GOPHERS OFFENSE VS.

RAMS DEFENSE

Colorado State had the nation’s 45th-best scoring defense last year (25.1 points per game) but ranked 98th against the run (200.8 yards per game). Look for the Gophers to try to pound the run with Rodney Smith, Rodrick Williams and perhaps true freshman Shannon Brooks. Advantage: Gophers

 

SPECIAL TEAMS

Colorado State’s redshirt freshman kicker hit from 31 yards and missed from 42 in his debut last week. Advantage: Gophers

PLAYER TO WATCH

Colorado State QB Nick Stevens tossed five TD passes with no interceptions last week in his first career start. The 6-3, 205-pound sophomore from Murrieta, Calif., was a three-star recruit.

 

THE OPPONENT

The Rams went 10-3 last year but lost coach Jim McElwain (Florida) and QB Garrett Grayson (Saints third-round pick). New coach Mike Bobo, the former Georgia offensive coordinator, inherited seven offensive and eight defensive starters. Last week, Colorado State extended FCS Savannah State’s losing streak to 22 games.

GOPHERS DEFENSE VS.

RAMS OFFENSE

Six receivers caught TD passes last week, so the Rams have options beyond All-America Rashard Higgins (probable, sprained ankle). Safety Damarius Travis (team-high 10 tackles last week) is questionable with a hamstring injury, but Minnesota has the depth to cover for him. Advantage: Gophers

 

INTANGIBLES

It’s tough preparing for a new coach on his home field. Jerry Kill admitted his staff is more nervous for this than for TCU because of the unknown. Advantage: Rams

 

JOE’S PREDICTION

 

34 17

MINN CSU

Mitch Leidner came up big for the Gophers last year at Michigan and Nebraska. He helps end CSU’s nine-game home winning streak.