The Gophers are on the verge of their first 8-0 record since the early 1940s with a relaxing bye week to prepare for a November of ranked opponents. But first they have to put away Maryland, a team that beat them a combined 73-37 in the past two Big Ten openers.
Prediction: Gophers 42, Maryland 21
THREE BIG STORY LINES
Maryland has missed quarterback Josh Jackson and running back Anthony McFarland Jr., and both should return from injuries for the Gophers. They help Maryland’s offense average 35.6 points and 431 yards per game.
Gophers safety Antoine Winfield Jr. is only a sophomore but has been with the team for four years, enduring season-ending injuries against Maryland in back-to-back seasons. This game isn’t the Big Ten opener, though, so maybe Winfield has already broken his curse.
Martin a go?
Gophers linebacker Kamal Martin left the Rutgers game early with a scary leg injury, but coach P.J. Fleck called him a game-time decision for Maryland. Thomas Rush, Mariano Sori-Marin or Braelen Oliver could fill in for the team’s leading tackler.
TWO KEY MATCHUPS
Terps’ rush vs. Gophers’ defensive front
In the past two meetings, the Terrapins have put up nearly 600 yards on the Gophers. This season, they average more than 200 yards per game on the ground. However, the Gophers defense is much stronger this year and has allowed opponents an average of only 122.9 rushing yards per game this season.
Gophers’ pass game vs. Maryland’s secondary
Maryland’s pass defense ranks last in the Big Ten Conference and near the bottom of the FBS as a whole, allowing 287.4 yards per game. Meanwhile, the Gophers’ air attack is a strength with quarterback Tanner Morgan and his legion of talented receivers combining to rank Morgan fifth in the FBS in passing efficiency.
ONE STAT THAT MATTERS
19 The number of consecutive games in which Maryland has forced a turnover. It’s the second-longest streak in the nation, with the Terrapins forcing a change in possession in each game of the past two seasons.
THE Gophers WILL WIN IF …
their run defense doesn’t stall, especially if Martin doesn’t play. That was their mighty downfall the past two seasons against this team. But the Gophers have looked very strong in that area this season.
Maryland WILL WIN IF …
the defense pulls itself together. Their offense is fairly comparable to the Gophers, and this could have been a high-scoring shootout if the Gophers defense hadn’t greatly improved. Maryland still needs to prove it can do more than run the ball.