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Just the Stats: No. 4 Penn State vs No. 17 Minnesota

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What do the statistical rankings say about this week’s top fifteen matchup between unbeatens?

NCAA Football: Minnesota at Penn State
Soon.
Matthew O’Haren-USA TODAY Sports

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)

Tableizer using codebeautify.org
Penn State Value (Nat'l Rank) Value (Nat'l Rank) Minnesota Advantage
Rushing Offense (ypg) 170. (61) 117.4 (26) Rushing Defense (ypg) Minnesota logo
Passing Offense (ypg) 252.0 (48) 166.4 (9) Passing Defense (ypg) Minnesota logo
Pass Efficiency 159.27 (16) 103.01 (5) Pass Efficiency Defense Push
Total Offense (ypg) 422.1 (52) 283.8 (13) Total Defense (ypg) Minnesota logo
Scoring Offense (ppg) 38.5 (T - 12) 20.0 (223) Scoring Defense (ppg) Push
Rushing Defense (ypg) 68.4 (2) 204.5 (31) Rushing Offense (ypg) new PSU logo
Passing Defense (ypg) 211.6 (49) 225.0 (72) Passing Offense (ypg) Push
Pass Efficiency Defense 103.96 (7) 181.95 (5) Pass Efficiency Push
Total Defense (ypg) 280.0 (9) 429.5 (47) Total Offense (ypg) new PSU logo
Scoring Defense (ppg) 9.6 (2) 38.4 (14) Scoring Offense (ppg) Push
Punt Return Defense (ypr) 2.38 (9) 4.80 (110) Punt Return Yds new PSU logo new PSU logo new PSU logo new PSU logo
Punt Return Yds 6.48 (81) 4.00 (19) Punt Return Defense (ypr) Minnesota logo Minnesota logo
Net Punting Yds 39.04 (48) 36.74 (93) Net Punting Yds new PSU logo
Kickoff Return Yds 18.69 (95) 21.13 (76) Kickoff Return Defense Push
Kickoff Return Defense 18.60 (32) 21.00 (T - 62) Kickoff Return Yds new PSU logo
Turnover Margin +0.88 (T - 10) +.63 (T - 21) Turnover Margin Push
Passes Had Intercepted 3 (T - 11) 11 (T - 9) Passes Intercepted Push
Passes Intercepted 8 (T - 36) 4 (T - 21) Passes Had Intercepted Push
Penalty Yds/Game 58.38 (77) 38.63 (T - 7) Penalty Yds/Game Minnesota logo Minnesota logo
Sacks 3.75 (7) 2.00 (T - 66) Sacks Allowed new PSU logo new PSU logo
Sacks Allowed 1.75 (T - 50) 2.38 (T - 49) Sacks Push
Tackles for Loss (tpg) 8.4 (T - 9) 5.5 (T - 52) Tackles for Loss Allowed (tpg) new PSU logo
Tackles for Loss Allowed (tpg) 6.0 (T - 72) 4.6 (T - 110) Tackles for Loss (tpg) new PSU logo
Redzone Offense (%) 93.5% (13) 94.4% (125) Redzone Defense (%) new PSU logo new PSU logo new PSU logo new PSU logo
Redzone Defense (%) 81.3% (50) 92.5% (16) Redzone Offense (%) Minnesota logo
Redzone TD % 77.42% 72.22% Redzone TD % Defense new PSU logo
Redzone TD % Defense 50.00% 80.00% Redzone TD % Push
3rd Down Conv. % 40.4% (59) 35.3% (43) 3rd Down Defense % Push
3rd Down Defense % 30.4% (15) 50.5% (8) 3rd Down Conv. % Push
4th Down Conv. % 85.7% (T - 4) 40.0% (26) 4th Down Defense % Push
4th Down Defense % 55.6% (T - 81) 80.0% (T - 9) 4th Down Conv. % Minnesota logo Minnesota logo
1st Downs 172 (T - 81) 140 (16) 1st Downs Allowed Minnesota logo Minnesota logo
1st Downs Allowed 130 (13) 183 (T - 65) 1st Downs new PSU logo new PSU logo
Time of Possession 28:44 (97) 34:43 (6) Time of Possession Minnesota logo Minnesota logo Minnesota logo
Strength of Schedule 7 77 Strength of Schedule new PSU logo new PSU logo

Difference >25 in National Rank = new PSU logo

Difference >50 in National Rank = new PSU logonew PSU logo

Difference >75 in National Rank = new PSU logonew PSU logonew PSU logo

Difference >100 in National Rank =new PSU logonew PSU logonew PSU logonew PSU logo

Difference >25 in National Rank = new PSU logo

Difference >50 in National Rank = new PSU logonew PSU logo

Difference >75 in National Rank = new PSU logonew PSU logonew PSU logo

Difference >100 in National Rank =new PSU logonew PSU logonew PSU logonew PSU logo

Note:

All of the above rankings are taken directly from the NCAA except for strength of schedule, which is taken from Team Rankings.com.

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.

Quick thoughts:

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?