team fly into the Twin Cities on Thursday, allowing two nights to adjust. Advantage: Gophers

JOE’S PREDICTION

GOPHERSL 34

COLORADO STATE 24

The 6-5 Hill stands tall against pressure, keeping the game close, but the Gophers get the pre-Big Ten “W” they need.