On Saturday afternoon, in steamy conditions at TCF Bank Stadium, Minnesota will take on Miami (OH) in the final non-conference game of the season. Unlike the other opponents so far this season, the Gophers have some history with their MAC opponents. The teams have played three times with Minnesota winning all three games. The most recent win came in 2011, when MarQueis Gray threw for 163 yards and also ran for 171 yards to give his team a 29-23 win.
It’s not surprising then that Minnesota is heavily favored to win this game. Even the Gopher Gnomes think this one is in the bag.
Let’s take a closer look at Miami’s season so far:
- Miami is 0-2 on the season, and while their first loss came in a hard-fought 35-28 battle against Marshall, the second loss was a 21-0 blanking by the RedHawks oldest rivals Cincinnati.
- The Miami defense only gave up 45 passing yards, but allowed the BearCats to gain nearly 188 yards on the ground, including 100 yards from Cincinnati’s quarterback. Unfortunately, this happened on a day when the RedHawks only rushed for a grand total of 59 yards. That’s not an effort that will win many games.
- Quarterback Gus Ragland went 22/41 for 139 yards. That’s a paltry 3.4 yards per attempt, although in his defense, the miserable weather may have something to do with it.
- The whole game was a comedy of errors for Miami. At one point, the RedHawks forced a fumble at the Cincinnati 25. Instead of falling on the ball, Miami tried to scoop and score, but the ball slipped out and Cincinnati ended up recovering the ball again.
- Cincinnati has now won 13 straight games in the Battle for the Victory Bell, a rivalry so one-sided that the trophy is losing much of its luster.
- Miami’s 0-2 start is less than ideal, partly because Miami had hoped to put last season behind them. The 2017 season was a disappointment, with the team finishing 5-7 overall. Four of the losses came in one possession games though, and with the entire offensive line and running back Maurice Thomas returning, 2018 should be going much better right now.
So how’s Miami going to fare against Minnesota? Well...
- Miami is really struggling in the running game. Unless the RedHawks do better than the paltry 73 yards per game they’re averaging so far, Minnesota is going to win going away.
- The defense has done well to contain yards from running backs, and with the Gophers’ Rodney Smith out, this will be an area of emphasis for Miami.
- The RedHawks’ defense has struggled to contain athletic quarterbacks, but the folks at Hustle Belt don’t think much of Zack Annexstad’s skills as a runner.
The Gophers have won 13 straight games against non-conference opponents (including bowl games). That’s about to be 14 straight games.