Minnesota and Maryland will both be aiming for a bounce-back after bad losses to open the season, a 49-24 drop to Michigan for the Gophers and a 43-3 tumble at Northwestern — last season’s West bottom-dwellers — for the Terrapins. But a Friday game means less time to shake off those results.

Prediction: Gophers 40, Maryland 20

THREE BIG STORY LINES

 

QB woes

Maryland has struggled at the quarterback position for a while, and Alabama transfer Taulia Tagovailoa continued that, throwing for only 94 yards with three interceptions in the opener. The Gophers’ Tanner Morgan wasn’t quite himself either, completing only 18 of 31 passes and enduring five sacks.

 

Special teams spark

The Gophers were close to disastrous on special teams against Michigan, averaging shockingly low yardage on punts and kickoffs. The team had to make do without its starting kicker, punter and kickoff specialist presumably for COVID-19 precautions. But the defense isn’t yet strong enough to compensate for problematic field positions.

 

Shore up defense

Allowing Northwestern 537 total offensive yards and Michigan 481 was a less-than-ideal start for both teams. Better communication will be key on both sides, and particularly the Gophers need to quickly develop many young starters.

TWO KEY MATCHUPS

 

Mohamed Ibrahim vs. Maryland’s defensive line

This game has the potential to be the Mo Show. Maryland’s defense looked almost as hapless as its offense, and Ibrahim has the physical power and mental determination to blow right past the Terrapins, especially should they focus more on stopping stars Morgan and receiver Rashod Bateman.

Peny Boone vs. Gophers linebackers

It’s a running back extravaganza! Maryland’s freshman back took a couple reps toward the end of the season opener, gaining 30 yards on six carries. With more time, he could break out as a bright spot. Meanwhile, the Gophers linebackers, featuring freshman Cody Lindenberg, need some strong leadership to emerge with Thomas Barber and Kamal Martin now gone.

ONE STAT THAT MATTERS

 

9 The career-high number of passes caught for Bateman, done this past game against Michigan. Meanwhile, only one other receiver caught a pass, with a few others scattered among the running backs and tight ends. The reigning Big Ten Receiver of the Year is an obvious playmaker, but spreading things out might make the passing game more successful.

THE GOPHERS WILL WIN IF …

They are even marginally better in each facet of the game than they were against Michigan. It’s not going to take some extraordinary effort to beat Maryland. The Gophers are a better team. They just need to play like it.

The TERRAPINS WILL WIN IF …

A miracle occurs. Which in 2020 is not out of the realm of possibility, since every random and chaotic event has seemed to happen this year. But if Tagovailoa suddenly embodies his brother or Boone surprises, it’s possible.