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Gophers football vs. Colorado: Keys to game, how to watch and who has edge

The Gophers shut out Colorado 30-0 last September

NCAA Football: Western Illinois at Minnesota
Minnesota Golden Gophers running back Mohamed Ibrahim (24) evades Western Illinois Leathernecks defensive back Corey Scott (24) in the second quarter at Huntington Bank Stadium on Sept. 10, 2022.
Matt Blewett / USA Today Sports
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Colorado at Minnesota

When: 2:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Huntington Bank Stadium
TV: ESPN2
Radio: KFAN, 100.3 FM
Weather: 79 degrees, partly cloudy, 7 mph
Betting favorite: Minnesota, -27.5

Records: Minnesota is 2-0 after blowout wins over New Mexico State and Western Illinois by a combined score of 100-10. Colorado is 0-2 after getting overrun in losses to Texas Christian and Air Force by a total of 79-13.

History: The Gophers shut out Colorado 30-0 last September in Boulder in front of a large maroon-and-gold contingent in the Rocky Mountain foothills. It was the U’s first win in four previous matchups with the Buffs.

Key matchup: Mike Sanford Jr. vs Joe Rossi: The former Gophers offensive coordinator/current Colorado OC vs. Minnesota’s defensive coordinator. Rossi’s defense led Minnesota’s nine-win season in 2021, while Sanford’s offense lagged behind and his contract was not renewed. They know intimate details about how the other operates, but Rossi has much better athletes and has shown the ability to execute consistently.

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Minnesota scored 20 unanswered points in the second half

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Who has the edge?

Gophers offense vs. Colorado defense: Minnesota is No. 1 in the nation with an average of 582 yards offense per game, while the Colorado defense is 104th at 428 allowed. U offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca said it’s too early for anyone to say the U has a great offense or defense: “There is just not enough data yet.” … Minnesota is one of 10 programs to not allow a sack through two games. Colorado’s ‘D’ hasn’t registered a sack. … Minnesota’s touchdown breakdown: 12 rushing; one passing. Colorado is dead last with 355 rushing yards allowed per game, but Ciarrocca was willing to toss out the Air Force game because of the Falcons’ triple-option offense and wanted to focus on the TCU game, which was 7-6 at half — before the Horned Frogs scored 31 unanswered points in second half. … Mo Ibrahim, Trey Potts and Co. should have big holes to run through. … Tanner Morgan is the third-highest graded QB this season at 92.3, per Pro Football Focus College. The Gophers have had nine rushers and 11 pass catchers through Week 2. EDGE: Gophers

Gophers defense vs. Colorado offense: Minnesota is No. 1 in the country with 142 yards allowed per game, while Colorado is 125th at 255 yards gained. … Sanford has played two quarterbacks through two games (J.T. Shrout and Brendon Lewis), and neither has had much success, with one combined passing touchdown and one interception. Rossi is preparing his unit to face both QBs. … S Jordan Howden bounced back from allowing an explosive play to making an interception in the Gophers’ 62-10 win over Western Illinois last week. … Minnesota has had 28 defensive players make a tackle through two games and 19 have played at least 20 snaps; this will help with their depth as the season progresses. … Five defensive linemen have created three pressures apiece (Thomas Rush, Danny Striggow, Jalen Logan Redding, Kyler Baugh and Trill Carter), per PFF. Rossi has emphasized turning pressures into sacks. Striggow, Logan-Redding and Rush have one sack each this season. … The Buffaloes lost their best playmaker, RB Jarek Broussard, who transferred to No. 11 Michigan State, the U’s opponent next week. RB Deion Smith leads the team with 45 yards per game. EDGE: Gophers

Special teams: To underscore how dominant the Gophers have been against lower-level opponents this season: Dragan Kesich has 17 kickoffs and Mark Crawford has two punts. Both kickers — the U’s Matthew Trickett and Colorado’s Cole Becker — are 3 for 3 on field goals. EDGE: Gophers

Prediction: Sanford might relish the opportunity for revenge against his former employer, but he does not have the players to dent what appears to be the makings of another stout Gopher defense. Gophers, 42-6

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