Kaleb Carter, a contributor over at MAC-focused SBNation blog Hustle Belt, graciously took some time to answer some questions I had about the upcoming matchup between the Minnesota Golden Gophers and the Ohio University Bobcats. Here is a summary of our correspondence:
TDG: The Ohio Bobcats come in with a 3-0 record and appear to have won their first three contests with relative ease. The Gophers, however,have faltered, losing to TCU and scrapping out close wins against Colorado State and Kent State. Do you believe the Bobcats come into this game with an air of confidence or is that just some sort of "hot take"?
Hustle Belt: As far as the Bobcat team goes itself, there are all kinds of reason for them to be confident. Scheduling an FCS program last week (albeit a good one in Southeast Louisiana) where the offense could expand its options and achieve success has the 'Cats coming into a situation where it is likely to be confident offensively. And after the Gophers' struggles to move the rock against Kent State, Frank Solich and crew has no reason to expect that they can't take advantage of an arguably depleted Gopher O-Line and look solid against the 'Sota O. The offensive coaching staff may be a bit worried about how they'll fare, but the defense is running on confidence for sure right now.
TDG: The Gophers thus far have proven to have a staunch defense, limiting big plays and allowing Kent State to run only 3 plays on Minnesota's side of the 50-yard line (the touchdown they scored was a fumble recovery). They come in full of confidence and are capable of limiting even the most potent of offensives (ie: TCU). How do you see the Bobcats attacking the Gopher defense?
HB: As I alluded to in the last answer, I'd like to think that a diversified playbook is in the fold coming into this one, but often OC Tim Albin's script isn't as creative as some Bobcat fans would like. I can see a steady dosage of thunder (RB A.J. Ouellette) and lightning (Daz Patterson), but ultimately, some play-action balls to the likes of Sebastian Smith, slot receiver/back Papi White, TE Keith Heitzman and Brendan Cope will have to be utilized. I don't like where Ohio stands matchup wise at almost any place on the field against Minnesota, but I'll remain optimistic that the 'Cats will take their shots at big plays to try and move the ball against a defense that it would likely have trouble driving against.
TDG: Minnesota has struggled on the offensive side of the ball, much to the dismay of Gopher Nation this week. Who are some of the key defensive players on Ohio's squad and are they capable of limiting the Gophers rush-heavy offense?
HB: Defensively, Ohio has a defensive line that hasn't been tested by a stellar run game. Against Marshall, the 'Cats looked good in the front seven and the secondary, so maybe that's how we could gauge that. DE Tarrell Basham really still needs to step up, but otherwise, Quentin Poling, Ian Wells, and Nathan Carpenter are who you have to look out for. Carp in particular has been a playmaker these last couple weeks. They are capable of stopping the 'Sota offense, so that might be scary for a team that hasn't been slinging the pigskin that great.
TDG: Are there any pro prospects lurking on the Ohio University roster?
HB: Pro prospects? The only people I'd consider here is four-year starter at Center Lucas Powell and Linebacker Quentin Poling. Outside of that, I'd like to say Basham, but he hasn't progressed much after an incredible freshman season.
TDG: There are no guarantees in college football, especially when Minnesota has been so inconsistent and lacked the ability to move the ball on the offensive side. If Ohio were to spring the upset, what do you project would be the main reasons for the surprise victory?
HB: In order to spring the upset, Ohio has to take shots offensively, and weather the storm defensively. I don't expect the Gophers to hit big plays on Ohio, so as long as the coaching staff has a good gameplan for its defense, it should be able to limit its opponent. Can't say I'm entirely confident in this offense though.
TDG: Finally, how do you see this game playing out? Final score prediction?
HB: As much as I want to pick my boys, I'm gonna call this one to be another low scoring contest. Give me the Gophers 24-13. Good luck to y'all!
Another big thanks to Kaleb for taking the time out of his schedule to answer some of our questions.