It must be so tempting to just assume Saturday's game will be a walkover. South Dakota is a FCS team that lost to Central Florida 38-7 last week, that gained fewer than half as many yards or first downs as UCF, that forced only one punt all day.
Too bad for the Coyotes -- they've drawn one of the few major programs that understands how dangerous these games can be.
"With our history? We know better," said senior cornerback Ryan Collado, who can recite the ugliness from memory. "We lost to North Dakota State. South Dakota State gave us a tough game (16-13) last year. You just can't take these games lightly."
Teams do anyway, though, and a few glaring examples -- Jacksonville State over Ole Miss, North Dakota State over Kansas -- stand out each year. Collado doesn't want to join them again. "It's kind of hard when you've got teams like USC and Ohio State on your schedule, but we have to focus on making sure we're not looking ahead," Collado said. "We're really emphasizing film study this week, so we're not caught by surprise."
Still, he understands what sort of energy the Coyotes will be feeling.
"This is their big game. A lot of these guys are from Minnesota, and they like coming back here and playing in their home state," he said. "They're very motivated, but that should just make us that much more focused."
Coach Tim Brewster has emphasized individual improvement this week, making sure every player does his job a little better than he did against Middle Tennessee State last week. If that happens, the Gophers should win easily.
I asked Adam Weber how much of the playbook the Gophers used in Murfreesboro last week, and his answer made me laugh. "Well, we haven't used any of the passing game," he said.
That's almost true. The Gophers passed just 17 times while running the ball on 67 plays, so they didn't give much away. Weber estimated that Minnesota used only 30 percent of its playbook.
The Gophers aren't holding anything back, Brewster said; they're doing whatever is necessary to win, and since running the ball worked so well, they just kept running the same plays.
Same goes this week. Offensive coordinator Jeff Horton said the Gophers will probably pass a little more frequently, just to get the players familiar with more of the play-calling, but if Duane Bennett and Donnell Kirkwood are getting into the secondary with regularity, they'll stick with the run.
A new wrinkle is South Dakota's 3-4 defense, which can be confusing for an offensive line used to simply engaging the lineman directly in front.
"It's definitely an adjustment. One of the big things is getting the identification down, who's blocking who," said center D.J. Burris. "People are going to be moving."
The defense prepared for a 3-4 last week, since the Gophers weren't certain what sort of defense MTSU would use. "We've done pretty well at learning the scheme up front," Horton said. "But you can never be sure what sort of wrinkles you'll see."
Brewster equated Eric Ellestad's missed field goals in Murfreesboro with a golfer standing on the first tee. He just got a little excited -- first game and all -- and sped up his motion, which causes the ball to drift left.
"We've worked with him on calming down, taking his time," the coach said of the senior kicker. "There was nothing mechanically wrong. He was hitting the ball very well," and only missed the first kick by a foot or two.
Ellestad has been making kicks in TCF Bank Stadium all week, Brewster said, and believes the opening-night jitters won't be a factor.