The Minnesota Golden Gophers nearly knocked off USC in LA last week. Jerry Kill’s bunch will look to notch its first win of the season when they entertain the New Mexico State Aggies this Saturday afternoon.
This line opened at Minnesota -18, but early action on the Gophers has pushed it up to the neighborhood of 3 touchdowns. From my perspective, I think oddsmakers are handcuffed on this game. I think recent trends for Minnesota have forced the line to be set far too low. There’s value on the Gophers at -21, and I think I’d play them at anything under 24 points. Hint you can bet this game at Bookmaker Sportsbook and get a 25% free play bonus!
It’s somewhat difficult to predict what we’ll see from Minnesota, but I don’t feel that way about New Mexico State. I fully expect them to be terrible. Why wouldn’t they be? The Aggies haven’t made it to the .500 plateau since 2002. And they haven’t been losing nail biters, either. They lose, and they lose big.
Last week, the Aggies lost their home opener to the Ohio Bobcats, 44-24; going into the fourth quarter, Ohio led 44-17. The Ohio Bobcats – a middling MAC team – went to Las Cruces and throttled this team.
The box score is telling. Ohio rushed 47 times for 241 yards, while throwing 17-30 as a team for 211 yards. After scoring 44 points in three quarters with the recently-aforementioned offensive balance, I think it’s safe to say Ohio did whatever it wanted on offense.
The same cannot be said for New Mexico State. As a team, the Aggies rushed 23 times for 6 yards; that’s 0.3 yards per rush. New quarterback Andrew Manley, however, gave the Aggies a measure of respectability. Manley finished the day 22-41 for 362 yards, including 2 touchdowns and 1 interception. In the long run, Manley is reason for cautious optimism for Aggies fans; in the short run, however, optimism is in short supply.
Given New Mexico States’ obvious inability to run the football, look for Manley and company to air it out against Minnesota. Lucky for Minnesota, they had a week 1 tutorial on how to defend a great passing attack.
The Gophers played right with USC, save for the combination of Matt Barkley to Robert Woods. They held USC to 67 yards rushing on 28 carries (2.4 per rush), but Barkley finished 34-45 for 304 yards, 3 tds, and 0 ints. Upon closer examination, those numbers were inflated by an amazing receiver having the game of his life. Woods finished with 17 receptions for 177 yards and 3 tds; in other words, Woods caught half of Barkley’s completions for more than half of his yards and all of his touchdowns. That combo was the difference in the game.
My reasoning is if Minnesota can hold the much-ballyhooed USC offense in check, excepting Barkley to Woods, they should have no trouble shutting down New Mexico State at home. Believe it or not, the Gophers have one of the best back 7 in the Big Ten.
I have two pauses for concern. The first is the possibility of a letdown. Minnesota played inspired football in USC and lost a close game. Now that they’ve received way too much praise, do they come out flat in their home opener? The more I think about it, the more I doubt. If for no other reason, I’m unconvinced a team can come out flat against New Mexico State. Second, Minnesota put together a decent offensive performance against USC, but it was far from an explosion. Can they put up the points to cover this spread? Further, they have some questions at quarterback. Who starts? What’s the identity of the offense? But I think they have a disproportionate amount of talent when compared to the Aggies. They should be able to run the ball at will. Don’t be afraid to lay the points here.
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