Daily Breakdown: Minnesota a slight favorite over underrated Fresno State

Fresno State beat its last opponent by a score of 79-13.

Jack Warrick

The Gophers come off of a promising home opener beating New Mexico State 48-10. The new starting quarterback Zack Annexstad proved to be capable at running the offense with 220 passing yards going 16-33 in completions with two touchdowns and no interceptions.

This week, the Gophers may have more of a challenge as Fresno State scored the most points it has in a single game since 1991 when they beat Idaho 79-13. The Bulldogs recovered seven turnovers and gave up zero, a statistic that contributed to their overwhelming win over Idaho last week.

When Minnesota runs the ball:

The ground game has long been the Gophers most reliable and this year is more or less the same, based on the first game where they had 295 total rushing yards. In the first game, Annexstad threw 33 passes while the Gophers had 47 rushing attempts. Annexstad, himself, didn’t accumulate any net rushing yards on the day.

The Gophers are likely to rely on Rodney Smith, the veteran running back who got most of the touches in week one with 153 rushing yards to show for it. The two freshman running backs behind him, Mohamed Ibrahim and Bryce Williams, showed they were legitimate as the running back No. 2’s. Ibrahim recorded 101 yards on nine carries and Williams tallied a rushing touchdown.

However, Fresno State allowed just 102 rushing yards to Idaho last week, with one rushing touchdown.

Matchup to watch: running back Rodney Smith vs. line backer Jeff Allison

Advantage: Minnesota

When Fresno State runs the ball:

The Bulldogs recorded 239 rushing yards with seven touchdowns on the ground, with three coming from sophomore running back Jordan Mims. 

Fresno State had five different running backs contribute significantly in the win over Idaho, though none exceeded 50 rushing yards in the contest. 

The Gophers allowed just 38 rushing yards to New Mexico State in part because the Aggies only had 20 attempts. But the 1.9 average yards-per-carry allowed in its first game could be a good sign for the Gophers run stoppers.

Matchup to watch: running back Jordan Mims vs. line backer Blake Cashman

Advantage: Minnesota

When Minnesota passes the ball:

Last year, the Gophers were confined to one consistent wide receiver: Tyler Johnson. But the addition of freshman Rashod Bateman and the development of Chris Autman-Bell could improve the Gophers receiving prospects for the 2018 season.

Annexstad still has a lot to prove even though he led the team to a lopsided victory in his first game, this week Minnesota is against a better opponent could be a challenge for the young team.

The Bulldogs gave up 205 passing yards and one passing touchdown in its season opener to the Vandals. The Bulldogs defense had five interceptions and recovered two fumbles.

Matchup to watch: wide receiver Tyler Johnson vs. defensive back Anthoula Kelly

Advantage: Fresno State

When Fresno State passes the ball:

The Bulldogs quarterback Marcus McMaryion, a senior in his second year starting for the Bulldogs, completed 19-26 passes last week with 207 yards and no touchdowns or interceptions. 

Wide receiver KeeSean Johnson had 118 yards on six receptions last week. The team totaled 247 yards receiving as a wide receivers unit.

Last week, the Gophers went up against a pass heavy team when New Mexico State passed on 58 of its 78 total attempts. Minnesota allowed 233 receiving yards and one touchdown, intercepting one pass.

Matchup to watch: wide receiver KeeSean Johnson vs. defensive back Antoine Winfield Jr.

Advantage: Fresno State

Prediction:

Minnesota 24, Fresno State 21

Fresno State has not beat a Power 5 conference team since 2012. But with last week’s performance showing what the Bulldogs can do, this game against Minnesota is one that both teams should be focused on. 

A high-scoring one sided football game is not expected in this matchup as both teams had resounding victories in the first week with defenses holding their opponents under 14 points. The Gophers will need to limit interceptions and fumbles as Fresno State had seven turnovers in their favor last week — contributing to the 79 points scored by its offense. 

Everything else you need to know:

Start time: 6:30 p.m. CDT

Network: FOX Sports GO

Radio: KFAN 100.3

Line: Minnesota by 2.5