Back-Half of Gopher Schedule Features Road Games vs The Contender and The Pretender of B1G West
This is Part II of a two-part series where we deep dive the Minnesota Gophers shortened 2020 football schedule. You can find Part I HERE.
*SPOILER ALERT*: I think Minnesota will be 4-0, entering the back-half of their schedule. That means wins at home vs Michigan and Iowa in weeks one and four. So let’s keep rowing along.
Game Five- vs Purdue
The PJ Fleck and Jeff Brohm rivalry continues when Purdue travels to Minneapolis on November 21. The Minnesota Gophers have won the last two matchups against the Boilermakers, beating them 41-10 back in 2018 (after the firing of then DC Robb Smith), before beating them 38-31 last year.
Purdue seems to always have a solid offense, and they return (WR) David Bell, who was a stud for them last year in his freshman campaign. They did lose a good tight end, Brycen Hopkins, but return a solid running back, in King Dorue.
Jack Plummer will start for the Boilermakers at QB, after coming in last year and gaining experience as a freshman. (WR) Rondale Moore opted-out earlier in the offseason, but Jeff Brohm is supposedly doing everything he can to get the stud wide receiver back for one more year.
Jeff Brohm outside of Rondale Moore’s window pic.twitter.com/r2VTIT5FOV— Nick Baker (@nico_suave3) September 16, 2020
On the defensive side of things, this was a brutally weak unit last year. I don’t see that changing with newly hired, Bob Diaco. Purdue’s offense is going to have to keep them in games (again) this year.
I expect the Gophers to win but definitely believe Purdue will put up points, especially if Rondale Moore comes back. This game could be a 35-28 type battle. For the third year in a row, Purdue’s defense won’t be able to stop this Minnesota offense as many times as the Gopher defense will hold theirs.
Game Six- @ Wisconsin
It’s the Gophers’ turn to travel to Madison where they’ll battle the Badgers for Paul Bunyan’s Axe. It will be the 130th meeting between the two teams, extending the longest rivalry in college football. This one could very-well decide the West Division. In fact, most expect it to.
The Gophers are coming off a bitter loss to the Badgers in 2019. Wisconsin came into Minnesota last season and blasted the Gophers 38-17. A year earlier, the Gophers did the same to the Badgers at Camp Randall, crushing them 37-15. Two West heavyweights trading blows after two-straight blow out games… This one should come down to the wire. It’s only right.
Wisconsin loses key parts to their offense, after record-setting running back, Jonathan Taylor, was drafted in the 1st round of the NFL Draft and (WR) Quintez Cephus was taken in the 5th. This is an offense that likes to abuse the opponents in the trenches, wearing them down with a predictable run game that can seem impossible to slow.
Film Room: How the #Gophers' Defense limited Jonathan Taylor's rushing success. The full video is on our YouTube channel! Dive into @DanielHouseNFL's analysis: https://t.co/XO7UKibNMD pic.twitter.com/kSPFnqv8wm— GopherHole.com (@GopherHole) November 29, 2018
Interestingly, the Gophers have done a very good job of containing Taylor over the past two years, so we will see what the game plan looks like without him. Jack Coan returns to take snaps, then handoff and throw the football. He was efficient and effective as a Sophomore, passing for 2727 yards at a 69% clip and adding 18 TDs to just 5 INTs.
He will be aided by another very good offensive line, a Wisconsin staple. Who will be running behind them, though, is a bit of a question mark. Nakia Watson, Garrett Groshek, and Julius Davis could all take handoffs, to start the season. The Badgers also bring in 4-star recruit, Jalen Berger, who could contend for carries right away. At wide receiver, Kendric Pryor and Danny Davis lll will be seeing most of the passes.
On the defensive side of the ball, they return mostly everyone, with the exception of two good linebackers in Zack Baun, and Chris Orr. Linebacker, Jack Sanborn, and safety, Eric Burrell, are two very good players. They also have a mean man on the defensive interior, Keeanu Benton, who can wreak havoc on gameplans.
This is going to be another good game, just like Iowa and Michigan. I’m fairly certain the Badger defense is going to be very good as usual, but the offense does draw question marks. The Gophers are going to have to keep that Badger offense in check because points could be hard to come by.
Game Seven- vs Northwestern
After a very rough 2019 season, Pat Fitzgerald and the Wildcats hope to bounce back in 2020. They do add former Indiana Quarterback, Payton Ramsey, which should help… but the rest of the Northwestern offense just isn’t very good.
Northwestern’s defense is actually pretty solid, but if you’re on the field all game, you’re going to get worn out eventually.
Minnesota should win this one handily, because I don’t think Northwestern will be able to put up any points. PJ loves to control the football so I expect him to use his big, experienced offensive line to wear down that Northwestern defense.
Game Eight- @ Nebraska
Nebraska had a disappointing year-two under Scott Frost. They can take some solace (and they’re fanbase will) in a seemingly strong finish. They clobbered Maryland, and then lost on a last second field goal to Iowa.
This is another team Minnesota pounded last year, beating them 34-7 at TCF Bank Stadium. The Gophers mainly ran the ball, piling up over 300 yards on the ground alone. They barely needed to use all their star-power at wide receiver. Johnson still pulled in over 100 yards, just for shits and giggles.
Minnesota Wide Zone Cut Up vs Nebraska. Oline and Rb’s do a great job working as one. pic.twitter.com/oCeoDmRAwO— CoachesCollaborate (@coachescollab) March 22, 2020
Nebraska does return a fair amount of their talent of offense. Starting quarterback, Adrian Martinez, returns for his 17th season. He was injured most of last year. JD Spielman left, which is a big blow, but youngster Wan’Dale Robinson returns for what most expect to be another electric season.
I’m skeptical on the Nebraska offensive line. It wasn’t very good last year and they didn’t do much to improve it. If Nebraska wants to take a step forward, it will have to find a way.
Defensively, Nebraska wasn’t very good either. That’s despite having two NFL defensive lineman and an NFL corner. I don’t know how much this group will improve in 2020… I just don’t see Nebraska in contention for the West Division crown.
Minnesota wins this game in Lincoln for a few reasons:
1.) There will be no home field advantage for Nebraska, in a Stadium that is traditionally holding over 100,000 lunatic Cornhusker fans.
2.) Nebraska is weak along both of their lines and the Gophers should be strong in those areas.
3.) Nebraska can reel in all the big recruits they want. Until Scott Frost proves he can turn that talent into wins, you won’t make a believer out of this guy.
There are three real threats on this schedule and the toughest one comes in the back-half vs. Wisconsin. The Minnesota Gophers are a top-two team in the West and that’s where the expectations should be set. Can they beat Michigan, Iowa and/or Wisconsin, while not tripping anywhere else?
I can’t wait to find out.
Max Carroll | Minnesota Sports Fan