GOPHERS OFFENSE VS. ORANGE DEFENSE
It's been a long time since the Gophers had as credible a deep passing threat as Max Shortell figures to give them in his first start of 2012, so it's tempting to imagine lots of vertical passing plays. But Syracuse has been terrible at stopping the run, and Jerry Kill would prefer to keep Syracuse's no-huddle off the field, so don't be surprised if the Gophers use lots of tailbacks and running plays. Advantage: Gophers
GOPHERS DEFENSE VS. ORANGE OFFENSE
This side of the ball is the Gophers' real test, heading into the Big Ten season next week. The Orange has a senior quarterback (Ryan Nassib) who completes 66 percent of his passes, a senior receiver (Marcus Sales) who considers 100 yards his minimum, and way more speed than the Gophers have faced. But Minnesota got good experience against a no-huddle offense last week. Advantage: Even
Syracuse kicker Ross Krautman has missed all three field-goal tries longer than 38 yards, and the Orange's return game has been ordinary. Punter Jonathan Fisher's 43.5-yard punting average has been a good weapon, though. The Gophers have been inconsistent in kicking, too; Jordan Wettstein's longest field goal is 32 yards, and he's missed a kick in all three games. Advantage: Even
A full house is expected at TCF Bank Stadium, and with a 3-0 team to root for, the place could be rowdy. Syracuse must feel better after breaking its seven-game losing streak, but nothing has come easy for the Orange this year. Advantage: Gophers.
Shortell throws a few highlight-reel completions to get the crowd energized, but Donnell Kirkwood and his fellow tailbacks steal the show by turning the Gophers into a ground powerhouse. The Orange moves the ball, too, mostly through the air, but mistakes make the difference in a shootout.
NUMBERS TO KNOW
Syracuse receivers with catches of 30 yards or more. The Gophers have allowed no such plays.
Average receiving yards by Gophers walk-on A.J. Barker, more than double any teammate
DON'T FORGET ABOUT
If the freshman QB, Shortell's backup, enters for even one snap, 2012 will count as a season of eligibility.