Well one team stands in the way of the Gophers going undefeated in the non conference portion of the schedule. The Owls of Florida Atlantic are happy to be playing under a roof this week and they are hoping they can get back to .500 with a win in the Dome.
Many will point to the NDSU loss as the lowpoint of 2007, this is true. But the FAU loss was the blueprint. Turnovers, unpreparedess at the start and an inability to stop the pass were the culprits of a 1-11 season and what we talked about all spring and summer.
The Gophers are improved and we are all excited by the 3-0 start but this game is an opportunity to really show that we are improved on defense and that this team is different.
General Florida Atlantic Thoughts
What I know is that the Owls will be well coached and have a solid gameplan and I know that they will have a dangerous passing game.
Howard Schnellenberger successfully employed the bubble screen over and over and over again to set us up and rip our pass defense to shreds. While we may be better, you can bet that HS (I'm not spelling Schnellenberger again), you can bet that HS will have a new wrinkle to truly test our defense.
When the Owls have the ball...
They will pass, but maybe not as much as you may think. A year ago when Rusty Smith threw for 463 yards he did so on only 44 atttempts. That is a lot but Weber threw for 47 and FAU ran the ball 41 times. So lets not expect throwing every down.
They'll find something that works and they'll do it till we stop them. Then they'll go to plan B. Make no mistake, this will be a great test for out defense. I know this isn't very specific, but I am worried about what HS has in store for us.
What we need to do is get to QB-Rusty Smith, who hasn't been put on his back yet this season. We need to get to him and make him uncomfortable. Smith can pick us a part and they have the weapons to really hurt our defense.
When the Gophers have the ball...
How about all of you say it with me. DON'T TURN THE BALL OVER. How on earth was last year's game a three point game when we has SEVEN turnovers. Last years' team was not adept at winning games yet nearly went on the road and won in spite of giving the Owls seven extra possessions. Weber and the offense have had one turnover this year and I am not worried about giving it up six or seven times. But two or three can kill us, so we need to be cognizant of ball control. And most importantly don't let the one turnover turn into five before we know what hit us.
Rusty Smith is their primary weapon on the offensive side of the ball, but don't forget about their defense. Linebacker Frantz Joseph is potentially the Sun Belt defensive player of the year and Scouts Inc put a total of four Owls on their preseason All-Sun Belt team. This defense is pretty good and we shouldn't expect to move the ball at will.
What we need to do is controll the line of scrimmage. This has been a challenge for us for the better part of 12 quarters and with the rash of injuries I don't expect this to change much. But we need to be physical from the first series. The next step is to show some offensive consistency. We have had some very impressive drives where the unit appears crisp and in synch. But we have also had quarter long stretches where we are content to play three plays then punt.
What to Expect...
A Gopher victory. it is easy to say we lost by three, on the road with seven turnovers; therefore since we are home and we won't have seven turnovers we will win. But this game will be very different. Both teams are playing for a little something and want this game. FAU desperately wants to take their program to the next level by beating a BCS team on the road. Minnesota wants nothing more than to beat the Owls and avenge last year's embarrassment. When all is said and done I think we win this game, but it will be a good game. I'm even going to say this will be lower scoring than most anticipate.
I believe both defenses will be geared to stop the pass while both offenses attempt to establish the run. Minnesota does so and slows down Rusty Smith.
Minnesota - 31
Florida Atlantic - 27