Sid Hartman: Gophers will have biggest offensive day vs. Bison

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 18, 2007 - 8:34 PM

Minnesota squeaked past North Dakota State 10-9 last year, but it won't be that close this time. The Gophers are ready for a breakout performance.

The Jeff Sagarin computers ratings make North Dakota State a one-touchdown favorite to beat the Gophers on Saturday at the Metrodome.

The Las Vegas oddsmakers don't offer a line on any games involving teams in the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA).

However, the Sid Hartman pick is: Gophers 42, North Dakota State 21.

This is a game the Gophers won't lose, even though with 25,000 visiting fans in the stands, there might not be much of a home-field advantage.

NDSU (6-0) has an impressive record but against non-Big Ten opposition. The Bison have averaged 41.2 points per game and have some players with impressive stats this season. Quarterback Steve Walker has thrown for 1,224 yards and 11 touchdowns, and running back Tyler Roehl has rushed for an average of 122 yards and scored 13 touchdowns.

Despite all of that, I'm convinced that last year's narrow escape by the Gophers -- a 10-9 victory over NDSU -- was an accident. They caught the Gophers on a bad day.

The Gophers scored 31 in losing to Bowling Green, 41 in beating Miami (Ohio), 31 against Purdue and 48 against Northwestern, and they will have a big offensive day against NDSU.

Freshman running back Duane Bennett is healthy, quarterback Adam Weber is getting better with each start, and he has three great receivers in Jack Simmons, Eric Decker and Ernie Wheelwright. They will score a lot of points against the team from Fargo. It will be a game in which the Gophers offense will have its biggest day.

However, this is a big game for NDSU and it can get some serious national recognition if it can defeat the Gophers.

NDSU is near the end of a five-year transition from Division II, during which the team can't participate in the 16-team postseason playoffs that determines the Championship Subdivision champion. However, the goal of the Bison, ranked No. 1 in their division in the coaches poll, is to beat the Gophers and go unbeaten. They have lost only one game in two years -- last year's defeat by the Gophers.

As of Thursday afternoon, there were 2,000 tickets left for Saturday's game, with a good chance of a sellout of close to 65,000. Tickets for the NDSU game were priced at $30, but more than 8,000 end-zone seats sold for only $15.

Stopped Colts streak

Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier was a defensive backs coach at Indianapolis last season when the 9-0 Colts had their unbeaten string stopped by the Cowboys 21-14 in Dallas.

Frazier said he believes the Vikings will face a better Dallas team Sunday than the one the Colts lost to a year ago.

"It seems they're more complete. You take a look at their offense, it's really come along," Frazier said. "They're spreading that ball around and putting up a lot of points and their defense seems to have improved some."

Frazier said the biggest improvement in the Cowboys (5-1) could be the performance of up-and-coming quarterback Tony Romo.

"He really improved from a year ago, seems a lot more confident, more accurate, does a great job of moving around in the pocket," he said. "I think he's probably the difference in their team right now."

Frazier has a lot of respect for former Gophers running back Marion Barber III, now a star with the Cowboys.

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