Penn St. Nittany Lions (8-0; 5-0 Big Ten East) vs Minnesota Golden Gophers (8-0; 5-0 Big Ten West)
12:00 p.m. ET, November 9, 2019--ABC
TCF Bank Stadium (Capacity: 50,805 / Minneapolis, MN)
The Redzone TD% and Redzone TD% Defense are calculated by me and not ranked by the NCAA. Determining who has the advantage in these categories is strictly my arbitrary judgment.
The last time these two teams played, there were quite a few block Ms in this post, Minnesota was favored in Beaver Stadium - and the Lions pulled it off in overtime, sparking a huge turnaround of a season.
What a difference three years makes. This season, both teams are undefeated in November and ranked in the top fifteen; this game should be another good one on the road for the Lions.
The keys to this game, on paper, for a Penn State victory appear to be dominating special teams, as they’ve been wont to do this season, and making the Minnesota offense one dimensional, also a specialty of this defense. But the numbers also show how rankings can be inflated, even if just slightly, by a lower strength of schedule and situations that a team finds themselves in.
Some of those situations include facing, on defense, third downs (Minnesota’s defense has only faced 102 third downs all season versus Penn State’s defense facing 135) and fourth downs (PSU has faced 18, while UM has faced only ten). Speaking of fourth downs, by virtue of being up by greater point spreads (and a big-play offense), the Nittany Lions have only tried four fourth downs all season - while Minnesota’s tried 10.
Also interesting is red zone stats - the Golden Gophers have a good defense, but that defense is only truly good between the twenties. Both teams have allowed fewer than 20 red zone tries for their opponents (PSU’s faced an opponent in the red zone 16 times, while UM has faced 18) - Penn State’s allowed 13 scores in those tries (with only 8 touchdowns), while Minnesota has allowed scores on all but one of their opponent’s trips (13 touchdowns).
So, a winning strategy, on paper at least, appears to be pinning the Gophers deep with special teams, and getting good field position and into the red zone quickly. What say you all?