Start Time: 3:30 p.m. EST, Sept. 14
Location: TCF Bank Stadium; Minneapolis, MN
Records: Georgia Southern (1-1), Minnesota (1-0)
Weather: 73 degrees at kickoff, 10 mph winds
TV: Big 10 Network
Betting Line: Minn -15.5, O/U 45
Georgia Southern will face off with a familiar head coach on the opponent’s sideline, as P.J. Fleck leads Minnesota into this home contest with the team from Statesboro.
The Eagles faced off against Fleck when he was at the helm for Western Michigan, splitting the two meetings with the then-Broncos coach in a pair of blowouts for each team in 2015 and 2016.
Coming into this one, Eagles’ quarterback Shai Werts’ injury status has been deemed ‘day-to-day’, which is literally speaking the least helpful information Chad Lunsford can give to the media.
Justin Tomlin looked good in Werts’ absence last week, running for 132 yards with a score, and going 4-of-9 passing through the air for 63 yards. The real questions for GS come from its consistency and ability to do the simple things, such as being able to hold on to the football and snapping the ball to the quarterback instead of 20 yards over the quarterback’s head.
The game against Maine was a nice little break between road contests against Power 5 schools for Southern, as both Matt LaRoche and Logan Wright each went over the century-mark in the 26-18 victory.
If GS can get out to a hot start early and execute on so many of the little issues that plagued the team last week, it may have a shot against Fleck and crew.
Minnesota has proven itself over the first two weeks of the season to play down to competition as well. Close calls against South Dakota State and Fresno State have shown that the Golden Gophers may not be world-beaters by any stretch of the imagination.
Minnesota quarterback Tanner Morgan has been fine in two games this season, tossing 3 touchdowns to just 1 pick while averaging just 205 passing yards per game. The running back combination of Rodney Smith and Mohamed Ibrahim should be the biggest concern for the Eagles’ defense, as the two have each shown the ability to tote the rock a bit, albeit in a low volume offense.
As far as pass-catchers go for the Gophers, it really begins and ends with sophomore Rashod Bateman, who is on a six-catch, 119 yard per game pace through the two contests this year, and has already hauled in a pair of scores.
To be totally fair, Minnesota’s defense has not been lights out or anything this year, surrendering an average of 28 points per game in its wins, but the offense seems to do just enough to get victories.
That’s good news for a Georgia Southern team that has struggled to find consistent footing through a 1-1 start while picking up a win last week.
Minnesota’s rush defense has been spotty as well, as South Dakota State ran for 174 yards as a team in the week one contest.
On the GS side of things, the key will be for its pass defense to settle in early and force Tanner Morgan to do more than he has the first two weeks of the season.
The Eagles’ got gashed on the first drive against Maine, but eventually found its footing and Black Bears quarterback Chris Ferguson did not look great for the remainder of the game. My biggest concern is that Minnesota would not afford Southern the same time to get settled in that it found in the win over Maine last week.
To be perfectly honest, I think Georgia Southern comes out slow in this one like it has in the first two games of this season and Minnesota makes the Eagles pay for it. I like the Golden Gophers to cover here until I see any semblance of consistency and the ability to win a big-time road game from Southern.
Score: Minnesota 35, Georgia Southern 13