Last Saturday, Minnesota beat Colorado State to begin the season with a perfect 3-0 record. For perspective, the last season with a perfect non-conference start was 2013. The Gophers ultimately went 8-5 that season and ran off four straight wins in the Big Ten, including a 24-10 win over Penn State.
The Victory Bell is still in Minnesota’s trophy case, and as much as Gopher fans may not care about this particular trophy, we have no desire to give it back either.
Kickoff is scheduled for 2:30 PM CDT and the game will air live on BTN.
There is reason to be optimistic about this game, about the possibility of a Big Ten road win to open the conference slate.
- The ground game is working well for Minnesota. Just back from injury, Shannon Brooks rushed for 85 yards, Rodney Smith added 99 yards and two scores, and even Mitch Leidner got in on the action with 50 yards (Joe Christensen, Minneapolis Star Tribune).
- Speaking of Leidner, he finally got to visit Leidner Island! He seemed surprised that he had a personal fan club, but appreciates the free publicity (VIDEO; reporting from Jason Gonzales, STrib).
- The Gopher offense is looking good, but the Gopher defense is another matter. The problem is not a lack of talent/depth, but a lack of execution. As Chip Scoggins notes, new schemes and personnel groupings that Jay Sawvel unveiled against Colorado State didn’t always work. Plus, sloppy tackling and missed assignments led to big gains for the Rams.
- The defensive situation is made worse by injuries to a couple of key players. Coney Durr, probably the best defensive back coming out of camp, is out with an unspecified injury. Tai’yon Devers, who lit up CSU’s Collin Hill on Saturday, will miss the Penn State game with an ankle injury. Plus, the situation with the suspended players remains unresolved (Joe C, STrib).
- Tracy Claeys is keeping his calm though. Maybe that’s because Claeys is the eternal optimist (John Shipley, Pioneer Press).
Happy Valley? More like UnHappy Valley these days. The Nittany Lions began the season with an easy win over Kent State and followed it up with loss to definitely-not-a-rival Pitt. A struggle to victory against Temple was followed by an ol’ fashioned whoopin’ by Michigan. In other worse, it’s been that kind of season. Already.
- Head coach James Franklin wants everyone to take a deep breath. The blowout loss to Michigan notwithstanding, Franklin believes the team is on the right track and that patience is the need of the hour (Mark Wogenrich, The Morning Call).
- The Nittany Lions are alarmingly thin at various positions on the defense, and especially at linebacker. It’s not clear if the defense will be able to stop the Gophers’ potent rushing attack (Greg Pickel, PennLive).
- The Penn State offense isn’t exactly setting the field on fire either. Saquon Barkley has not been as effective as expected, and the third down offense is terrible. In fact, Penn State is nearly dead last in FBS on third down conversions (Bob Flounders, PennLive).
- Judgment on Penn State’s season will probably be reserved until after the Minnesota game, and the hope is that the team’s various deficiencies will be less obvious against the Big Ten’s middle ranks (Wogenrich, Morning Call).
This game is hard to predict, but despite home field advantage and a slight differential in talent, I still think the Gophers might win this game. Homer #HOTTAEKS.
Finally, I’m sure most have seen this already, but Nebraska’s Michael Rose-Ivey took a knee during the national anthem last Saturday, and while many have been supportive of his right to protest, he’s also been subject to significant racial backlash and criticism, including from the governor of Nebraska who called the protest “disgraceful and disrespectful.”
Rose-Ivey later made a video statement to explain his protest. Whatever we think of the protest and Rose-Ivey’s actions, it’s good to remember, as Spencer Hall says, that these players deserve our love and support, that being a fan is not incompatible with empathy and compassion. BE THERE FOR THEM.