A favorite cliché used in sports is to ask if she and the team “are real.”
Well, we’re about to learn a lot about this year’s Minnesota Gophers.
Minnesota has swept three straight opponents – none of whom are winless this season, and that includes an FCS team – to start 3-0 in non-conference play.
Now comes the start of Big Ten play with the Gophers going on the road to face Michigan State, which beat two MAC teams before losing at Washington last week.
Has the lack of competition heightened feelings for Minnesota, which now has to deal with the absence of top receiver Chris Autman-Bell? Well, Las Vegas has the visiting Gophers as three-point favorites.
Have we seen a smoke screen and Minnesota’s perfect record will end on Saturday, or is perception actually reality?
Here are this week’s predictions from around the web:
Collegefootballnews.com’s Pete Fiutak: Minnesota 31, Michigan State 27. “Minnesota just doesn’t do it. just two turnovers and ten penalties in three games, and they’re not going to start making the big mistakes in a game like this. Michigan State will play better than they did in Seattle, but Minnesota will continue to dominate the possession battle — holding the ball for a nation-leading 40 minutes per game so far — and survive a tough matchup with a late, tough movement to close it.”
Detroit Free Press Editors: 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 Michigan State, 24 Minnesota.
Mlive.com’s Matt Wenzel: Michigan State 27, Minnesota 24. “Minnesota could win the West Division, or this could just be a decent team that undershot the first three weeks. Meanwhile, Michigan State’s inability to run the ball and the resurgence of woes in pass defense last week are major red flags. If the Spartans can at least limit the damage Ibrahim does on the ground, force Morgan to make plays with his arm and apply the pressure he lacked against Washington, they’ll have a good chance to avoid an 0-1 start in Big Ten game. .”
Graham Couch of the Lansing State Journal: Michigan State 30, Minnesota 27. “The Gophers are 3-point favorites, which, given MSU’s performance last week and the Gophers’ 3-0 start, is somewhat understandable. But that’s a line based on faith and program luck. Because if MSU last week played at home against Colorado (who might be the worst team in a power-five conference), it might as well have been 3-0, with all the good feelings Minnesota has. It’s hard to pick MSU after what we just saw. But at home, after being humiliated, I think the Spartans put on a focused performance. And I don’t think the Gophers’ passing game is built to hurt MSU the way Washington’s was.”
Former Mississippi State and Florida coach Dan Mullen: Ohio State.
Bleacher Report’s Kerry Miller: Michigan State 31, Minnesota 28. “Michigan State’s front seven is solid, though. It’s the Spartans secondary that leaves a lot to be desired, and Minnesota hasn’t been productive through the air at all dating back to the start of 2020. Michigan State holds Minnesota under 200 rushing yards and escapes with the 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, it looks like the Golden Gophers, by and large, will be able to function normally on offense. However, the same cannot be said for Michigan’s offense. Minnesota seems to have a clear advantage in the trenches on both sides of the ball, and the stats back it up. The Spartans are also coming off a bad loss on the road to Washington where they were exposed in several areas. Barring a major upset, especially on defense, look for the visiting Gophers to stay undefeated with a fairly comfortable win in their Big Ten opener.”
Brad Crawford of 247 Sports: Michigan State 31, Minnesota 30. “For those of you expecting a bounce-back 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 a recipe for success with anticipation plays in the passing game. Michigan State’s porous secondary doesn’t seem to be fixed yet, and that will hurt the Spartans down the stretch of the game. This is an important game for Mel Tucker’s crew coming off a New Year’s Six appearance, but a win for Minnesota puts this team in the Big Ten title conversation as the favorite in the West after the first month of the season . I’m going to try to get in the middle here and take Michigan State to win and Minnesota to cover.”
Randy Johnson of the Star Tribune: Minnesota 27, Michigan State 20. “The combination of coordinators Kirk Ciarrocca on offense and Joe Rossi on defense helped the Gophers maintain a calm, detail-oriented approach. Morgan lays the ball out and Ibrahim continues to gain yards after contact. A Spartans defense that allowed Michael Penix Jr. of Washington passing for 397 yards could be something the Gophers can take advantage of. If Minnesota’s defensive line can keep Thorne from breaking the lock, good things can happen for the Gophers because of their deep secondary, which is playing with confidence.”
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 the Wolverines Wire: Minnesota 31, Michigan State 28.
Hawkeyes Wire’s Riley Donald: Michigan State 28, Minnesota 21. “Michigan State last lost to Washington last weekend in a hostile environment, but it can likely draw on the experience of a big game. Michigan State at home in this Minnesota’s first test of the season can speak volumes.”
Picks and hangovers: Minnesota 24, Michigan State 20
Sportsbook Wire’s Dominick Petrillo: Michigan State 24, Minnesota 21.
Bill Connelly of ESPN: The S&P+ projection has Minnesota 26th, Michigan State 26th.
Two of the three Athlon Sports analysts pick Minnesota to win.
Two of the four analysts at FootballScoop.com predict a Minnesota win.