A favorite stereotype used in sports is to ask if such and such a team is “real”.
We’re about to learn a lot about this year’s Minnesota Gophers.
Minnesota started off 3-0 in non-conference play, beating three straight opponents, none of whom have had a win this season, including an FCS team.
Now comes the start of the Big Ten games, as the Gophers set out to face Michigan State, which beat two MAC teams before losing in Washington last week.
Has the lack of competition strengthened feelings about Minnesota, which now has to deal with the absence of top receiver Chris Autman-Bell? Well, Las Vegas sees the visiting Gophers as the three-point favorite.
We’ve witnessed a smokescreen and will Minnesota’s excellent record end on Saturday or is the perception really real?
Here are this week’s predictions on the web:
Pete Fiutak of Collegefootballnews.com: Minnesota 31, Michigan State 27. “Minnesota doesn’t suck. That’s the biggest win of the easy first three games – sharp if not necessarily the team. Just two turnovers and ten penalties in three games and a game like this.” Michigan State will play better than Seattle’s, but Minnesota will continue to dominate the battle for possession – nation-leading the ball for 40 minutes per game so far, closing a tough fight with late, overwhelming force will get through.”
Detroit Free Press authors: Carlos Monarrez – Minnesota 37, Michigan State 30; Rainer Sabin – Michigan State 26, Minnesota 23; Jeff Seidel – Michigan State 27, Minnesota 24; Chris Solari – Minnesota 31, Michigan State 27; Shawn Windsor – 26 State of Michigan, 24 Minnesota.
Matt Wenzel of Mlive.com: Michigan State 27, Minnesota 24. “Minnesota could continue to win the West Division, or it could be a good team beating less schedules for the first three weeks. Meanwhile, Michigan State’s inability to get the ball in and the resurgence of pass defense troubles last week are major red flags. If the Spartans can at least limit Abraham’s damage on the field, forcing Morgan to play with his arm and create the missing pressure against Washington, they’ll have a good chance of avoiding a 0-1 start to the Big Ten game. ”
Graham Couch of the Lansing State Journal: Michigan State 30, Minnesota 27. “The Gophers, 3-point favorites are somewhat understandable, given MSU’s performance last week and the Gophers’ 3-0 start. But it’s a line based on faith and the luck of the program. Because if MSU had played at home against Colorado last week (which might be the worst team in the fifth power conference), it might as well have been 3-0 with all the good vibes Minnesota has. It’s hard to choose MSU after what we’ve just seen. But at home, after being humiliated, I think the Spartans put on a focused performance. And I don’t think the Gophers’ passing game was designed to hurt the MSU like Washington’s. ”
Former Mississippi State and Florida head coach Dan Mullen: State of Ohio.
Kerry Miller of Bleacher Report: Michigan State 31, Minnesota 28. “Michigan State’s front seven are solid. The secondary Spartans and Minnesota, which left much to be desired, were nothing close to productive in the air stretching into early 2020. Michigan State keeps Minnesota under 200 fast yards and dodges in a home win.
JP Scott of Athlon Sports: Minnesota 30, Michigan State 16. “While Minnesota will likely feel the impact of Autman-Bell’s absence early on, the Golden Gophers seem to be able to function normally offensively overall. However, the same cannot be said for the Michigan State attack. Minnesota seems to have a clear advantage in the trenches on either side of the ball, and statistics back it up. The Spartans are also coming out of a bad loss on the way to Washington, which they have suffered in many areas. Look for the visiting Gophers not to be beaten by a pretty comfortable win in the Big Ten openers, especially outside of a key comeback on defense. ”
Brad Crawford of 247 Sports: Michigan State 31, Minnesota 30. “For those of you waiting for a comeback game for the Spartans, PJ Fleck and Minnesota may have other plans. If the Golden Gophers can make Michigan State one-dimensional and stack the box against Jalen Berger, that’s the recipe for success with the anticipation plays made last game. Michigan State’s porous secondary system doesn’t seem to have been fixed yet, and this will hurt the Spartans during conference play. It’s an important game for Mel Tucker’s team coming out of the New Year’s Six game, but a Minnesota win puts this team into the Big Ten title debate after the first month of the season as the West favorites. I’m going to try to hit the middle here and try to win Michigan State and protect Minnesota.”
Randy Johnson of the Star Tribune: Minnesota 27, Michigan State 20. “The combination of offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca and defensive Joe Rossi helped the Gophers maintain a calm, detail-oriented approach. Morgan spreads the ball around and Abraham continues to gain yards after touchdown. A Spartan defense that lets Washington’s Michael Penix Jr. pass for 397 yards might be something the Gophers could take advantage of. If Minnesota’s defensive line can prevent Thorne from breaking control, good things could happen for the Gophers due to their deep secondary traits that play confidently.”
Spartans Wire writers: Andrew Brewster – Michigan State 21, Minnesota 17; Cory Linsner – Michigan State 35, Minnesota 30; Robert Bondy – Michigan State 31, Minnesota 27.
Trent Knoop of Wolverines Wire: Minnesota 31, Michigan State 28.
Riley Donald of Hawkeyes Wire: Michigan State 28, Minnesota 21. “Michigan State lost to Washington last weekend in a hostile environment, but it can likely count on a great matchup experience. The fact that Minnesota is the first test of the season this time at the Michigan State home can tell a lot.”
Elections and Matches: Minnesota 24, Michigan State 20
Dominick Petrillo of Sportsbook Wire: Michigan State 24, Minnesota 21.
Bill Connelly From ESPN: S&P+ projection ranks Minnesota 26th, Michigan State 26th.
Two out of three Athlon Sports analysts pick Minnesota to win.
Two out of four analysts at FootballScoop.com predict Minnesota victory.