Minnesota Golden Gophers Vs. UNLV Rebels Free Pick 8/29/13

Minnesota Golden Gophers Vs. UNLV Rebels Free Pick 8/29/13
2013-08-29 06:00:00 EDT

The Minnesota Golden Gophers start off their 2013 campaign by hosting the UNLV Rebels on Thursday at TCF Bank Stadium.

The Minnesota Golden Gophers finished off their 2012 season, falling to the Texas Tech Red Raiders 34-31 in the Meineke Car Care Bowl. The Gophers had one of the worst offenses in the nation last season, scoring just over 22 points per game on average, and defensively the Gophers weren’t much better, giving up more than 24 per game. Minnesota is hoping another off-season as well as valuable game experience will help sophomore Phillip Nelson improve the Gophers offensively.

The UNLV Rebels really struggled in 2012, going just 2-11 overall and 2-6 in the Mountain West Conference. The Rebels will once again have Nick Sherry under center. Sherry has shown improvement, but with a better offensive line, and what should be a solid running game, this is the year for Sherry to take control of his offense. Defensively, it looks to be up to Tim Hasson at the linebacking spot. Hasson is going to be looked upon as the leader of this defense, and with the Rebels giving up more than 32 points per game last season, this unit must improve if UNLV stands any chance in the MWC this season.

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The Rebels were able to hang with the Gophers in last season’s opener in Las Vegas, as it took three overtimes for the Gophers to secure the win over the Rebels. Sherry really struggled against the Gopher defense, thiteming three picks and completing just 16/35. If Sherry doesn’t show improvement this time around, the Rebels stand no chance of upsetting the Gophers on the road. Nelson was on the sidelines for last season’s game as Marquis Gray (now a TE with the 49ers) was under center for the Gophers. Nelson has shown ability, if not raw talent, and if the Rebels are going to get to Nelson and rattle his cage, the line must get pressure to help out their secondary, which will be tough to do against a decent Gopher line.

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The Gophers are a combined 8-6 in home games in the last three years, while the Rebels are just 3-8 on the road in their last three seasons.

Usually early on in the season you can have somewhat of an advantage over the books, especially on teams you follow closely. In this case however, I think the odds makers are right on the money. Having to take a side, I’ll back the Gophers at home, but tread lightly.

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Mitch Wilson's Free Pick:
Minnesota -14
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Mitch Wilson

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