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While college football wonders about Scott Frost and the Nebraska Cornhuskers, there’s another team in the division to watch. P.J. Fleck’s Minnesota Gophers enter the year as a dark horse team on the rise. There aren’t many giving them a fair shot at the Big Ten West, but they’ll compete hard for that title. In their way first is South Dakota State. The Jackrabbits are one of the best teams at the FCS level, and will give Minnesota some good looks. Will it be enough? Probably not, but that’s due to the Gophers talent level.
How to watch: FS1
Start Time: 8:00pm CT
Location: TCF Bank Stadium (Minneapolis, MN)
South Dakota State Jackrabbits to watch
QB J’Bore Gibbs
WR Cade Johnson
OT Evan Greenway
LB Christian Rozeboom
Minnesota Gophers to watch
QB Tanner Morgan
RB’s Rodney Smith/Shannon Brooks/Mohamed Ibrahim
WR Tyler Johnson
DE Carter Coughlin
S Antoine Winfield Jr.
Why South Dakota State wins
Unfortunately for the Jackrabbits, this isn’t the Tim Brewster days for the Minnesota Gophers. That doesn’t necessarily count them out, but this team is much more stable. Still, SDSU will give the Gophers everything they’ve got. Cade Johnson gives Gibbs (or whichever quarterback is out there) a reliable target. He’ll test the Minnesota secondary.
If you’re SDSU, you’ve got nothing to lose. Leave everything on the field. Throw out some trick plays, run a few fakes on special teams. Do everything you can to keep Minnesota on their heels. Week 1 sets up nicely for upsets because neither team knows much about their opponent. If the Jackrabbits want to pull of a stunner, they must be unpredictable.
Why the Minnesota Gophers win
P.J. Fleck’s taken this team to new heights in a short period of time. The wins might not be there yet, but they will be soon. A few years ago, it might be tougher to explain why the Minnesota Gophers would beat South Dakota State than the other way around. Not anymore. Fleck’s given this team new life, and there’s talent everywhere.
Tanner Morgan’s the starter at quarterback, at least for now. Regardless of the concerns surrounding that position, they won’t have to do much. Minnesota’s running backs are deep with the return of both Rodney Smith and Shannon Brooks from injury. Tyler Johnson is one of the best receivers in the country. Defensively, Minnesota showed tremendous promise towards the end of the year. It’s the first time in what seems like forever that we’re talking this positively about Minnesota heading into the season. They win this game because they’re more talented, and more stable than in the past.
A loss for Minnesota would be devastating here. It takes away everything we thought we knew about this team heading into the year. It seems highly unlikely, however. South Dakota State will compete for an FCS championship this year, but they won’t beat the Gophers. MINNESOTA 34 SOUTH DAKOTA STATE 17