It's always nice to start the season off with a W, ya know? And it's even more fun to start off the season with a win under the lights against a real life P5 opponent that's not from Texas. In fact, you might say Thursday's opponent is the perfect combination of an opening night foe -- they have name recognition; they're beatable; their defense is pretty bad; they don't have a quarterback who has a future in the NFL.
Helping the Gophers christen the 2016 season will be the T.J. Houshmandzadeh-less Oregon State Beavers and their still-rebuilding program. A walk in the park? Probably. I mean, if we're talking about the Pac-12 going back to just being the Pac-10 like the good ol' days, Oregon State is probably one of the two teams that gets the axe.
But yes, there's reason to be optimistic about the first game going to the Gophers, for a few reasons:
- We have a projected first-round pick lining up under center. NFL-quality talent slinging the rock for the Maroon and Gold. That's a great start.
- We have so much kicking depth that we decided to move a guy who can kick 70-yard field goals to punter just because.
- The Beavs' 2015 quarterback, Seth Collins, was so ineffective they moved him to wide receiver. So, the new guy gets to have his first game on the road with a subpar offense in Gopher country. Ideal? Not for Oregon State.
- OSU's defense ranked near the bottom in basically every category last season and haven't changed schemes.
And that's just the in-game stuff. Do we need to be reminded that this is a twilight contest in front of a jacked-up crowd ready to realize the dream of finally winning the B1G West and jumping on that long-awaited charter flight to California on New Year's Day? And it's going to be, like, 70 degrees at kickoff. With plenty of time for beer before gametime. We all know Minnesota basically never loses under the lights in September at home.
So soak it up because it's gonna be a great night to head to the stadium, enjoy the sunset, see some touchdowns and get a glimpse of what figures to be an exciting team for 2016.
Prediction: Gophers win 35-13. Rodney runs in two TDs en route to a 135-yard night, the defense brings back a pick-six; and Mitch Leidner and Drew Wolitarsky connect on a sexy wheel route and a 35-yard crossing route for multiple touchdowns.