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Minnesota vs. Middle Tennessee Preview: The Gophers Will Avoid Paper Cuts

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We break down Middle Tennesse and explain why you shouldn't fear their thrashing of Savannah State.

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

It's that time of the week again Gopher fans. The moment when the gnomes stop by to help add snark to my weekly preview. Not familiar with the format? Every weekly preview will get an assist from one of the ever multiplying number of Gopher gnomes who stop by my cube to talk Gopher sports. The four non-conference games will be previewed by the Gopher gnome bench. They couldn't agree on which individual one of them would help with each non-con game, so instead they'll do all four as a group. Our non-con opponents should be very excited!

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Opening Thoughts

If you were the sort of fan who only reads a box score you might be worried about this game. After all, Middle Tennessee won their opening game 61-7 last week. But the box score doesn't tell the whole story. As JDMill chronicled in his Q&A with SB Nation's Conference USA writer, MTSU beat up on one of the worst college teams they could have found. The only thing we know about MTSU at this point is that the Blue Raiders are about to play their first game of value.

In honor of their box score bonanza, the gnomes picked the following image to represent MTSU.

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via www.jobjoy.com

That's right. A paper tiger. What are you going to do about it cellulose Simba? (NOTE: Gnomes prize alliteration over accuracy)

When/Where

Date: Saturday, September 6th

Kickoff Time: 2:30 PM CT

Where: TCF Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, MN

Watch/Listen

TV: Big Ten Network

Streaming Video: BTN2Go.com

Radio: KFAN (100.3 in the Twin Cities) and the Gopher Radio Network (Radio Affiliates).

Streaming Audio: Locate KFAN on IHeartRadio (or the IHeartRadio app for your mobile device)

Satellite Radio: SiriusXM 195; Sirius 113; XM 195

Odds

Spread: MN by 16 to 16.5 depending on the site (line opened at -14)

O/U: 51.5

Weather Forecast:

For the tailgate:

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At kickoff:

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For the postgame party:

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Consider me extremely jealous of everyone who gets a full day of tailgating and gametime fun in that gorgeous weather.

THE ENEMY

Where Are They From?

Murfreesboro, TN

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All Time Series: MN leads 1-0

Last Game: MN win 24-17 in 2010

SB Nation Blog: Underdog Dynasty

Last Season: 8-5 (6-2 CUSA)

Breakdown from gg05:

They were given a berth in the Armed Forces Bowl where they lost to Navy 24-6.   However, their schedule was not the most impressive.  They beat up on fellow Conference USA foes and just snuck past Western Carolina and Memphis for their other two wins.  They lost non-conference games to North Carolina, BYU and a bowl game to Navy. They were completely middle of the pack last season finishing 69th in the nation in scoring offense, and 60th in the nation in scoring defense.

2014 Season to Date:

1-0, with a 61-7 win over Savannah State (artist's rendering of SSU's team). In other words, they've played a glorified scrimmage.

Head Coach: Rick Stockstill (9th year; 51-49). A long time assistant at multiple programs (including time under 3 different coaches at Clemson) Rick Stockstill has done a pretty impressive job since taking over at MTSU in 2005. They've been to 4 bowls in his tenure (and were bowl eligible in 2012 before being the Sun Belt team left out of the postseason). They've only finished worse that 3rd in their conference twice in his 9 years. Ok, that's mostly in the Sun Belt to be sure, but judged against other teams at that level it's not bad at all. It's hard to argue with that kind of consistency.

Players to Watch: I'm going to put the 3 best performers from the SSU game in here but really, these stats need to be taken with a giant grain of salt.

1) Austin Grammer (QB - Sophomore): 15-17 for 250 yards and 1 TD. The question coming into the season was "who will play at QB?" It seems as though Austin has answered that for now.

2) Running Backs: Yea...I'm just going to leave this here:

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3) Quay Watt (LB - Junior): 7 tackles (6 unassisted, 1 TFL). I know nothing about the dude besides that.

Keys to the Game:

- Come Out Firing: Nothing kills the momentum and energy of fans like a short opening drive, especially against and inferior opponent. That's what made reading this so sobering:

In 27 games since the start of 2012, the Gophers have scored only 16 total points on their first possession (one touchdown, three field goals). Last season, nine Minnesota opening drives lasted four or fewer plays and totaled less than 11 yards. Since 2012, the Gophers have failed to score on their first three possessions 13 times. They are 5-8 in those games (three of those wins came during their nonconference slate).

Ugh. Stop that. Right now.

- No turnovers: You're better than MTSU. Don't hand them gifts

- Show improvement in the passing game: I really hope I can take this one down soon, but in the meantime it's pretty self explanatory no?

How Afraid Am I?

On a scale of 1 to 5 "Brewsters on his face" (1 being not a afraid, 5 being very afraid)?

1 and Half Brewsters Flat On Their Faces

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Honestly, I'm really more 1 Brewster afraid, but the gnomes wanted to MS Paint cut him in half today so...

Completely Worthless Prediction:

Relax and have fun. Gophers 34, Blue Raiders 10.