(WCCO)- Week 1 of the season was a bit dicey for P.J. Fleck and company, as the Gophers held off an upset bid from the South Dakota State Jackrabbits 28-21.
Entering Week 2, they face a difficult task, flying out to the West Coast to Fresno, California for a matchup with the Fresno State Bulldogs, coached by Jeff Tedford. Fresno State nearly upset USC in it opening game of the season, with the Trojans needing an interception on the final drive to hold off the bid. With expectations raised for Fleck’s second year with the program, the Gophers are expected to win this game.
“What I think is interesting about it is, there are a lot of people predicting Minnesota to take the next step this year. There are a lot of people predicting Minnesota to have a really nice year and maybe even be in the mix in the Big Ten West. They certainly didn’t look like it,” said CBS Sports Network analyst Ross Tucker. “Maybe they are reading their press clippings a little bit too much, but they are going to have to play a lot better to beat Fresno State out there, because that is not an easy place to play either.”
The Bulldogs, under Tedford, are 11-1 playing in front of their home fans at Jim Sweeney Field at Bulldog Stadium. Their last loss there came back in 2017 against UNLV. That makes for a tough task for the Gophers on Saturday night. The Bulldogs offense looked solid against USC, with senior Jorge Reyna taking over the quarterback spot from departed starter Marcus McMaryion. Reyna compiled over 330 total yards (256 passing, 88 rushing) in the game, acting as the leading rusher for the team as well with 20 attempts.
But, the Bulldogs defense did show some vulnerability to the running game, allowing 175 yards on 36 carries (4.9 yards per carry average) to the Trojans. With the Gophers two-headed running attack of Mohamed Ibrahim and Rodney Smith, they could look to take advantage of that area of the Bulldogs defense. At the very least, the good news for the Gophers, according to Tucker, is that maybe the Big Ten West as a whole was a little over-hyped coming into the season.
“At a minimum, though, it doesn’t look like the Big Ten West is as good as some people thought it might be this year,” said Tucker. “Nebraska didn’t look particularly impressive, and they have Colorado this weekend. Northwestern did not look great in losing to Stanford. Iowa has lost their left tackle for a few weeks.”
The Gophers and Bulldogs kick off on Saturday night at 9:30 p.m. Central Time on CBS Sports Network.