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Golden Gophers Open Season at USC Trojans - OPEN THREAD

Man am I excited for kickoff. The Gophers have the unenviable task of heading to The Coliseum to face the USC Trojans. Not exactly what Coach Kill had in mind to start his Gopher career but he is one to work harder than anyone else to make lemons out of lemonade.

The Stats

Minnesota Golden Gophers USC Trojans
Points / Game 23.2 31.0
Pass Yards 226.1 241.7
Rush Yards 135.2 189.8
3rd Down % 39.2% 43.3%
Key Offensive Player to Watch QB - MarQueis Gray QB - Matt Barkley
Points Allowed/Game 33.0
Pass Yards 200.8 259.5
Rush Yards 191.4 140.5
3rd Down % 46.6% 43.8%
Key Defensive Player to Watch CB - Troy Stoudermire S - T.J. McDonald

Three Questions

  1. MarQueis Gray - I don't think there is any question who Gopher fans are most looking forward to watching in week one. Will Gray be able to lead the offense? Will he be able to be as effective with his arm as he should be with his legs? Will he put the ball where Da'Jon McKnight and Eric Lair and Malcolm Moulton and Marcus Jones can make a play? Will he be the team's leading rusher? So many questions and it will be fun to see them start to be answered.
  2. Can the defense generate a pass rush? For two years this has been a major issue and if the Gophers want to slow down what is expected to be a very good Trojan passing attack they will need to get to Matt Barkley. It will probably mean some linebacker blitzing which puts more pressure on our secondary, but we need to get pressure on Barkley. He gave us two interceptions last year, it would be nice if he were that generous again this year.
  3. What will a Jerry Kill team look like? Kind of like Gray, there are so many questions to be answered in Kill's first game. How prepared will the team look? What are we going to do on 3rd and short? Will special teams be dramatically improved? How will his team respond if the game is close late in the game? Not everything will be answered but the Kill era begins and we'll start to see signs of what we can expect over the next several seasons.

The Answers

USC has a really good offense. Matt Barkley has an outside shot at the Heisman and will be a 1st round draft pick. OT, Matt Khalil will likely be a top 10 draft pick. WR, Robert Woods is incredibly dangerous in the passing and return games. Fortunately for us their feature back, Marc Tyler is suspended for the game. But they have a stable of high profile backs who are capable of making big plays in the run game. I am looking forward to watching Stoudermire match-up with Woods. I am also really looking forward to seeing if our rush defense is going to be any better than the 5.3 yards per carry we allowed last year (for the year, not just the USC game).

The Trojans return 7 starters from what really wasn't a great defense last year. I fully expect that Kiffin Sr will have a much better defensive unit this year. If our offensive line can hold a little bit I think we'll be able to move the ball a bit and maybe build some confidence along the way.

I predict we get to watch a couple big plays from our offense and I think we'll see an improved defense. Ultimately we lose the game but it will certainly be closer than the 23 point Vegas line.