Thanks to our friend, Tom, at the Daily Gopher for playing along this week. He had some questions for us which you can read over there as well. Enjoy.
BSD: Is there any chance Penn State is catching you guys looking ahead to Ohio State? Did you see us against Iowa? We really sucked. .I'm sure you've heard Mark May say we haven't played anyone yet.
DG: Absolutely this team is looking ahead to Ohio State, if this were a home game Penn State probably would have been the homecoming opponent since we tend to fare so well in this series. 5-2 over the last seven meetings don't-cha know! Really these two games for Minnesota have been lumped together since the schedule came out (to be honest until a couple days ago I couldn't remember if we went to Columbus or Happy Valley first). Both games are assumed losses so maybe we are simply looking ahead to Michigan State in two weeks, but I doubt it. I think there is a greater chance that we could pull out a win over Penn State than there is against Ohio State, but this two week stretch is brutal.
BSD: How would you say Minnesota's season has gone so far? Is it pretty much going according to plan? Has this season been a major disappointment? Or are you thrilled with being 4-2 right now?
DG: Pretty much it has gone according to plan. Some outside of Gopher Nation many thought the Syracuse and Air Force games were potential losses and we pulled those out. Cal was an assumed loss and it was. Northwestern on the road was a nice win and one that many may not have given the Gophers a couple months ago. The one disappointment was the Badger game, this one would have made Gopher Nation very happy but the Badgers dominated the second half. All in all I think many would have been pleased to be 4-2 at this point, but that Wisconsin game is one we'd like to have in the win column.
BSD: Eric Decker has 46 receptions this year to lead the team and the conference. The next closest guys for the Gophers are Troy Stoudermire and Nick Tow-Arnett with just 13 catches each. And the rushing attack is dead last in the Big Ten. Is it safe to say Minnesota is one dimensional on offense?
DG: Yes. At times we have tried to establish the run but those times were the Northwestern and Purdue games where we were able to control the line of scrimmage. When we cannot get running lanes for our backs we will pass and pass and pass; usually to Decker and Decker and Decker. It is interesting that last week against Purdue we rushed for over 200 yards and threw just three passes in the second half (9 overall). Do not sleep on the rest of the receiving corp though, if Weber gets time and can find them there are a couple dynamic playmakers on this offense not named Eric Decker.
BSD: Looking at the Minnesota defensive stats, I'm not impressed. 60th in scoring defense. 77th in total defense. 83rd in rushing defense. It seems like the magic number is 24. When Minnesota holds their opponent to 24 points or less, they win. Do you think the Gophers can hold Penn State to under 24 points?
DG: Some of our defensive stats are a little misleading. Kind of the opposite Penn State who I've heard hasn't really played anybody so their stats are inflated. Minnesota gave up a LOT of yards to Cal in the 1st quarter then held Jahvid Best to less than 30 yards in the final 3 quarters. Minnesota gave up 266 yards rushing to Air Force but they also ran the ball 66 times. And Wisconsin rolled up a lot of yards on the ground with a key starting DE out of that game. So a bit misleading but not altogether untruthful.
I do think Minnesota can hold Penn State to under 30 points but under 24 will be tough. The Gopher defense is more talented than it has been in years, but it certainly has some holes still and I'm afraid Evan Royster will exploit them.
BSD: The follow up to that is, if Minnesota does manage to hold Penn State to 24 points, do you think that's enough to win? Can the offense put 24 points on the board against Penn State?
Not likely. I do like the talent on this Gopher offense but more often than not it stops itself before the opponent gets a chance to. If the Gophers get over 24 points I think the special teams and/or defense will have to help it out with either a touchdown of their own or setting up great field position. My hesitation with the Gophers scoring points has much more to do with my respect for the Penn St defense. Only Iowa hit 20 points on Penn State and everyone else has struggled mightily to find points on that defense. In fact this defense has only give up 21 cumulative points in quarters 1 through 3 this year. I like our offense (kind of), but I'm not crazy.
BSD: Care to make a prediction for the game?
DG: As I've said, this Gopher team is much more talented than we have seen in several years. Both sides of the ball is stronger and more athletic than you are probably expecting. With that said they still have too many holes, make too many mistakes and clearly the talent level is not on par with the top of the conference. Because of that and nobody is really sure how good Penn State really is, I think this game will be closer than many are predicting. I think the Gophers will cover the 16.5 point spread but several things will have to fall our way for a Gopher victory.
Great offensive line play, a few well timed turnovers from the defense and one of the other receivers stepping up in a big way is what it would take. Is it possible? Yes, but I'm not holding my breath.
BSD: Thanks, Tom. Good luck on the rest of your season.
Again, make sure you check out the first half of the Q&A over at The Daily Gopher.