Randy Johnson writes "The Call" for every Gophers gameday.
P.J. Fleck likened Fresno State to a Big Ten team, and it’s easy to see why. The Bulldogs are coming off a 10-4 season and shouldn’t be intimidated on the road against a Power Five opponent. Last year, they played at both Alabama and Washington.
PLAYER TO WATCH
The Gophers will want to keep the football away from defensive back Jaron Bryant. In Fresno’s 79-13 win over Idaho, Bryant returned two blocked field goal attempts for TDs. That gave him three TDs in the past two games — the other an INT return in the Hawaii Bowl.
GOPHERS OFFENSE VS. BULLDOGS DEFENSE
QB Zack Annexstad showed poise and resiliency in his first start, and running back Rodney Smith can wear down a defense. Led by linebacker Jeff Allison, the Bulldogs return the bulk of defense that finished 15th nationally last year. Advantage: Bulldogs
GOPHERS DEFENSE VS. BULLDOGS OFFENSE
QB Marcus McMaryion went 9-2 last year and has explosive receiver KeeSean Johnson (1,013 yards and eight TDs in 2017). The Gophers’ D looked strong in Week 1. Advantage: Gophers
In punt returner Antoine Winfield Jr., kick returner Rodney Smith and kicker Emmit Carpenter, the Gophers have three potent weapons. Fresno State can block kicks, but Minnesota should be prepared for that. The Bulldogs’ inexperience at kicker could be an issue. Advantage: Gophers
The Gophers should get a boost from playing at home, and they gained confidence with the season-opening rout of New Mexico State. Fresno State, however, has the edge in experience. Advantage: Bulldogs
Fresno State ---- 20
Minnesota ------ 23
Tough call. Fresno State is the Gophers’ best nonconference opponent in Fleck’s two years. Field goal decides it.