Gophers at Ohio State
• Kickoff: 3 p.m. Saturday
• Where: Ohio Stadium
• TV/Radio: BTN, 100.3-FM
• Line: Ohio State by 27½
In the span of two weeks, the Gophers (5-5, 3-4 Big Ten) went from sitting atop the Big Ten West Division race to needing a win to achieve bowl eligibility. Now they face Ohio State (10-0, 7-0), a national power that has won 39 of the past 41 in the series. Buckle up.
Three big storylines
How will the Gophers defense hold up? John Paddock, the backup QB for Illinois, needed only three plays to drive his team 85 yards for the winning TD against the Gophers. Last week, Purdue amassed 604 yards and 49 points against Minnesota's reeling defense. The Gophers need key players like LB Cody Lindenberg to return to health quickly.
Will Gophers RB Darius Taylor play? The true freshman suffered a leg injury late in the Oct. 21 game at Iowa and has not played since. He leads the Gophers in rushing with 591 yards and has the talent to be a difference-maker. If he's still out, Jordan Nubin and maybe Zach Evans will carry the mail.
Will Marvin Harrison Jr. bolster his Heisman campaign? The junior is largely considered the best wide receiver in college football, if not the best player overall. Harrison has 59 receptions for 1,063 yards and 12 TDs. He's coming off a seven-catch, 149-yard, three-TD effort against Michigan State. Look for Harrison to be at least one of the Heisman finalists.
Two key matchups
Gophers linebackers vs. Buckeyes tight end Cade Stover
With Lindenberg out and his backup, Maverick Baranowski, knocked out of the game on the first series, the Gophers used true freshman Matt Kingsbury and redshirt freshman Tyler Stolsky against Purdue. Stover is a big target in the middle, with 34 catches for 508 yards and four TDs.
Gophers defensive line vs. Ohio State running back TreVeyon Henderson
Henderson, who had a 70-yard TD reception on a swing pass against the Gophers in 2021, leads the Buckeyes with 648 rushing yards and has a six-game streak of scoring at least one TD. Gophers DTs Kyler Baugh and Deven Eastern could be key in limiting Henderson.
One stat that matters
Rushing touchdowns allowed by the Buckeyes over the past five games. They've given up only three rushing TDs all season.
The Gophers will win if … everything goes their way. To pull off an upset of this magnitude, the Gophers need to play the perfect game of keep-away, using the running game to drain the clock. They'd also need some big passing plays from Athan Kaliakmanis. On defense, forcing multiple turnovers is their best hope.
The Buckeyes will win if … they take a businesslike approach, don't look ahead to the Michigan game and avoid losing the turnover battle in a catastrophic way. They have much more talent than the Gophers, and that will show as long as they don't play a mistake-filled game.
The Gophers and Buckeyes might be in the same conference, but at least this year they're on vastly different levels. The 2021 Minnesota team had a puncher's chance to beat Ohio State in the season opener, and that Gophers squad — starring Mohamed Ibrahim and a dominant offensive line — led the Buckeyes 14-10 at halftime and hung with them before falling 45-31. Judging by the past two games and an expanding injury list, this year's Gophers just don't have enough on defense to keep this game close.
My expectation: Ohio State takes an early lead and builds on it before the Gophers score in the second quarter. After that, pretty much all Buckeyes.
Ohio State 45, Gophers 10