The West Virginia Mountaineers offense will face a dominant defensive unit tonight in the Guaranteed Rate bowl. The Minnesota Golden Gophers come in 10th nationally in points per game allowed and 4th nationally in yards per game allowed. Additionally, they have only allowed an opposing team to score more than 30 points once, and that was in week one against Ohio State. The Golden Gophers is led by a trio of standout edge rushers in Boye Mafe, Ezei Otomewo, and Thomas Rush who have combined for 12.5 sacks, 18.5 tackles for loss, 6 QB hurries, and 86 tackles. Outside of this triad, the Golden Gophers sports a defense that is solid across the board without any glaring weaknesses. It will be important for the Mountaineer offense to break Minnesota’s defensive scheme that prioritizes sound positioning and limiting big plays. Below are some thoughts how the Mountaineers can break down this stout defense.
- One-on-one mismatches – While the Golden Gopher secondary does not have any bad players, they also do not have any shut down guys either. Additionally, the Golden Gopher’s corner back group does not have a single player over 5’11”. One of West Virginia’s strongest position groups is their wide receiver corp, and it will be important for this group to win one-on-one against their matchup. It is also important that Neal Brown and the offensive staff devise ways to get players in one-on-one matchups so the receiving group can take advantage of their size and athleticism to make contested catches or create separation against smaller defenders. Guys I’m looking to step up here are Bryce Ford-Wheaton (6’3”), Kaden Prather (6’4”), and Sean Ryan (6’3”).
- Inside running game – the Golden Gophers defense is amongst the tops in nation allowing only 3.5 yards per carry and 100.3 total rushing yards per game. However, they also face the least amount of rushing attempts per game at 29.0. Additionally, the only position group on the Golden Gopher’s defense that WVU has a matchup advantage may be against the interior defensive line group. With Doug Nester and Zach Frazier grading out as top-tier run blockers, the Mountaineers should try to pound the ball up the middle with Tony Mathis Jr. Don’t expect many big plays to come of this, but if WVU can average 4-5 yards per carry consistently, they will be able to control the pace of play, string together long drives, and move the ball methodically downfield.
Check out more analysis of the Guaranteed Rate Bowl on the Voice of Motown Podcast: