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Minnesota Football: RoWINg to Colorado - Opponent Preview

Welcome back, Mike Sanford Jr.

TCU v Colorado Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

The Minnesota Golden Gophers (2-0) will look to wrap up their nonconference schedule with an unblemished record when they welcome the Colorado Buffaloes (0-2) to Huntington Bank Stadium on Saturday at 2:30 p.m.

Can Colorado score on offense?

Last season, the Buffaloes ranked 129th in the country in total offense and 121st in scoring offense, averaging 18.8 points per game. The Gophers saw their struggles firsthand, shutting out Colorado and limiting them to 63 total yards of offense on their trip to Boulder.

To breathe life into the Buffaloes’ inert offense, Colorado head coach Karl Dorrell turned to offensive coordinator Mike Sanford Jr., who was fired by Minnesota at the conclusion of the regular season. A bold choice, to say the least, considering the Gophers’ offense ranked 99th in total offense and 83rd in scoring offense at the end of Sanford’s second year with the program. Though I suppose those rankings would represent an improvement for Colorado.

You’ll be shocked to know that the Buffaloes’ offense has not improved under Sanford.

The passing game has been a disaster. Redshirt sophomore Brendon Lewis got the start under center in their 38-13 season-opening loss to TCU but ended up alternating drives with Tennessee transfer J.T. Shrout, who earned the start against Air Force in Week 2. Lewis is the more mobile of the two quarterbacks, but Shrout has the better arm. In his first start for Colorado, Shrout was 5-of-21 for 51 passing yards and an interception in a 41-10 loss to the Falcons.

On the ground, last season’s leading rusher, Jarek Broussard, transferred to Michigan State in the offseason. So the Buffaloes have relied on fifth-year senior Alex Fontenot and redshirt junior Deion Smith to power their running game and neither have been able to gain much traction. Colorado is averaging 112 rushing yards per game, which ranks 104th nationally.

Minnesota defensive coordinator Joe Rossi has to be champing at the bit to face this Colorado offense, which is only averaging 11.5 points per game after their first two games.

Please tell me the Gophers will be able to score

Minnesota is averaging 198.1 rushing yards per game, and Colorado is allowing an average of 355 rushing yards per game. Yes, you read that right. The Buffaloes’ defense is allowing nearly twice as many rushing yards as the Gophers’ offense is averaging on the ground. It’s a small sample size that includes a game against Air Force — who only completed one pass for eight yards — but giving up 435 rushing yards at a clip of 6.2 yards per carry is quite a feat, regardless of the opponent. Colorado also surrendered 275 rushing yards to TCU the previous week.

If I were a gambling man, I’d bet on Mohamed Ibrahim notching his 12th straight game rushing for over 100 yards this Saturday against the Buffaloes’ woeful defensive front.

This wasn’t supposed to be the case for Colorado coming into this season. Their front seven was thought to be the strength of their defense, but they’ve not been able to control the line of scrimmage up to this point. Defenders are frequently out of position, which has led to TCU and Air Force gashing them on the ground. And this comes after defensive coordinator Charlie Wilson made the decision this offseason to switch from a 3-4 base defense to a 4-3.

The Buffaloes’ defensive front has played poorly that their young secondary hasn’t even really been tested yet. Three of their four starters in the defensive backfield are redshirt freshmen.

But who will score more points on Saturday?

This is a complete mismatch for Colorado. Their offense is stuck in neutral and there is no reason to believe they’ll be able to find much traction against the Gophers’ stout defense, and Minnesota’s ground game should have ample room to run against the Buffaloes’ listless front seven. Minnesota 34, Colorado 10.