Know Your Foe, Week 11: Minnesota Golden Gophers

Brace Hemmelgarn-US PRESSWIRE

The surprise team in a down year for the B1G, Minnesota has rebounded nicely from an 0-2 conference start.

This Season: 7-2 (3-2)

It was hard to gauge what kind of team Minnesota was going to be after their non-conference schedule was completed back in September. The two Mountain West opponents they faced were neither Boise State or Fresno State, and beating FCS Western Illinois and FBS Independent New Mexico State isn't an indication of a team that would make some noise in the B1G. They were rather easily defeated by Iowa and Michigan, and then the switch was flipped. Goldy has won three straight, including two on the road and an upset of then-24th-ranked Nebraska at TCF Bank Stadium--all without the presence of head coach Jerry Kill, who is unfortunately dealing with issues related to his epilepsy.

Offense

Philip Nelson has finally made the quarterback position his own after some early competition from freshman Mitch Leidner. Nelson, a sophomore, is completing passes at a 56% clip, and the fact that he's only attempted 114 passes shows what kind of offense OC Matt Limegrover demands. Minnesota prefers to control the ball with the run, and they've executed that gameplan very well of late - the Gophers' average time of possession in their last three wins is 36:15. Leading rusher David Cobb (803 yards, 5.4 per carry) has emerged as the workhorse after injuries to the original first and second-stringers. Leidner will also get into the game to carry the rock, even though Nelson has proven to be a decent ballcarrier.

If you're looking for playmakers on the edge, keep looking. Not that Derrick Engel or Maxx Williams (sexy name btw) aren't capable of breaking out from the secondary, it's just that Minnesota doesn't really give them the opportunity. Engel's 22 catches leads the team; Allen Robinson, by comparison, has three times as many grabs this season.

Defense

If there's a weakness for Penn State to exploit on Saturday, it'll be in the passing game. Minnesota is 81st nationally against the aerial attack, allowing 241.7 yards per contest, but they haven't allowed more than 269 ypg in their last three games. The run defense, led by monstrous DT Ra'shede Hageman, is giving up 142.2 yards per game and 4.3 yards per rush. If those seem like crooked numbers, they are - Minnesota is giving up the second-most yards per carry among the nation's top 50 teams against the run, where the Gophers rank 39th.

Defensive end Theiren Cockran and linebacker Damien Wilson join Hageman as the difference makers in the front seven. Cockran leads the team with 5.5 sacks and Wilson sets the pace with 50 tackes on the year (5.5 for a loss). This unit makes an awful lot of plays as well - they've already recorded four touchdowns this season.

Special Teams

Chris Hawthorne is the kicker and he's nearly automatic from 45 yards and in. Two of his three misses have come from beyond 50. Marcus Jones is the kick returner and a dangerous one at that, as he has a 98-yard touchdown under his belt this year.

Last Game (42-39 W at Indiana)

The Gophers we able to do what Penn State couldn't and hold Hoosier QB Nate Sudfeld to just 189 yards through the air. Cobb had himself quite a performance with 188 yards on 29 carries and a TD. Bill Belton's mouth should be watering upon seeing that Minnesota struggled to handle Indiana's backs, as they allowed 227 yards on the ground and two 100-yard rushers. Nelson had his best game of the season, especially on the last drive where he tossed the game winning 50-yard score to Williams down four with less than four minutes to play.

Gambling Advice From a Degenerate

And now for what you've all come for, Kunk7's pick:

Hello, Black Shoe Dairies readers! We're back with another cheesy edition of some blowhard who rants incessantly about gambling (aka I scream at you about worthless information)! I hope everyone is not still crying over the spilled milk that was last week's win over Illinois. I'd say that some of us certainly got a little egg-cited in our eagerness to react to the narrow victory, but we shouldn't be too sour on this PSU team. There are lots of good reasons to think the cream has yet to rise. Butter believe there are happier days ahead! Let's look at next Saturday:

Kunkminny_medium

Oh? Umm, hmm. Wow. Certainly a strong case for Minnesota as one of the B1G surprises of the 2013 season, especially considering their coaching situation. In its last three games, the Gophers have been significant underdogs (+12.5 @ Northwestern, +10.5 vs Nebraska, and +7.5 @ Indiana) and won all three outright. Plus, it's the dreaded 11am start in the Central Time Zone! Take the points at your own risk, people! Then again, this curd be the week where they turn it around!

(OK, I'm done, I'm so very sorry.)

Fun Fact

The guy who invented Dungeons and Dragons went to Minnesota, probably because there was nothing better to do in late '60s Minnesota than take a lot of 'shrooms and pretend you're a wizard or some shit.

Blog You Should Also Be Reading This Week

The Daily Gopher, run by some very nice people that love them some beer. I recommend this piece if my hastily compiled summary of Minnesota's offense didn't quench your thirst. Bring them some Yuengling if you're headed to the twin cities this weekend.


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