Gophers vs. Maryland, 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Huntington Bank Stadium, ESPN2, 100.3-FM. Line: Gophers by 5
Back-to-back wins over Purdue and Nebraska have the Gophers (4-2, 2-1 Big Ten) a half-game behind Iowa (6-1, 3-1) in the West Division race. Minnesota will try to keep that streak going against Maryland (4-2, 1-2), which was idle last week but is coming off losses to Iowa and Ohio State by a combined 117-31.
Three big story lines
Gophers passing game finds stride
For the first time since the season opener, the Gophers passed for more than 200 yards vs. Nebraska as Tanner Morgan completed 14 of his first 15 throws. Minnesota must continue to take full advantage of a healthier Chris Autman-Bell, who had 11 catches for 103 yards and a TD.
A shutdown defense
Fresh off a game in which it had a goal-line stand, another fourth-down stop and a safety, the Gophers defense will get a chance to show how much it has improved since it gave up 675 yards in a 45-44 OT loss to the Terrapins last year.
Terrapins battling injuries
Maryland's offense averages 447.2 yards per game but will be hard-pressed to match that after losing two wide receivers, Dontay Demus Jr. and Jeshaun Jones, to season-ending injuries. The duo combined to catch 10 passes for 204 yards and two TDs against the Gophers last year.
Two key matchups
Maryland QB Taulia Tagovailoa vs. Gophers defensive ends
Tagovailoa passed for 394 yards and three TDs and rushed for 59 yards and two scores last year vs. Minnesota. Ends Boye Mafe, Esezi Otomewo, MJ Anderson and Thomas Rush helped hold Nebraska QB Adrian Martinez to minus-17 rushing yards, and they'll be key vs. Tagovailoa.
Maryland DE Sam Okuayinonu vs. Gophers LT Sam Schlueter
Aside from a cornerback blitz that resulted in a sack on a trick play, the Gophers kept the pressure off Morgan vs. Nebraska. Schlueter's challenge will include Okuayinonu, a 6-2, 280-pounder whose five sacks rank second in the Big Ten and 18th nationally.
One stat that matters
Gophers running backs who have surpassed 100 yards in starting roles this year. Bryce Williams (127 yards vs. Nebraska) joined the injured Mohamed Ibrahim and Trey Potts.
The Gophers will win if …
The offense continues to show the balance it rediscovered last week and avoids turnovers, the defense contains Tagovailoa and top remaining target Rakim Jarrett (five TD catches), and the special teams rebound from a so-so showing vs. Nebraska.
The Terrapins will in if …
RB Tayon Fleet-Davis does his best impression of Jake Funk (243 all-purpose yards, two TDs vs. Gophers in 2020), Tagovailoa avoids turnovers (seven picks vs. Iowa, Ohio State), and the pass defense (387.2 yards allowed per game) improves dramatically.
Gophers 31, Maryland 20