No. 4 – Minnesota Golden Gophers 3-0 (0-0)
Last Week: 4
Minnesota continued to roll in 2016 with a 31-24 win over Colorado State. Starting the season with three straight wins is impressive, but they have yet to play any decent competition. They defeated Oregon State in their season opener, however they needed a 13 point fourth quarter to do so. They then took down Indiana State with ease, although a mediocre Colorado State team gave them problems.
They have a solid test in Penn State this week that will give everyone a better indication of the type of team they are this season. Either way, running back Rodney Smith has been fantastic this year, Shannon Brooks just returned from an injury against Colorado State, and Mitch Leidner is doing exactly what they need from him at quarterback.
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Leidner has completed 64.5 percent of his passes and has turned the ball over just once. To go along with his solid production through the air, he’s also added an impressive 135 yards on the ground to go with Smith’s 298 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
The Gophers know their bread and butter is running the ball, and they stick with it. Minnesota ran 45 times against Colorado State, the question surrounding them is what happens if they have to rely on Leidner’s arm?
Their defense ranks just 60th in points allowed per game (25), but they’re not expected to blow out their competition in the Big Ten. Still, in a league where pounding the rock on the ground is still a norm, Minnesota’s offensive attack has a chance to work very well this year with their dynamic running back duo and athletic quarterback.
Minnesota’s biggest test of the early season is coming up. If they can rattle off wins against Penn State and Iowa, they have a good chance of starting the season 9-0. That’s a big if, though, especially for a team with a questionable defense and passing game.
Minnesota might be the third best team in the Big Ten West, however they’ll need to prove it against Penn State this week. They’ve done their job and enter conference play undefeated, and that’s all you can ask from them at this point.