Gophers at Colorado, noon Saturday, Folsom Field. TV: Pac-12 Network. Radio: KFXN 100.3-FM. Line: Colorado -2
The Gophers travel to Boulder for a pivotal nonconference game against Colorado, a team that threw a big scare into then-No. 5 Texas A&M last week before falling 10-7 in Denver. Minnesota is coming off a 31-26 win over Miami (Ohio) and will try to extend its nation's-best active nonconference winning streak to 21 games.
Three big story lines
Power Five vs. Power Five
Saturday's game is the Gophers' first road contest against a team from a Power Five conference since their 48-14 romp at Oregon State in 2017, coach P.J. Fleck's first year at the U. The Buffaloes (1-1) and Gophers (1-1) have met three times, with Colorado winning all three.
The air up there, and the heat, too
Folsom Field's advertised elevation is 5,334 feet above sea level, and Saturday's forecast calls for a high temperature of 90. "We've been preparing for [elevation] since April,'' Gophers defensive coordinator Joe Rossi said. "In terms of the heat, it plays a little bit to [rotating] the big guys.''
Developing depth at running back
Running back by committee? Not last week against Miami, as Trey Potts carried 34 times for 178 yards in his first start in replacing the injured Mohamed Ibrahim. Fleck wants to spread the carries, and don't be surprised if speedy freshman Mar'Keise "Bucky'' Irving gets a chance.
Two key matchups
Colorado QB Brendon Lewis vs. Gophers defensive ends
Though the Buffaloes have a solid running back tandem in Jarek Broussard and Alex Fontenot, Lewis led them with 76 yards on nine carries against Texas A&M. Gophers ends Boye Mafe, Esezi Otomewo and MJ Anderson need to prevent Lewis from getting outside.
Gophers offensive line vs. Colorado LB Nate Landman
A preseason All-America selection by several publications, Landman has led Colorado in tackles for three consecutive years and has 18 games of 10 tackles or more. He has 11 career sacks, 37 tackles for loss, 46 third-down tackles and eight fourth-down stops.
One stat that matters
31-7 Margin by which the Gophers have been outscored in the third quarter this season. Conversely, Minnesota has outscored opponents 28-6 in the second quarter.
The Gophers will win if …
They avoid the third-quarter lull that made the Miami game closer than needed; get a big effort from the receiving corps, especially if Chris Autman-Bell returns; and shut down Colorado's run game so the Buffs have to turn to the passing of Lewis, a freshman.
The Buffaloes will in if …
Their defense repeats the type of performance it had against Texas A&M; Broussard and Fontenot run effectively enough to keep Minnesota's defense on the field; and the punting of Josh Watts (46.3-yard average) pins the Gophers deep in their end.
Gophers 24, Colorado 21