Coming off two season-opening victories,
Minnesota has spent a bye week prepping for Saturday’s home game against
Colorado State. The contest will serve as the Golden Gophers’ final
nonconference tune-up before kicking off their nine-game Big Ten slate Oct. 1
versus Penn State.
Senior quarterback Mitch Leidner has been a
dual-threat force so far for Minnesota, rushing for 76 yards and two touchdowns
in a 30-23 win over Oregon State and then throwing for 295 yards and four TDs
in a 58-28 rout of FCS foe Indiana State. Leidner’s four scoring tosses matched
a career high, and even more importantly, he’s yet to throw an interception
this year after getting picked off 20 times in his first 35 contests. "If you always look for one receiver all the time, it
gets a little bit easier to defend," Minnesota coach Tracy Claeys said of his
quarterback in his weekly news conference. "He’s definitely going through the
progressions and what he’s taught." Colorado State, meanwhile, also is playing
in its final nonconference contest and is looking for its first win over
Minnesota in four tries.
Noon ET, ESPNU. LINE:
ABOUT COLORADO STATE (2-1): After returning
starter Nick Stevens struggled through a season-opening 44-7 loss to Colorado,
coach Mike Bobo has turned to backups Faton Bauta and Collin Hill, giving each
a start the last two games. And it’s been Hill, a true freshman, who’s made a
lasting impression, throwing for 315 yards and four TDs and adding a 51-yard
scoring run last Saturday in a 47-21 win over FCS member Northern Colorado. The
Colorado State defense has only allowed 35 points since it was blitzed by an
improved Colorado team in the opener, and senior linebacker Kevin Davis is a
big reason why with 32 total tackles, three sacks and a pair of forced fumbles
on the season.
ABOUT MINNESOTA (2-0): Under new offensive
coordinator Jay Johnson, the Gophers’ 44-point-per-game average ranks 16th
nationally, and they’ve done it with a balanced attack, averaging 221 rushing
and 215.5 passing yards per outing. Tailbacks Rodney Smith and Kobe McCrary
have both posted 100-yard games this season, and the latter’s 176-yard effort
against Indiana State was the fourth-highest single-game total in program
history. Linebackers Jack Lynn and Jonathan Celestin lead a defense which
looks improved against the run (99 yards allowed per game) after being gashed
for 166.4 per outing a year ago.
1. Minnesota snapped Colorado State’s 10-game
home win streak a season ago with a 23-20 overtime victory in Fort Collins.
2. The Gophers could also receive a backfield boost
Saturday as 2015 leading rusher Shannon Brooks has been cleared to return to
practice this week after dealing with a broken foot.
3. Claeys had no update Tuesday as to when the
four Minnesota players -- DBs KiAnte Hardin, Ray Buford and Dior Johnson and DE
Tamarion Johnson -- suspended prior to the Indiana State game, due to an
unspecified violation of team rules, will be reinstated.
PREDICTION: Minnesota 41, Colorado State 20