COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -Sure, unbeaten Minnesota is better. Just how much better might be determined in a three-hour span Saturday.
Grade cards might be issued shortly after the Golden Gophers' game at No. 14 Ohio State in the Big Ten opener for both teams.
Second-year coach Tim Brewster was asked if his team matches up favorably with the Buckeyes (3-1).
``It's pretty optimistic to say we match up 'well' with them,'' he said. ``We're starting two redshirt freshmen and three redshirt sophomores on the offensive line - and I think Ohio State might have the best defensive front I've seen. They're extremely active and tough and physical. I'm not ready to say we match up well with Ohio State.''
ion of a lot of other people.
Maybe it's just pregame back-patting, but Ohio State coach Jim Tressel talks as if he really thinks the Gophers have turned a corner.
``Anytime you have a successful out-of-conference schedule, then the next measuring stick is how do you do in your league?'' he said. ``They've played with great enthusiasm, they've improved, they understand the expectations of their (coaching) staff. That's a normal transitional growth. They've done it well.''
The last time the Gophers were unbeaten this late in the season when they played the Buckeyes was 1945.
Ohio State will welcome back tailback Chris ``Beanie'' Wells, out the past three weeks after injuring his foot in the opener against Youngstown State. A lot has changed in the backfield since he left. Terrelle Pryor, the promising QB recruit of last spring, is now the starting signal-caller, replacing the guy who took the Buckeyes to the national championship game last season, Todd Boeckman.
All Pryor did in his first start last week against Troy was toss four TD passes.
Still, with Wells gone, the offense has looked sluggish and downright tired most of the time.
Maybe the onset of another goal - the Buckeyes are trying to become the first school to ever win three consecutive outright Big Ten titles in a row - will shake them out of that lethargy.
ying to us, 'This is the Big Ten. There's no more messin' around,''' Ohio State offensive tackle Alex Boone said. ``We can't take games for granted. It just feels like this team is ready to explode.''
The Buckeyes have lost to Minnesota only once - in 2000 - in the last 22 meetings, dating all the way back to 1982. But apparently the Gophers haven't been reading up on the series history.
``They've got some studs on that team,'' quarterback Adam Weber said. ``That's what Ohio State's going to bring every single year. That's a challenge and that's the great part of this game. You know you're going against some of the best guys in the nation.
``But, you know, we're not too bad, either. We're on scholarship, too. We're going to bring our best and we'll see what the score says at the end.''
A year ago, Ohio State went to the Twin Cities and dropped a 30-7 beating on the Gophers. But to hear Tressel tell it, the game wasn't nearly so one-sided.
``If you went back and dissected our game, it was not a 30-7 game,'' he said.
Brewster knows his Minnesota team has improved. He's eager to find out just how much.
``We just continue to develop as a team across the board,'' he said. ``Each week our defense is gaining more confidence. This is going to be a tremendous challenge for us to go into a place like Ohio State and see where we're at. Hopefully, we'll be up to the challenge.''

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