#14 PENN STATE NITTANY LIONS vs. MINNESOTA GOLDEN GOPHERS: 4-2 (2-1), tide for third in the Big Ten.
ALL TIME SERIES NOTES: Saturday will mark the eleventh time these two schools have met, with Penn State holding a 6-4 edge after winning the last two meetings. The last time these two teams played was three years ago, when Penn State used a missed extra point in overtime to escape the Metrodome with a win, 28-27.
The two teams play for the Governor’s Victory Bell, a trophy which was created in honor of Penn State’s first game as a member of the Big Ten Conference.
PREVIEW: In the 90th homecoming game in the history of Penn State Football, Penn State will host the Minnesota Golden Gophers. The last time Minnesota came to Happy Valley as the homecoming opponent, they beat the second-ranked Lions with a field goal on the game’s final play to smash Penn State’s national title hopes in 1999. The last time Minnesota came to Happy Valley, this play happened (it makes us feel better about things).
LAST WEEK: While the Nittany Lions were warming up against a physically-overwhelmed Eastern Illinois team, Minnesota overcame and early 10-0 deficit to beat the Purdue Boilermakers at brand-new TCF Bank Stadium in their homecoming game.
GETTING TO KNOW THE GOLDEN GOPHERS: Minnesota opened 2009 with high hopes as they christened a brand-new on-campus stadium in Minneapolis. Coach Tim Brewster, in his third year at the helm, has brought a program that had struggled into a squad that can compete with most teams in the Big Ten. In their only game this season against a quality opponent, the Gophers were dominated by a California Golden Bear team that was ranked eighth at the time.
STATISTICAL MATCHUPS: A comparison between the Lions and the Golden Gophers (national rankings in parenthesis)…
- Penn State’s Passing Offense vs. Minnesota’s Passing Defense
- Penn State, 238.8 ypg (39th); ‘Sota, 218.5 ypg (62nd)
- Penn State’s Rushing Offense vs. Minnesota’s Rushing Defense
- Penn State, 188.7 ypg (32nd); ‘Sota, 162.67 ypg (83rd)
- Penn State’s Scoring Offense vs. Minnesota’s Scoring Defense
- Penn State, 31.2 ppg (38th); ‘Sota, 23.8 ppg (60th)
- Penn State’s Passing Defense vs. Minnesota’s Passing Offense
- Penn State, 173.8 ypg (26th); ‘Sota, 205.17 ypg (75th)
- Penn State’s Rushing Defense vs. Minnesota’s Rushing Offense
- Penn State, 81.8 ypg (8th); ‘Sota, 114.5 ypg (99th)
- Penn State’s Scoring Defense vs. Minnesota’s Scoring Offense
- Penn State, 10.2 ppg (6th); ‘Sota, 27.0 ppg (65th)
- Turnover Margin (per game)
- Penn State, -.3 (t-76th); ‘Sota, even (61st)
OFFENSIVE PLAYERS TO WATCH: Quarterback Adam Weber and wide receiver Erick Decker are the names you will hear all day; and rightfully so. Decker is third in the nation in receiving yards with 689m has 46 receptions and is tide for the lead in the Big Ten with 5 touchdowns. Weber overall has thrown for 1,224 yards while completing just 57% of his passes for six touchdown. His eight interceptions are worrisome however. Also in the backfield, Minnesota has been using a two-back system. Leading the team Duane Bennett with 283 yards and five scores; we profile the second member of the rushing attack later in this article.
DEFENSIVE PLAYERS TO WATCH: Lee Campbell, Nate Tripplett and Simoni Lawrence lead the defensive attack for Minnesota. Campbell, who is second in the Big Ten in tackles, leads the team in tackles with 64 and tackles for loss with 6.5. Between the three of them they account for 175 total tackles and 13 tackles for loss.
WHO NEEDS TO STEP UP; MINNESOTA: Duane Bennett and DeLeon Eskridge must both have big days on the ground for Minnesota to have a chance. Defensively, the Gophers have to have an above-average day stopping Penn State’s running attack, which has really tuned up since the Iowa game.
WHO NEEDS TO STEP UP; PENN STATE: Statistics indicate that Minnesota will be throwing the ball, but the weather situation indicates a need for running the ball. So of all the defensive weapons Penn State has at their disposal, we’d really like to see the secondary make the Gophers run the ball into the teeth of the eight-ranked rushing defense in the nation. Son on Saturday, we’re sure to hear many names we haven’t heard of all season. This will be the first stern test for the secondary and they will have an extra man in the form of Mother Nature; she’s going to be nasty.
- Penn State: LB Sean Lee (knee, possible), WR Devon Smith (concussion, possible), T Nerraw McCormack (ankle, possible)
WEATHER FORECAST: Very cold with cloudy skies and rain mixed with snow, highs in the mid-to-upper 30’s.
- Minnesota’s visit to Beaver Stadium will be the Gopher’s second trip away from home in the Big Ten season. Earlier this year, they beat Northwestern in Evanston.
- This will be Minnesota head coach Tim Brewster’s first meeting against Penn State.
- Penn State has scored first, led at halftime and after the third quarter in all six of their games so far this season. The defense has not allowed a first half touchdown this season.
POINTS OF VIEW: A look at what some of our fellow Penn State and Minnesota bloggers are saying…
Black Shoe Diaries shows a bit more confidence that they did two weeks ago
The Daily Gopher seemingly expects their fate
The 22,000+ blogs from State College and has said nothing about the weather… it’s freaking snowing there dude!
Zombie Nation does what they do best
AROUND THE BIG TEN: After a week which saw three teams in out-of-conference games, Michigan is the only team to venture beyond the Big Ten this week as they host Delaware State. That game, along with seventh-ranked Ohio State visiting Purdue, Northwestern traveling to East Lansing and Wisconsin hosting a huge game against eleventh-ranked Iowa all kick at noon. The only other game of the day in the Big Ten kicks off at 7:00pm as Illinois travels to Indiana in a matchup of teams who are desperate for a win.
AROUND THE NATION: Five games pitting ranked teams against one another highlight this week’s schedule. Tonight, Big East contenders collide in Tampa Bay as 21st-ranked South Florida squares off against eighth-ranked Cincinnati in a battle of unbeatens. The winner of this game should have the inside track towards the conference title and a trip to Miami for the Orange Bowl (that’s right, an undefeated Big East team will not make the BCS Championship game). On Saturday, things get started early at the Texas State Fair as third-ranked Texas and 20th-ranked Oklahoma battle in the Red River Rivalry. Later in the day, Notre Dame looks to break a seven game losing streak against sixth-ranked USC in South Bend. Fourth-ranked Virginia Tech travels to Atlanta to take on 19th-ranked Georgia Tech at 6:00pm in what should be the Hokies final test until December’s ACC Championship game. The last game of major importance on Saturday kicks at 7:45 in Tuscaloosa as second-ranked Alabama hosts 22nd-ranked South Carolina in a crossover SEC game.
PRE-SEASON PREDICTION: 44-21, Penn State.
CURRENT PREDICTION: In what is being billed as Snowbowl II (1995 Michigan game being I), Penn State’s ground attack will be too much for Minnesota to overcome. Evan Royster is due for a big game, and if you remember his performance in last year’s homecoming game, Saturday might be that day. The Nittany Lions overmatch the Gophers everywhere statistically but for special teams, where the visiting squad could very well get on the board in this game. But defensively, Penn State should dominate this game, and if the offense controls the ball this game could be over before we all lose feeling in our hands. Penn State wins this game 31-14 in a game that should resemble what football would look like were it played inside snow-globes. We’ll have a report on the game Monday evening.