GOPHERS OFFENSE VS. BUCKEYES DEFENSE

Mitch Leidner passed for 300-plus yards against Nebraska and Michigan, but Ohio State ranks second in the nation in pass defense (149.3 yards per game). The Gophers will need freshmen tailbacks Rodney Smith and Shannon Brooks to be sharp, keeping the Buckeyes off balance. Advantage: Ohio State.

 

SPECIAL TEAMS

The Buckeyes rank at or near the top of the Big Ten in several special teams categories, though Ryan Santoso gives the Gophers a kicking edge over Jack Willoughby. Advantage: Ohio State.

Player to watch

Ohio State has other stars, but running back Ezekiel Elliott makes them go. The Gophers held him to 91 rushing yards last year. He has run for at least 100 yards in every game since, 13 and counting.

 

THE OPPONENT

Ohio State is 28-0 in Big Ten regular season games under Urban Meyer. With one more victory, the Buckeyes would match Florida State’s NCAA record conference winning streak, of 29. Ohio State had a bye last week, and starting quarterback J.T. Barrett drew a one-game suspension for drunken driving. Cardale Jones will start at QB.

GOPHERS DEFENSE VS. BUCKEYES OFFENSE

With his cannon arm, Jones will look deep for Michael Thomas and Curtis Samuel. Throw in Braxton Miller and Jalin Marshall, and the Gophers will need exceptional play from Eric Murray and their strong defensive back unit. Advantage: Ohio State.

 

INTANGIBLES

The Gophers could have a letdown after last week’s loss to Michigan. Even if the Gophers are flying, Ohio State has seen that before from opponents in primetime games at the Horseshoe. Advantage: Ohio State.

 

JOE’S PREDICTION

 

38            13

OSU       MINN

The Gophers scored 21 points off turnovers to keep last year’s loss to Ohio State close (31-24), but that was in the Twin Cities, with 15-degree temps and snow.