PJ Fleck

Tale Of The Tape: Minnesota

Have you ever gone to the movies and all of the previews were terrible? That is kind of how I feel about the month of November for the Buckeyes leading up to ‘The Game’.

Sure, there were lots of people involved in putting the movies together in the previews with actors, directors, producers and countless other support people who won’t get noticed all that much. They put their love, sweat and tears into that film.

Yet, you just really don’t care.

And for our final preview, I present the Minnesota Golden Gophers.

“I really didn’t see it coming… at one point things were fine and then suddenly it became a tragedy” – Nebraska (lost 13-10 to Minnesota)

“I went into this with expectations and Brian Ferentz lost his popcorn money. Spent most of the time in the lobby and forgot to score points” – Iowa (lost 12-10 to Minnesota)

“We didn’t even think we would pay the price of admission, glad we did and left laughing” – Northwestern (37-34 winners in OT over Minnesota)

“We saw all the signs” – Michigan (52-10 winners over Minnesota)

How will the Buckeyes rate this one? Winning the last 11 in a row in this series and seeing a Gophers team that is just not all that good should be a good sign, but the Buckeyes can’t look ahead to the feature presentation, not quite yet.

Grab your popcorn, it’s time for the Tale of the Tape.

Tale of the Tape Offense
Ohio StateStatRankMinnesotaStatRank
Rushing Offense138.6 YPG88thRushing Defense137.4 YPG45th
Passing Offense290.2 YPG19thPass Eff. Defense138.7187th
Scoring Offense33.3 PPG29thScoring Defense25.8 PPG61st

Kyle McCord may not be the leading man on this team but he is that supporting role that you have to be able to count on. Riggs had Murtaugh, Walter White had Jesse and Dirty Harry had… well, his gun. And while McCord may not be making everyone’s day, he certainly is coming off of a solid game against Michigan State and will face another defense that is not exactly a bullet-proof vest (not that one would stop a .44). Marvin Harrison Jr. is going to get top billing in this picture and he is putting an assault on the Ohio State record book but the Buckeyes still need to get more out of their other receivers. Cade Stover had a big game and looked like he could set all of the single-game tight end receiving records but there is more time for that, keeping him healthy and sharp is the most important thing. Emeka Egbuka looked off in the game but we know he is still working on getting himself right after missing some time with an injury. We finally had a chance to see what Lincoln Kienholtz looks like on the field with Devin Brown being held out after a small pregame tweak. This could be another appearance for the young Ohio State QB if things go according to plan, but this also could be an important game to get McCord as many reps as possible with what waits ahead.

Opposing teams have been successful throwing the ball against this team and mind you, the Big Ten West is not exactly the cradle of quarterbacks in 2023. Opponents are close to 7.6 yards per attempt against the Gophers and the only two quarterbacks of note that have gone against Minnesota have been Drake Maye (UNC) and JJ McCarthy (Michigan). Even with all of that, Tyler Nubin has four interceptions on the year, but those have been spread out with two taking place in the opener against Nebraska. Let’s just put it this way, Purdue threw for close to 300 yards and three touchdowns and this is not a Jeff Brohm wide-open offense Boilermakers team, but a Ryan Walters defensive-minded team (at least in design, not quite in execution as he is in year one).


Ohio State’s run game is not quite back to the style of Big Ten play from a yesteryear but TreVeyon Henderson continues to impress as he does what the Buckeyes ask of him. Last week was not a big result for the run game but with the passing game humming, the marching orders really were to keep drives moving and the Buckeyes ahead of the chains. Mission accomplished. The redshirt for Dallan Hayden continues to remain intact as Evan Pryor stepped in for much of the second half action for Ohio State in a game that was decided by the halftime whistle. The Buckeyes have scored at least one rushing touchdown in every game so far this season and that streak should continue. Ohio State has run for more than 175 yards in three of its last five games and that should also get up to four out of the last six with the Buckeyes looking to put this game on ice as quickly as possible and then run out the clock to get to the finale against you know who.

It has been mission impossible for the Minnesota defense without linebacker Cody Lindbergh and while there is some hope of getting their star defender back, we will just have to wait and see for the player who has only been able to go twice this season. Minnesota has been okay but not great against the run in the sense that teams are only rushing for 137 yards per game against the unit but teams are finding the end zone with 13 touchdowns allowed to just 10 scored. The Gophers have one of my favorite names in all of college football on their defensive unit with Maverick Baranowski. He leads the team tackles and it probably a pretty mean pilot as well.


Ohio State’s offensive line continues to show small strides towards improvement but it is far from a finished deal. We did see an interesting change during the Michigan State game where Matt Jones slid to center and Enokk Vimahi came in at guard. That doesn’t seem to be a change that is going to be made on the permanent but does give the Buckeyes a different look if the situation should arise, thinking more about next week than this week against Michigan, at Michigan. Ohio State did not face a lot of pressure when it came to getting after McCord last week but that might change this week as the Minnesota defense has the potential of being more active, at least in sending pressure. Now, will that result in any success? Only time will tell there but McCord may need to leave the magazine on the sideline but we would expect a little less time to scan the field this week versus the previous one.

It’s a buddy film like no other when you get Jah Joyner and Danny Striggow together. This dynamic duo have combined for 11 sacks for the Gophers, half of their season total. Both measure in at identical 6-foot-5, 250-pounds and while some of the numbers may be a result of lesser competition, the Buckeyes will need to account for both of these players as the Gophers can look at the film against Michigan State and decide that was the wrong way to go about things.

Tale of the Tape Defense
Ohio StateStatRankMinnesotaStatRank
Rushing Defense112.4 YPG21stRushing Offense160.4 YPG63rd
Pass Eff. Defense93.061stPassing Offense158.2 YPG121st
Scoring Defense9.9 PPG2ndScoring Offense22.5 PPG100th

It sounds like Lathan Ransom potentially could be back for a bowl game but even that might be a stretch and obviously it would need to be one that was attached to the CFP. That is a real loss as he had rounded into a significant star in the secondary but that means more opportunity for Sonny Styles to show off his versatility as Ohio State’s “Swiss Army knife”. How is Josh Proctor doing on the mend? Is this the game to bring him back up-to-speed or do the Buckeyes know what they have there and in that, hold him for another week? Denzel Burke and Jordan Hancock are both playing at a high level and Hancock has really come on as of late. Ohio State holding Michigan State to fewer than 100 yards passing may be a bit of an outlier in terms of the offense that the Spartans possess, but the Buckeyes have given up more than 200 passing yards once this season, and have not allowed any team more than one passing touchdown on the season. The Gophers may not have beaten Ohio State in a football game since 2000 but that doesn’t mean that they have not put up points, scoring at least 14 in the last four games. But this Ohio State defense going against this Minnesota offense is a bad mix for PJ Fleck.

Okay, it is a different kind of Greek when you talk about Minnesota quarterback Athan Kalikmanis but the Greek Council would likely give him a thumbs down for his season to date. He is a 52-percent passer and while he does have 13 touchdowns, he also has seven picks on the negative side of things and is throwing for less than 160 yards per game. If you want to know where the ball is likely going, look for No. 9, Daniel Jackson, he has close to 35-percent of all Minnesota receptions and seven of the 13 passing touchdowns. The senior receiver comes in at 6-foot, 200-pounds, so he doesn’t jump off the sheet for being a big receiver or being a little slot guy, but he really is the main weapon of the offense in the throw game. Brevyn Spann-Ford has been at Minnesota since the state was admitted to the Union, or at least it feels that way. He is a huge target at 6-foot-7, 270-pounds. He has touchdowns in his last two games and could be an interesting match-up for Ohio State to have to try and defend.


This really comes down to a few comments and discussion points as we try and get through this movie. Is Tommy Eichenberg going to be back this week or can he be ‘that much healthier’ missing another game and suiting up for Michigan? Cody Simon stepped into the role and played very well and while Tommy is a captain of the defense, Cody has taken enough mental reps to fill that leadership void that is created when Tommy is not out there. It may be best to not play Tommy, knowing what kind of physical game awaits a week from now and with a Gopher offense that is not putting up a lot of points and while it has been a team that has made its way on the ground in past seasons, this year has not been one of them

Will Darius Taylor be back? Hamstrings are difficult and Fleck was not willing to tell anyone anything about him because he likely doesn’t know either and won’t until the availability report comes out. Taylor played in five games and was just shy of 600 yards (net) along with four scores. Granted, that was early in the season, going against non-conference opponents and you can’t just take numbers from them and multiply them out for the season, but he would be Minnesota’s best option, provided he is healthy enough not to reinjure himself and face another setback. Jordan Nubin has picked up a lot of the slack with close to 400 yards and two scores on the season on just 81 carries. But as you go down the chart, there just isn’t much there in the running back room and while the Minnesota QB can get out there and run, he is not going to remind anyone of Gavin Wimsatt (Rutgers) or Taulia Tagovailoa (Maryland).


The Buckeyes could have some opportunity in this one as the Gophers offensive line has not been able to protect its quarterback this season. Ohio State will miss having Mike Hall out there but that could mean more chances for a young player like Hero Kanu to see playing time in higher leverage situations, even if those are few and far between when it comes to facing this Minnesota offense. This will be a game potentially where both J.T. Tuimoloau and Jack Sawyer each could see a short afternoon of work as the Buckeyes should be able to sub at-will at the defensive end position. In short, my expectations are not for a huge output game in terms of sacks and tackles for loss, but the Buckeyes should be able to keep the Minnesota offense sped-up and running around here in the precursor to the game that we all are waiting to witness.

Once I decided to do a movie theme (sort of) angle here and it was for Minnesota, you knew this was coming. I don’t have a whole lot to add about the Minnesota offensive line, they have given up some sacks, had their quarterback hit and rushed, have not been great at run blocking and yet, here we are. Minnesota was known for putting out talented high school offensive linemen for years and for whatever reason, things have not come together this year. But North Carolina recorded only one sack, Michigan had two, so it is not as if the best teams on the schedule have run wild over this unit. But overall the numbers are there from week-to-week and the Buckeyes should be in a position to get their mitts on the Gopher quarterback a few times.

Tale of the Tape Special Teams
StatOhio StateRankMinnesotaRank
Net Punting38.69 YPP67th40.60 YPP27th
Punt Returns4.56 YPR111th9.25 YPR55th
Kick Returns19.73 YPR68th11.00 YPR130th
FG Percentage11-13 (84.6%)N/A21-25 (84%)N/A

Nobody should have great expectations of either special teams unit. Ohio State still seems to be bound and determined for one issue per game and the Gophers are last in the nation on kick returns in a day and age where fair catches are all the rage. Minnesota is very active in the kicking game however with Dragan Kesich attempting 25 field goals on the season, connecting on 21 of them. He has a long of 54 yards and is 2-3 from 50+. Minnesota is not going to win this game kicking field goals, but could make bettors nervus with a 27 to 28 point line (at time of writing) and Ohio State seemingly topping out in the upper-30s in terms of scoring in conference games.

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