Look, there’s no denying it anymore. The Minnesota Gophers roster the best running back in the nation. His name is Mohamed Ibrahim and he is the monster that opposing defenses try not to think about when they close their eyes at night.
Ibrahim has it all. He has the patience, vision and cutback ability that other running backs can only wish they had, especially in a zone scheme like the Gophers’. Then, when he gets to the second level, Mo makes defensive backs re-think their life decisions. Defenders might get credited with tackles in the box score.. but #24 on offense is the guy laying the wood.
Just look at him during today’s victory over the Illinois Fighting Illini…
Let’s Check the Numbers
So we know that Mo Ibrahim passes the eye-test but what do the numbers say?
After tonight’s game, Ibrahim is averaging 32.3 carries, 190 yards (5.9 YPC) and 3.3 touchdowns per game. According to ESPN, he’s the only running back since Larry Johnson (Penn State) in 2002, to run for 200+ yards and 4 touchdowns in two consecutive games.
Dude has 10 rushing touchdowns in 3 Big Ten games. The NCAA leader, entering the day, was Naje Harris (Alabama) with 14. It took him 6 games to get there. At this rate, Mo will score 14 touchdowns by the end of next week vs Iowa (Week 4).
His touchdown numbers are crazy… but not as crazy as his yardage. Entering Saturday, Ibrahim was already on top of the NCAA’s yards per game mountain (173.5 YPG) and looking down on the rest of the country. Now, Mo’s 190 yards per game leads everyone else by about 50 yards.
These stats are going up, even while defense’ sole focus vs Minnesota right now, is stopping Mo. So far in 2020, if you stop Mo Ibrahim then you stop the Gopher offense… but nobody can stop him. Teams have had to either score with Mo (like Maryland and Michigan) or lose, like today vs Illinois.
If Ibrahim were to continue this pace, he’d finish the 9-game season with over 1700 yards and 30 touchdowns. That would be good for the University of Minnesota single season record in both categories (2014 Cobb: 1,629 yds) (2005 Russell: 18 TD). Remember, those records were set in 13-14 game seasons with easy non-conference schedules.
Some Love for the Offensive Line
Mohamed Ibrahim could be the best running back in the history of college football, but if he doesn’t have an offensive line to create holes to run through, it doesn’t matter.
The Minnesota O-line is missing their entire right side, in Daniel Faalele and Curtis Dunlap, but their teammates haven’t missed a beat in the run game. PJ Fleck made OL a point of emphasis the moment he arrived in Minneapolis and it’s paying huge dividends in 2020.
After the game, Rashod Bateman called the Gopher OL the best in college football. It’s hard to disagree with him, at least when they are run blocking. I still can’t escape the nightmares of Michigan’s DL vs the Minnesota OL two weeks ago, when I wasn’t sure if Tanner Morgan was going to make it to week 2.
Still, the effort and commitment they’ve shown this season deserves a standing ovation. If the gROWing continues, I expect this Minnesota Gopher football team to continue trending up too. In a year where teams don’t even know how many games they will get in… you just need to rack up as many W’s as possible and see where the dust settles in the West when it’s all over.
Lastly, don’t count on Mo Ibrahim being around in 2021. If he continues to roll and stay healthy… the 2021 NFL Draft will be calling his name and he’d be silly not to answer.
Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan