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Minnesota makes rare trip to Boulder: Buffaloes vs. Gophers Week Three Preview

It’s their first meeting in 29 years and fourth all-time.

NCAA Football: Texas A&M at Colorado Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Most expected the Colorado Buffaloes (1-1) to be sitting at .500 two games into the season. But playing No. 5 Texas A&M the way they did in Denver and to come away with a three-point loss at a neutral site was impressive. The Buffaloes now look to wrap their non-conference schedule with Minnesota coming to Boulder for the first time since 1991.

Two of the three games previous in the all-time series between the Buffs and Golden Gophers have been in Minneapolis. Colorado has won all three of the previous contests with the average margin of victory over 30 points dating back to 1972. However, these are two different programs from their days over thirty years ago.

Minnesota (1-1) had then No. 3 Ohio State on the ropes in week 1 before falling to the Buckeyes by a score of 45-31. They got their first win of the season last week against Miami (OH) in a 31-26 evenly-matched contest. The five-point victory was the team’s fourth going back to the shortened season of 2020.

With top rusher Mo Ibrahim sidelined due to a season-ending injury (lower leg), the Gophers looked to their backup Trey Potts to carry the load out of the backfield. He not only answered the call, but didn’t skip a beat, rushing for 178 yards and two touchdowns last Saturday. Potts will be challenged to produce against one of the better defensive fronts in college football.

CU’s defense under new coordinator Chris Wilson has played extremely well to start the season by allowing a total of 554 yards (2nd in the Pac-12), along with an average of 8.5 points per game (5th in FBS). We saw indicators that Wilson’s defense was beginning to get a foothold in the second half against the Aggies. The former Big 12 rivals struggled to move the ball on CU and the unit’s overall discipline has taken steps forward compared to previous years.

Colorado has allowed a total of 117 rushing yards in two games, shutting down the Aggie tandem of Isaiah Spiller and Devon Achane by holding them under 50 yards each. To put it into perspective, both rushers had 100-yard performances to open the season against Kent State on Sept. 4.

A Buffaloes will look to slow the Minnesota run game and keep Potts from establishing a rhythm. The Gophers are more dependent on their rushing attack to move the ball which takes the load off Tanner Morgan’s shoulders. Although, don’t count out the senior passer’s consistency and mistake-free play. Morgan won’t air the ball out more than 30 times per game, but he also has 317 yards, three touchdowns and no picks in his first two games.

It’s the same situation for the Buffs— a dominating rushing attack that has averaged 226 yards per game. The dual-threat ability of Brendon Lewis has been a contributing factor as the team’s second-leading rusher thus far. Overall, Colorado has averaged over five yards per carry and will look to build on that against Minnesota’s defense.

If the first two games are any indication of how this contest may play out, CU might want to get Lewis involved in the pocket to test the Gophers defense, who’ve only forced one turnover, no sack and have given up 71 points. A staggering 58 of those have come in the second half of games.

Colorado will be without wide receiver La’vontae Shenault. The DeSoto, Texas redshirt freshman and younger brother of CU alum and Jacksonville Jaguars receiver Laviska Shenaut was suspended indefinitely for violating team rules on Monday. It’s his second suspension since coming to Boulder in 2019. Shenault also sat out last year’s Alamo Bowl vs. Texas for another rules violation.

This is the first-ever meeting between Minnesota’s P. J. Fleck and Colorado’s Karl Dorrell. Both have crossed over into the NFL, but have come back to take head coaching positions at their respective institutions.

From the desk of Dave Plati:

Stat of the week: “Sub-300- Colorado has allowed under 300 yards in each of its first two games this season (256 by Northern Colorado, 288 by Texas A&M). That previously happened on eight occasions over the last 50 seasons (1971, 1976, 1978, 1981, 1987, 2001, 2006, 2016). Only in 1976 did the streak reach three (Texas Tech had 186 in the opener, Washington 287 in game two and then Miami-Fla. 272 in game three).”

The Race to 1,000.”: “Tailbacks Alex Fontenot and Jarek Broussard are in a race to become the 55th player in school history to rush for 1,000 career yards. It will come down who carries and when, but Fontenot is 55th now with 996 yards, while Broussard is 58th with 958 (technically he is over 1,000, but CU won’t count bowl stats until the NCAA mandates that ALL bowl games count, not just those from 2002 on). Colorado is sixth all-time with 54 1,000-yard runners, 19 of whom have gone to run for 2,000 (12th-most). Two players have not crossed the threshold in the same game, however.”

Colorado welcomes Minnesota into Folsom Field on Saturday, Sept. 18. Kickoff is scheduled for 11 a.m. MT.

TV: Pac-12 Network

Radio: 850 KOA (Mark Johnson & Gary Barnett)

Odds: -3 Colorado

Weather: 72°, Sunny