Penn State vs. Minnesota Preview

Story posted November 7, 2013 in Sports, CommRadio by Kris Rogers

After their second straight overtime win against the Illinois Fighting Illini, the Penn State Nittany Lions (5-3, 2-2 Big Ten) travel to TCF Bank Stadium to take on the Minnesota Golden Gophers (7-2, 2-2 Big Ten).

The winner of this game will be rewarded with the Governor's Victory Bell, which Penn State has held since 2005. The rivalry began in 1993 when Penn State joined the Big Ten, and the Lions hold an 8-4 advantage over the Gophers.

The last time Penn State played Minnesota, Penn State career passing leader and current Oakland Raiders quarterback Matt McGloin got his first significant playing time as a Nittany Lion, replacing an injured Rob Bolden who left the game with a concussion.

Penn State has struggled so far on the road this season. After a win in the season opener against Syracuse at the Meadowlands, the Lions have given up a total of 107 points in two road games to Indiana and Ohio State.

The Gophers are having one of their best seasons in recent years. They've already matched their highest win total since 2008, and need just one win in their last three games for their best record since the 2003 season when Minnesota went 11-3.

Minnesota is also 3-0 since head coach Jerry Kill stepped away from the team to seek medical treatment for epilepsy. Defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys has taken over his duties.

Kill will remain in the press box on Saturday and will not be on the field.

Both Penn State and Minnesota have potent, albeit very different offenses. Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg has had a decent freshman campaign (2,024 yards, 58.4% comp, 13 TD, 8 INT) and is looking to finish the season strong.

Minnesota uses a two-quarterback system with sophomore Philip Nelson (942 yards, 56.4% comp, 8 TD, 4 INT) getting the majority of the team's snaps over redshirt freshman Mitch Leidner. Both quarterbacks have taken snaps in seven of nine games this season.

Despite being a run-first team, the Gophers have options in the passing game. Wide receiver Derrick Engel and tight end Maxx Williams are both legitimate targets with 361 and 251 receiving yards respectively.

If Penn State wants to succeed on defense, they'll have to shut down the Gophers junior running back David Cobb, who has emerged as their biggest offensive weapon during their three game win streak.

In his past three games, Cobb has carried the ball 80 times for 429 yards. Minnesota is ranked 20th in the nation with 221 rushing yards per game.

Of course, the Lions have weapons of their own on offense. In the same three-week span, running back Bill Belton reclaimed the starting role from Zach Zwinak and rushed for 384 yards on 85 carries, including a career-high 201 yards on 26 carries last week against the Fighting Illini.

Wide receiver Allen Robinson is looking to continue his impressive season (66 receptions, 1,043 yards) and build upon last year's record-breaking year. Robinson is on pace to surpass his own record of 76 catches in a year and needs just 42 yards to break the Penn State single season receiving yards record set by Bobby Ingram in 1995.

The Gophers are wearing helmets with new logos for this game. Instead of its normal gold, the helmet's “M” will be red, white and blue in support of the Wounded Warrior Project, a non-profit that provides programs and services to severely injured service members during the time between active duty and transition to civilian life.

A win would put Penn State over .500 in Big Ten play and at 6-3 overall on the season.

Minnesota controls its own destiny in the Legends division, and if they win out they will have a chance to play in the Big Ten Championship game.

Kris Rogers is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email klr5374@psu.edu.