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Minnesota Football: RoWINg to Indiana - Opponent Preview

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The Gophers make their final road trip of the regular season

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 13 Rutgers at Indiana Photo by James Black/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Minnesota Golden Gophers (6-4) head to Bloomington to take on the Indiana Hoosiers (2-8).

Can Indiana score on offense?

This is the one of the worst offenses in the Big Ten, if not the country.

The Hoosiers are 0-7 against Big Ten competition this season and are averaging 10.4 points per game in conference play. When you remove the game in which Indiana scored 35 points against Maryland, that average drops down to 6.3 points per game. They’ve scored 7 points or less in five games this season, including a shutout against Penn State.

Under center, the Hoosiers are down to their third-string quarterback. Michael Penix Jr. opened the season as the starting signal caller and was largely ineffective, throwing more interceptions (7) than touchdowns (4) in five games. But he has been sidelined since suffering a separated shoulder against Penn State on Oct. 2. Penix was replaced by Jack Tuttle, who has been in and out of the lineup with a foot injury, which he aggravated in last week’s loss to Rutgers. True freshman Donaven McCulley is likely to make his fourth start on Saturday against the Gophers. He is 32-of-75 (42.7%) for 458 passing yards and two touchdowns this season.

No quarterback has been safe operating behind the Hoosiers’ offensive line, which is allowing 2.4 sacks per game. But the Hoosiers are also dealing with a key injury at running back. Leading rusher Stephen Carr suffered an ankle injury two weeks ago against Michigan and did not dress against Rutgers. It’s unclear what his status is for Saturday against the Gophers. Indiana wasn’t able to mount much of a rushing attack against the Scarlet Knights without him, with four running backs combined for 49 rushing yards on 18 carries (2.7 yards per carry).

The Hoosiers’ most dangerous weapons in the passing game are wide receiver Ty Fryfogle and tight end Peyton Hendershot. Fryfogle leads the team in receptions (43) and receiving yards (496), but has only one touchdown to his name. Hendershot leads the team with four receiving touchdowns, though he is not far behind Fryfogle in receptions (40) and receiving yards (492).

Please tell me the Gophers will be able to score

The defensive side of the ball is not a complete disaster for Indiana. They rank 55h nationally in rushing defense (141.7 rushing yards allowed per game), 73rd in passing defense (235.2 passing yards allowed per game), and 106th in scoring defense (32 points allowed per game).

The Hoosiers have a stud at linebacker in Micah McFadden, who leads the team in tackles (62), tackles for loss (15), and sacks (6.5). But he can only do so much. He was without Cam Jones, his partner-in-crime at linebacker, against Rutgers, which changed the complexion of the Hoosiers’ defense. Indiana ended up allowing the Scarlet Knights to accumulate 218 rushing yards. Rutgers quarterback Noah Vedral only made 17 pass attempts in the 38-3 blowout, so you can imagine what kind of offensive game plan the Gophers are drawing up.

But this is a veteran defense, with 10 senior starters when Jones is in the lineup. They’ve largely been hung out to dry by their offense, which can’t stay on the field and frequently turns the ball over. Don’t be surprised if Minnesota struggles to get going early on offense.

But who will score more points on Saturday?

This is not a game that Minnesota should lose, as this season has been an utter disaster for Indiana. But as we’ve learned by now, the Gophers don’t always win the games they should. With that said, I’m not nearly pessimistic enough to pick the Hoosiers. Minnesota 28, Indiana 7.