Minnesota (6-2, 3-2) goes for its fourth straight win against Purdue (3-5, 1-4) Saturday. A full breakdown, prediction, and other notes can be found below.
When Minnesota runs the ball:
The Gophers had five rushing touchdowns in a 40-17 win against Illinois last Saturday. They could very well match that number again against Purdue.
Running backs Rodney Smith and Shannon Brooks are both in the top ten for rushing yards a game in the Big Ten and excelled again against Illinois. Minnesota’s rushing offense hasn’t had a weak game this year and there’s no reason that should stop against Purdue.
The Boilermakers’ rushing defense is bad. They’ve allowed an averaged of 250 yards a game and 21 touchdowns on the ground. Minnesota rushed for 326 yards against them last year. Topping that mark will be hard, but it is possible.
Matchup to watch: RB Shannon Brooks vs. DL Evan Panfil
When Purdue runs the ball:
Purdue’s rushing offense may be the worst part of their game. They only average 111 yards per matchup — last in the Big Ten — and will likely pass the ball far more frequently then they run it.
Starting running back Markell Jones averages 14.1 attempts a game and hasn’t rushed for over 46 yards in a Big Ten game this season. He only had seven yards on six carries against Minnesota last year, as Purdue had its second-lowest rushing total of the season against Minnesota in 2015.
The Gophers have faced a lot of weak rushing teams this year and have stopped them all. It’s hard to see how Purdue could break out in this game.
Matchup to watch: RB Markell Jones vs. LB Jonathan Celestin
When Minnesota passes the ball:
Quarterback Mitch Leidner hasn’t had to throw the ball much recently, as his two running backs have been doing the heavy lifting. He hasn’t throw for over 20 pass attempts since Oct. 8 against Iowa.
In Leidner’s four Big Ten games this season, he has one touchdown and four interceptions. The numbers are by no means encouraging, but a lot of it comes from Minnesota running the ball more than they did at the start of the season.
Purdue’s passing defense is in the middle of the Big Ten and has an awful touchdown to interception ratio of 16-5. The Boilermakers’ secondary isn’t horrible, but shouldn’t create any significant problems against Minnesota.
Matchup to watch: WR Tyler Johnson vs. S Leroy Clark
When Purdue passes the ball:
Purdue’s strongest part of its game is it’s passing, and that’s all thanks to their quarterback, David Blough. The sophomore leads the Big Ten in passing yards a game and is second in touchdowns. Still, a lot of that can be attributed to his high number of attempts.
Purdue passes the ball an average of 47.6 times a game and only runs it 30.6 times a game. Blough has the most interceptions in the Big Ten and is still showing some growing pains in his second year as a starter.
Minnesota’s passing defense has improved recently but they have faced weak quarterbacks. Blough won’t be the best one they see all season, but it’s hard to see the Gophers’ secondary completely stopping Purdue’s aerial attack.
Matchup to watch: WR DeAngelo Yancey vs. CB Jalen Myrick.
Minnesota 38, Purdue 20.
The Gophers’ running backs will overwhelm the Boilermakers. Blough may throw for a touchdown or two, but Minnesota should win in a blowout.
Prediction record: 6-2
Around the web on the Gophers and the Boilermakers:
-Gerad Parker took over as the head coach of Purdue football about three weeks ago. Nathan Baird of the Lafayette Journal & Courier wrote a short feature on who Parker is. He’s 35 years old, from Kentucky, and has “one of a kind” energy.
-Didn’t do the column last week but this would’ve made my favorite reads on the Gophers before the Illinois matchup. The Star Tribune’s Joe Christensen spoke with Jerry Kill one year removed from when he resigned as Minnesota’s head coach. Some really interesting quotes from Kill in there.
-A column by ESPN’s Brian Bennett on how Purdue should proceed in their search for a new head coach. Bennett writes that Purdue should hire a creative offensive coach, who can recruit to his system instead of trying to out recruit Ohio State and Michigan.
-Andy Greder of the Pioneer Press talks to the Gophers’ all-time leading rusher Darrell Thompson about Minnesota’s two star running backs, Shannon Brooks and Rodney Smith. Thompson is envious of Brooks and Smith getting to split carries as Thompson had 936 attempts with the Gophers and said it took a toll on his body.
-This is a look into the businesses near Ross-Ade Stadium and how they are affected by how well Purdue is doing at football. The Lafayette Journal & Courier’s Emma Ea Ambrose speaks to different bars and restaurant’s owners, and how some businesses do well when Purdue football is down because the visiting team’s fans drink too.
1. Claeys meeting expectations
-One day after Minnesota’s regular season ended last year against Wisconsin, I did a game-by-game prediction of how I thought the Gophers would do in 2016, and so far, they’ve done exactly how I thought they would. They’re 6-2 with losses to Penn State and Iowa, and look like they’ll finish either 7-5 or 8-4. Sure, the Gophers are two possessions away from being 8-0, but Claeys has met expectations this year and it’s hard to ask for more.
2. Northwestern game looms large
-Whether the Gophers go 7-5 or 8-4 is probably going to be decided on Nov. 19 in their game against Northwestern at TCF Bank Stadium, barring a major upset against Nebraska or Wisconsin. ESPN’s FPI projection system has it as a tossup, with the Gophers at a 52.4 percent chance of winning. The games against Wisconsin and Nebraska will be hard to win, so this is an important, tough, game for the Gophers that they could easily win or lose and would decide if they go to a good or average bowl game.
3. Minnesota’s turnover margin at high level
-Minnesota has a great turnover margin of +10 this season, tied for best in the Big Ten and 4th in the FBS. They’ve only lost three fumbles this year and the defense is grabbing interceptions at a much higher rate than last season. If the Gophers somehow beat Nebraska or Wisconsin, it’ll be thanks to getting interceptions and recovering fumbles.
The Minnesota Daily’s coverage of the team from this past week:
-The defensive line has been the defense’s best group this season. That wasn’t the case last year. An article on their improvement.
-Damarius Travis has been a member of the Gophers' secondary since 2012. A story on his consistency and elite play.
-For this week’s Questions from the Other Side, the Minnesota Daily spoke with Atreya Verma, a staff reporter with the Purdue Exponent. Verma shares his thoughts on the Darrell Hazell firing, and a prediction for Saturday’s game.
-The restraining orders against the five Gophers football players were removed Wednesday. The Minnesota Daily was at the courthouse to get the reaction from the involved parties.
-The Gophers are still very much in contention for the Big Ten West, but it’s going to be tough. An article on their chances and the hard road ahead.
-Sidebar from the Minnesota-Illinois game about the Gophers capitalizing on turnovers.
-Game recap from Champaign.
Everything else you need to know:
Start time: 2:30 p.m. CST, Saturday, Nov. 5
Network: Big Ten Network
Radio: KFAN 100.3 FM
Line: Minnesota by 17