The Gophers Should Destroy Miami (OH)

PHOTO: AARON LAVINSKY, STAR TRIBUNE

If last week’s primetime game vs the Ohio State Buckeyes didn’t calm your fears about how the Minnesota Gophers would compete in 2021, this weekend should help. The Maroon and Gold offense, which had no problems moving the ball last week vs OSU, will lineup opposite a Miami (OH) Redhawk defense that surrendered 542 total yards and 49 points to their in-state big brother, the Cincinnati Bearcats.

Sure, the Bearcats were a very formidable opponent, ranked #8 nationally at the time. But when you watch the Miami (OH) vs Cincinnati game back, Miami’s defense looks even worse than what the numbers showed. Oh, you didn’t think that was possible? Just watch a few plays from this 10-minute sped-up full-game highlight tape.

The first snap of the game was an 75-yard Cincinnati touchdown pass and things didn’t get much better for the Redhawk defense from there.

Matchup Problem in the trenches

The strongest unit on the Minnesota Gophers football team is their offensive line. It touts three to five future NFL players, depending on who you ask, and goes seven or eight guys deep. They impressed scouts (and wannabe scouts) across the internet last week, when they held up against one of the best defensive lines in the country.

Again, Cinci has a good team and I’m sure their offensive line has plenty of talent on it too. Even so, the holes they were opening vs Miami (OH) could have fit a school bus or two. The Bearcats ran a lot of zone scheme out of their shotgun, which the Gophers love to do, as well.

Even without Mo Ibrahim to run behind them, Minnesota should be able to win this game on the ground, alone. If Tanner Morgan can catch some fire through the air… then the end score will look a lot like what the Redhawks saw when they looked up at the scoreboard last weekend. The weakest part of the Miami defense is their secondary. So this is a good opportunity for Morgan to gain confidence.

Concerns?

While the Miami (OH) defense looked like swiss cheese vs the #8 team in the country last week, the Redhawks are very excited for their front-seven when not playing against power-5 competition. This shouldn’t stop the Gophers from moving the ball on the ground, but it could mean Tanner Morgan has to make some early 2nd or 3rd down throws, while the offense adjusts to life without Ibrahim.

On offense, the Redhawks were without their starting quarterback last week, Brett Gabbert (brother of Blaine Gabbert), and he’s expected to return for Saturday’s matchup. In all reality, that shouldn’t matter. But, we still don’t know what this new Minnesota Gophers defense is going to look like vs competition that isn’t Ohio State University. The Gopher defense NEEDS to stop allowing big plays. PJ Fleck expects Jordan Howden to return at safety, after leaving the game early last week, which should help.

Miami (OH), believe it or not, plans to contend for a MAC championship this fall. To do that, they’ll have to bounce back quickly from huge losses vs power 5 competition. The Redhawks won’t come into Minneapolis with their shoulders sagging and heads hung. They’re going to come in with a lot of energy and hope for early momentum. The Gophers need to crush that hope immediately.

Early Season Struggles of Years Past

The power-5 Minnesota Gophers should run the MAC Miami (OH) right out of Huntington Bank Stadium on Saturday. But before you put it in the books, let’s not forget the early season struggles PJ Fleck endured on his way to an 11-2 record in 2019.

Three of those eleven wins came vs South Dakota State (28-21), Fresno State (38-35 OT) and Georgia Southern (35-32) in September of that year. The Gophers almost got beat in all three. That same team would finish the season with wins vs top-10 ranked Penn State and Auburn (Outback Bowl). Nothing is guaranteed in football.

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan