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Minnesota Football: Three keys to beating Illinois

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Looking to improve to 7-2, what are the Gopher’s keys to victory?

Miami-Ohio v Minnesota Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

Remember that 2018 disastrous loss at Illinois? The Gopher defense gave up 55 points to a Lovie Smith team that finished 4-8. That game led to the firing of Robb Smith and probably added a year to Lovie’s tenure. Since that game, PJ Fleck and this program have gone 23-9 with some impressive wins along the way.

Can the Gophers continue what is turning out to be a rather successful season by taking care of business at home against Illinois?

3 KEYS

  • Back to a balanced offense - The last two games have been lining up and just owning the line of scrimmage. The Gophers controlled both Maryland and Northwestern running all over these opponents, attempting 30 total passes in those games. Can they do the same to Illinois? Probably. But for the sake of RB health and to get the offense ready to throw the ball more in the final stretch of games, it is time to get back to balance.
  • Stop the Run - Illinois ranks 13th in the Big Ten passing and while their rushing offense isn’t lighting the world on fire, it is what they do best. The Gopher run defense has been excellent, that should continue and then make
  • No Penalties - Same as last week, but just don’t kill drives for our offense or extend Illini drives.

OPPOSING PLAYERS TO WATCH

  • #2 RB - Chase Brown - He’s not the only back who gets carries but he leads the team in carries and yards. A sophomore from London who had 223 yards against Penn State! Let’s not let that happen.
  • #31 LB - Devon Witherspoon - 8 pass breakups on the season and had a couple TFLs in the Penn State game.

PREDICTION

In this current 3-game stretch of teams where the Gophers have been favorites, this is the one that concerns me the most. Riding a winning streak, dominating teams and a big Iowa game looming...I’m a little concerned.

I fear that we will struggle in this game early. Then it remains to be seen if we figure it out or if we go full Bowling Green and struggle till the end.

I believe the Gophers win this one, but this is closer than many anticipate it will be.

Minnesota - 27
Illinois - 21