Minnesota vs. Rutgers prediction and game preview. The Golden Gophers try to keep the Scarlet Knights winless in Big Ten play when they meet Saturday.
Minnesota vs. Rutgers Game Preview
When: Saturday, Oct. 22 – Noon ET
Where: TCF Bank Stadium, Minneapolis.
TV Broadcast: ESPNU
Minnesota was able to snap its two-game losing streak Saturday despite missing quarterback Mitch Leidner, who is dealing with a concussion. Leidner again is listed as out for this week and there’s no specific timetable for his return. That means junior Conor Rhoda will get the call again after going 7 of 15 for 82 yards and a touchdown to win his first career start, 31-10, over Maryland.
Rhoda got plenty of help from the running game, but the Golden Gophers might not need to put up many points in this one. Rutgers has been outscored 174-14 while losing its first four Big Ten games as its losing streak in conference play hit nine with Saturday’s 24-7 loss to Illinois. As a result, quarterback Chris Laviano’s streak of 18 straight starts will come to an end this week as redshirt sophomore Gio Rescigno gets the nod under center.
What To Know About Minnesota
It’s clear coach Tracy Claeys didn’t want to put too much pressure on Rhoda last week. That could change now that the former walk-on has a start under his belt, but there’s no doubt Rodney Smith will be the focal point of the offense again. Smith ran 18 times for 144 yards and two touchdowns against Maryland for his third 100-yard game of the season and seventh touchdown, which is tied for third in the Big Ten.
The most successful stat from Rhoda’s first start, though, is that the Gophers didn’t turn the ball over. They did register four takeaways, giving them seven over the last two weeks. Rutgers’ 12 turnovers are the second-most in the conference.
What To Know About Rutgers
Those giveaways have frustrated coach Chris Ash, and he’s decided to go with Rescigno this week. Rescigno replaced Laviano against Illinois and finished 10 of 18 for 120 yards and a touchdown, ending an 11-quarter scoring drought for the Scarlet Knights. Laviano lost a fumble before leaving, and Ash is hoping Rescigno can help Rutgers move the ball like he did at times last week.
Scoring points is as much of a concern as stopping the opposition, though. Rutgers is 13th in the Big Ten in total defense and has allowed over 1,500 yards over its last three games alone. How the Scarlet Knights are going to stop Smith is anyone’s guess considering foes are averaging 7.4 yards per carry over the last three.
Offense: Minnesota – Smith is the Big Ten’s third-leading rusher and Drew Wolitarsky provides a nice target for Rhoda.
Defense: Minnesota – See above regarding Rutgers’ fledgling unit.
Special Teams: Minnesota – Scarlet Knights punter Michael Cintron ranks last in the conference in average yards per punt.
Coaching: Even – Rutgers’ results so far don’t reflect Ash’s coaching ability.
Intangibles: Even – This is the first-ever meeting between the schools.
Matchup To Watch
Rescigno vs. Minnesota’s pass defense
Rescigno’s first start could be coming at the right time. Minnesota’s pass defense is ranked 12th in the Big Ten, and if he can make smart decisions and not turn the ball over, Rutgers could hang around in this one.
Spread: Minnesota -19
Over/Under: No Line
Minnesota vs. Rutgers Prediction
Minnesota wins the battle of new quarterbacks, as Rodney Smith picks up another 100-yard rushing game to go along with two touchdowns.
Minnesota vs. Rutgers final score prediction: Minnesota 38, Rutgers 14