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2018 Big Ten Football Preview: Minnesota Golden Gophers

Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota

2017 record: 5-7 (2-7 Big Ten)

Head Coach: P.J. Fleck

2018 record: 3-1 (0-1 Big Ten)

All-time record vs. Ohio State: 7-44

What has happened thus far in 2018:

Minnesota found early season success in its nonconference schedule. Starting the 2018 season with a three-game winning streak, the Gophers outscored New Mexico State, Fresno State and Miami (Ohio) 95-27. With a 3-0 nonconference record, Minnesota traveled to College Park and lost to Maryland 42-12 after a slow first half and a poor defensive performance.

Impact Player:

Freshman quarterback Zack Annexstad has made strides in the passing game for Fleck’s offense in his collegiate debut. Annexstad completed 16-of-33 pass attempts for 220 yards and two touchdowns against New Mexico State, helping lead the team to 522 yards of total offense. This season, the freshman quarterback has completed 52.3 percent of his passes, throwing five touchdowns and two interceptions. Despite the loss against Maryland, the increased number of passing and rushing yards will create more opportunities for Annexstad to succeed down the stretch.

Strengths:

The biggest strength for Minnesota this year is its offense. Entering his second year, offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca has produced a high-tempo offense that so far has accumulated 1,387 yards of total offense, with 748 total passing and 639 total rushing yards so far this season. This offense outshined the Aggies defense, totaling 23 first downs, 522 yards of total offense, 295 rushing yards and 227 passing yards in the season opener.

Weaknesses:

In the first three games of the season, Minnesota’s defense started off strong, holding teams to under 14 points. However, when the Gophers took a trip to Maryland, the defense gave up 42 points to the Terrapins’ offense. Maryland defense was positive when it controlled the game against the Aggies, giving up no points in the second half and holding New Mexico State to 271 yards on total offense.

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