3 big questions as Gophers open Big Ten season at Maryland

The Big Ten opener kicks off at 11 a.m.
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PJ Fleck

P.J. Fleck leads the Gophers against Maryland (2-1) in their Big Ten opener and it'll be the first three games on the road over the next four weeks. 

Minnesota (3-0) soundly won against New Mexico State in Week 1, picked up an impressive victory against Fresno State (10-win team last year) in Week 2 and then dumped Miami of Ohio 26-3 last Saturday. Maryland started the season with two wins, including an upset of No. 23 Texas, before laying an egg in a blowout loss to previously 0-2 Temple. 

Temple didn't just sneak out a win against the Terrapins, they thumped 'em and did so with a backup quarterback. But it was their defense that slowed down a Maryland offense that looked like a juggernaut through two weeks. Maryland was averaging 39.5 points and 486 yards per game but Temple limited them to 195 yards of total offense and their touchdowns came via a blocked punt and an interception. 

Maryland has its own issues, but what about the Gophers?

1. How healthy is Zack Annexstad?

The true freshman quarterback hurt his ankle last week, but he's been practicing this week: “(Zach) was back at practice (Tuesday), every rep. I mean, that's what this football team needs. We need people to show like this is how you play the game of football," Fleck said this week, via Gophers Illustrated.  

Through three games, Annexstad has completed 55.7 percent of his passes for 537 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. 

2. Will Tyler Johnson produce against Big Ten teams?

The former Minneapolis North standout has been unstoppable with 20 catches for 283 yards and five touchdowns. 

Johnson led the Gophers with seven touchdowns last season, but outside of his three-TD game against Michigan State, he totaled just 15 catches in six other Big Ten games. Granted, he's playing in a more efficient offense this season and appears to have a more talented quarterback throwing him the ball. 

3. Can the Gophers stop Maryland's rushing attack?

We'd be foolish if we failed to mention that part of the reason Maryland struggled last week was because both of their starting tackles were out with injuries. Both players are back this week, and Minnesota is still battling demons from last year's defense that allowed 6.3 yards per rush in Big Ten games.

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