Minnesota Gophers vs. Penn State Nittany Lions Game Preview

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Joe Broback

Contributor at Champion Insiders
Joe is a writer covering the NFL, NBA, NHL and college football. He also currently writes for SB Nation’s Underdog Dynasty, covering the American Athletic Conference since 2016. Joe enjoys collecting shoes, playing sports, and anything fitness related.
Joe Broback
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College GameDay might not be coming, but this matchup of undefeated teams is still worth watching. The Minnesota Gophers are 8-0 for the first time since the 1940s, and are ready to prove they’re an elite team. A cold and potentially snowy game against Penn State feels like the perfect way to play this one. We saw the first College Football Playoff rankings last night, and both teams surprised us. Penn State jumped into the playoff at 4th, while the Gophers fell back to 17th. This game provides opportunities for both teams, but Minnesota benefits the most from a win. Beating a playoff team could vault them into the Top 10, and losing could drop them out of the Top 25. Penn State adds another ranked win to their resume if they beat the Gophers, but also fall quite a bit if they lose. High risk, high reward for both teams in this one.

Date: Saturday, November 9th
Start time: 11:00am CT
How to watch: ABC
Line: Penn State -7
Location: TCF Bank Stadium (Minneapolis, MN)

Players to watch

Minnesota Gophers

QB Tanner Morgan
WR Tyler Johnson
WR Rashod Bateman
DE Carter Coughlin
S Antoine Winfield Jr.

Penn State Nittany Lions

WR KJ Hamler
QB Sean Clifford
DE Yetur Gross-Matos
LB Micah Parsons
CB Tariq Castro-Fields

Minnesota Gophers Outlook

There hasn’t been a team that’s made Gophers fans feel this way in this decade. An 8-0 start, regardless of who they’ve played, brings a new excitement to Minnesota. Normally, the Gophers struggle to beat inferior teams, and we saw that early in the season. Yet they found ways to win those games, and lately they’ve blown out their competition. This game presents the next challenge and the next step they must take to be a relevant playoff team. The only way this can be deflating is if the Gophers get blown out. Like it always has, it starts with the offense.

Minnesota’s offenses over the last few years have left something to be desired. This year’s team is different. Tanner Morgan’s embraced the underdog role and run with it. He’s on pace to break the school’s single season record for touchdowns in a season (24) and could become the leader in passing yards for a season as well (2,895). His success comes with the development of his receivers, and a balanced rushing attack also helps. Penn State’s defense is the best Minnesota’s faced all year, and they can’t afford to face plant. If they want to stay in the game, the offense must move the ball. Watch Johnson and Bateman go against the secondary, and Minnesota’s offensive line must find a way to keep Gross-Matos out of Morgan’s face. It’s the same keys to the game as it’s always been or Minnesota against an elite team, but they just need to execute.

Penn State Nittany Lions Outlook

Penn State knows how tough the Gophers are to beat. Just three years ago, they needed a Saquon Barkley touchdown in overtime to put away Minnesota. Now the Gophers are much better and the home team, even if the Nittany Lions are underdogs in a way too.

Penn State wasn’t supposed to be a contender in their own division, let alone the fourth best team in college football. Sean Clifford’s abilities were doubted from the minute Trace McSorley an Tommy Stevens left campus. Now, he’s already passed for more touchdowns than McSorley did last year, and is on pace to break the school record for passing touchdowns in a season (29). He’ll have the luxury of distributing the ball to KJ Hamler, who’s one of the most explosive players in the country. Penn State enters the game as the more talented team, so Minnesota shouldn’t show them something they haven’t seen already.

Prediction

With two ranked wins already on their resume, this weekend’s game doesn’t present anything Penn State hasn’t seen already. James Franklin, who deserves more credit than he’s getting for this 8-0 start, will have his team prepared regardless of the weather. Minnesota just feels like a different team this year. If they are, an upset’s possible. If they’re not, Gophers fans will wonder again if they’ll ever see an elite team. They’ve already shown they can play great football, and now it’s time for them to take another step. MINNESOTA 28 PENN STATE 27

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