Prediction, Preview, and Odds
#141 Penn State -6 vs.
#142 Minnesota 48
Saturday, November 9, 2019 at 12:00pm EST
TCF Bank Stadium, Minneapolis
Written by Sporty Jordy

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#141 Pennsylvania State University
#142 University of Minnesota
8-0
8-0
5-3
5-2-1
3-5
5-3
38
38
9
19

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When and where: November 9, 2019, TCF Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, MN, 12:00 PM ET

A Big Ten Conference showdown for the ages takes place at TCF Bank Stadium on Saturday in a battle of the unbeatens, when the Penn State Nittany Lions take on the Minnesota Golden Gophers. An opportunity to face one of the best defenses in the country will reveal whether the Golden Gophers are contenders or pretenders. They are coming off a decisively lopsided 52-10 victory over Maryland, while the Nittany Lions have taken out Michigan State, Michigan and Iowa in their last three outings.

Run defense is key for Penn State

There’s no need in dancing around the obvious with cutesy words. So I’m going to get right to the point: Saturday’s game will be won or lost in the trenches.

Watching the Nittany Lions dismantle Michigan State’s rushing attack and turn them one-dimensional was basically a preview of what they’re going to try to do against a Golden Gopher offense averaging 204.5 rushing yards per game. Running the football is the lifeblood of their offense, and if Penn State is going to have success, they’ll have to put a stop to it.

Of course, that means linebackers Micah Parsons and Cam Brown setting the tone early in the game with good tackling and not getting caught out of position. Running backs Rodney Smith and Mohamed Ibrahim complete the thunder and lightning combo in the Minnesota backfield, but they’ll be running into the No. 1 rushing defense in the conference when Penn State comes to town.

On the other side of the ball, Penn State will clearly be the best offense Minnesota has faced this season. Quarterback Sean Clifford has thrown for 1,931 yards, 20 touchdowns and only three interceptions with a 62 percent completion percentage. He should be able to test Minnesota’s secondary after getting the running game rolling with a deep stable of backs. The Golden Gophers haven’t had nearly as much success slowing down the rushing attack as they have against the pass.

Head coach James Franklin has done an outstanding job of getting the program back on track. He owns a 53-21 record with the Nittany Lions, which is darn good considering where they were after the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse saga.

"To be honest with you, I don't know if it's talked about enough, in my opinion, to think about how far we have come in the last eight years. It's remarkable. To me, it's not talked about enough," Franklin stated on gopsusports.com. "It's interesting, as we went out and did some trips this summer, went and visited some people, and even our own people, you kind of sit down and you say, you know, bullet point one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10, of what we have been able to do in the last six years and what we have been able to do specifically in the last three years and people are like, I wouldn't have known that if you didn't tell me. So, we probably could do a little bit better job of that. We've got a pretty amazing story that we should be very proud of, but again, all that stuff is wonderful, and we'd better go 1-0 on Saturday."

Are the Golden Gophers for real?

The Golden Gophers have racked up an undefeated record in a season where they have basically missed out on facing legitimate opposition—until now. Saturday’s game against Penn State will be the deciding factor of whether or not the hype is real. Sure, we’ve seen the Golden Gophers beat up on a bad Maryland team, but can they stand toe-to-toe with a legitimate contender for a spot in the playoffs?

Minnesota has held their last three opponents to no more than 10 points, and they are averaging 38.4 points per game on offense. Call Smith the lawnmower man for the Golden Gophers considering he chews up the most grass for their offense. His ability to break through that brick wall of a defensive front for Penn State is the only way any magic happens on Saturday. Not only does Penn State have the top rushing defense in the conference, but they also have the third-most sacks, which could mean big problems for starting quarterback Tanner Morgan.

Minnesota has merely been okay on defense despite playing against some less than stellar opposition. They don’t have much of a rushing attack, and Penn State does a good job of protecting Clifford. This game might get ugly if the Golden Gophers can’t figure out ways to dial up pressure on the quarterback. Clifford has the Nittany Lions sitting at third in the conference in passing offense, which should present an interesting test for a Minnesota defense allowing only 166.4 passing yards per game.

The Golden Gopher defense could be without leading tackler Kamal Martin, who continues to work his way back from a right knee injury.

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Penn State is about to rain on Minnesota’s parade.

The lack of quality opposition is a major red flag for Minnesota stepping onto the field with the No. 4-ranked team in the country. Along with having the second-best scoring offense in the conference, the Nittany Lions can be absolutely ferocious on defense as well. A chance meeting against a legitimately well-rounded opponent will unravel everything for the Golden Gophers.

They’ve basically been able to have their way against teams due to their ability to run the ball so effectively. I’m not expecting the approach to that game plan to suddenly change on Saturday, even if the attempts are futile. They’ll line up and do their best to bludgeon the Nittany Lions.

However, that’s easier said than done when running against a unit allowing only 68.4 yards per game. Not being able to run the ball consistently will put Morgan in the unusual spot of trying to win with his arm, which would immediately put him at the mercy of Penn State’s pass rushers. I’m taking the Nittany Lions to shake off a rough start and eventually separate from Minnesota.

Prediction: Penn State Nittany Lions (-6.5)

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The Golden Gophers are averaging 38.4 points per game, but they have faced nothing even close to what they’re going to see against the Nittany Lions on Saturday. This is the first real defense they’ve come across all season—a defense with the second-best average scoring allowance in the nation. The inability to get the run game going will put Minnesota in an inescapable bind on Saturday. Give me the under betting total here.

Prediction: Under (47.5)
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Written By Jordy McElroy , "Sporty Jordy"

Born in Germany and raised in the beautiful state of Tennessee, Jordy McElroy is a storyteller of sports, a sports betting enthusiast and a semi-deep thinker. Being a New England Patriots fan means he's a six-time Super Bowl winner as well, which means you'd have to be a fool to ignore his advice. Prior to joining our team here at Winners & Whiners, Jordy’s work appeared on CNN.com, FOX Sports, Bleacher Report, USA TODAY and BJPenn.com. There are no beaches where he comes from -- just rolling hills, green valleys and all the Sun Drop you can drink.