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No. 16 Penn State vs. Minnesota: Game Preview

The Nittany Lions look to get back into the win column in front of a frenzied White Out crowd.

Penn State v Minnesota Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Penn State looks to get back in the win column in front of a frenzied White Out crowd.

Penn State (5-1) vs. Minnesota (4-2)

Kickoff: 7:30 p.m., Beaver Stadium, State College, PA

The Betting Line: Penn State -4 (Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See for details.)

TV: ABC, 7:30 p.m. - Joe Tessitore (play-by-play), Greg McElroy (analyst), Katie George (sideline)

Weather: A beautiful and sunny day with temps in the upper-60s will make for a great afternoon of tailgating for the Homecoming crowd. Temps will gradually cool to the lower-30s late into the evening, with clouds and slight winds coming through but little-to-no chance of precipitation.


James Franklin:

PENN STATE RECORD: 72-35, 9th Year

OVERALL RECORD: 96-50, 12th Year


P.J. Fleck:

MINNESOTA RECORD: 39-25, 6th Year

OVERALL RECORD: 69-47, 10th Year




The Penn State defense faced one of the nation’s best running backs last week, and will do so again in trying to slow down Mo Ibrahim. The senior has rushed for at least 103 yards in each game this season, and is coming off a 127 yard performance where he averaged 8.5 yards per carry against one of the nation’s stingiest defenses. Penn State had been stout against the run, allowing under 80 yards on the ground per game until Michigan ran wild for 417 yards on Saturday. The Gophers will absolutley be looking to use that as a blueprint for how to set the deeply talented Ibrahim loose on this defense.

Minnesota enters the game with uncertainty at quarterback after Tanner Morgan was knocked out of the Illinois game on Saturday. Minnesota relies heavily on its veteran quarterback, who has been the team’s starter since taking over the role during the 2018 season. The Gophers may be forced to look at one of their backups - Cole Kramer is in his fourth season with the program, but has only 13 pass attempts. Athan Kaliakmanis has the coaches excited about his potential, but the freshman is just 5 of 11 on pass attempts this season with two interceptions and no touchdowns. Playing a full game in the White Out atmosphere would be a lot to ask of him based on his experience level.

Morgan and co. do a good job of spreading the ball and making it difficult to focus on any one or two receivers on the field at a time. They especially like to use their massive 6-7, 270 lb. senior tight end Brevyn Spann-Ford to find mismatches. Spann-Ford leads the team with 18 catches and 252 receiving yards.

Minnesota will be without its top wide receiver in Chris Autman-Bell as a leg injury has forced him out of action for the remainder of the season. Receivers Michael Brown-Stephens and Daniel Jackson are targeted about equally, although they combined for just one catch for four yards in a rough outing for the Gophers pass game against Illinois. Jackson did have a 100-yard outing the previous week against Minneosta.

With Penn State’s offense struggling to find any explosiveness, this game could easily fall on the shoulders of the Penn State defense to leave with a victory.


Minnesota’s defense may not provide jaw-dropping highlights, but they are a highly disciplinced unit that makes it difficult to produce points. The Gophers are allowing just 11.67 points per game, good for fourth in the nation, while also ranking sixth in pass yards per game, 20th against the run, and sixth in total yards allowed per game. While they may not have faced a murder’s row of offenses, it’s noteworthy that they have played consistently well in each game this season. They also held Purdue, which averages 34 points per contest, to a season-low 20 points.

First-year starter Danny Striggow has been a problem this season and leads the team in sacks and TFLs. The Gophers have a knack for creating negative plays, something Penn State will need to avoid to stay out of bad situations that are likely to end drives prematurely. Linebacker Mariano Sori-Marin is in his fifth year with the program and is the leader of the defense. The middle linebacker leads the defense with 39 tackles.

Sean Clifford left the Michigan game with an injury, potentially opening the door for five-star true freshman Drew Allar’s first career start at Penn State. Since injury news is kept so tight-lipped, we likely won’t know if this will happen until shortly before kickoff.

Penn State also appears to be down to two scholarship running backs with Keyvone Lee not attending practice or classes this week. True freshman Nicholas Singleton and Kaytron Allen will be sharing the load.


Minnesota’s Matthey Trickett is six-for-seven on field goals this season with a long of 46. He has also connected on all 27 extra point attempts. Trickett is in his second and final year with Minnesota after transferring from Kent State. Mark Crawford is an Aussie-style punter who is averaging 39.8 yards per punt with a long of 46 yards on the season. His career-long is 60 yards.


Penn State-24 , Minnesota-21

I’ll admit that I’m hesitant to make this pick. Penn State has a history of underachieving in the week following its first loss. There’s also reason to be concerned that Penn State’s offense may not be to able to produce enough against Minnesota’s stingy defense, allowing the Gophers to come out on top in a low-scoring affair (assuming Penn State’s run defense isn’t throttled by one of the nation’s best running backs again).

However, things aren’t bright and sunny for Minnesota either. They come into the game on a two-game losing skid thanks to a lack of production on offense. They may also be without Tanner Morgan, leaving them with an inexperienced quarterback to handle things in a hostile environment while facing a menacing pass rush.

This game is likely to doom one team’s season and keep another afloat. A loss for Minnesota would be their third in a row, and likely eliminate them from the West race that they were widely picked to win ahead of the season. A loss for Penn State would likely mean a three-game skid as well with Ohio State rolling into town next week. That could lead to a depleted team trying to close out the season after reaching a 5-0 start and the top 10.

I respected the grit of this team during the 5-0 start, and don’t expect that to go away because of a loss to a team that was just flat-out better than them. I think we see a bounceback game from the defensive line and getting back to creating momentum-shiting plays for the entire defense. The offense won’t set the world ablaze, but will put together enough quality drives to get the job done.