More than 13 years ago, the Minnesota Golden Gophers knocked off the unbeaten sixth ranked Ohio State Buckeyes 29-17 in Columbus. One could argue, myself included, that it was the Gophers’ biggest victory since they knocked off top ranked Michigan at Memorial Stadium in 1977. One week after the upset of the Buckeyes in 2000, the Gophers lost to Antwaan Randle El and the Indiana Hoosiers, 51-43. Let’s hope history doesn’t repeat itself on Saturday in Bloomington when the Gophers, coming off an upset over Nebraska, take on the Indiana Hoosiers.
Historically, the Gophers have struggled in games following big victories. In 2005, after knocking off No. 21 Michigan in Ann Arbor, they lost the next week to Wisconsin at home, 38-34.
Will the Gophers be able to continue the momentum after a big victory? Let’s take a look at the match-ups first.
Minnesota Offense: The Gophers have a competent two-quarterback system with Mitch Leidner and Philip Nelson. Leidner is a bull, running over people and exhausting defenses. Nelson is crafty, has a quick release, and a bit of break away speed. The Gophers have also found a workhorse running back in junior David Cobb. The Gophers are still searching for a go-to receiver as Derrick Engel leads the team with just 18 catches through eight games.
Indiana Offense: The Hoosiers have one of the most explosive offenses in the Big Ten averaging 514 yards per game. Indiana has possibly the best quarterback tandem in the Big Ten with Nate Sudfeld and Tre Roberson. Sudfeld is third in the conference in passing, averaging 246.6 yards per game. Roberson brings a dual threat to the Hoosiers backfield as he’s more than an exceptional runner but also a capable passer.
Offensive Edge: Indiana
Minnesota Defense: The Gophers have one of the Big Ten’s most underrated defenses anchored by All-American candidate Ra’Shede Hageman and emerging defensive end Theiren Cockran. Hageman and Cockran have combined for 16.5 tackles for a loss this year. As a whole, the Gophers are fifth in scoring defense, sixth in total defense, and have generated 17 turnovers.
Indiana Defense: The Indiana defense stinks. The Hoosiers are dead last in total defense in the Big Ten surrendering 498 yards per game. Indiana has struggled tackling and is especially bad against the run. The Hoosiers gave up 444 yards rushing in a 41-35 loss to Navy earlier this year. The Gophers have one of the better rushing offenses in the conference so this is a great match up for Minnesota. The Gophers should be able to run the ball effectively, eat clock, and keep the Indiana offense off the field.
Defensive Edge: Minnesota
Minnesota Special Teams: Kicker Chris Hawthorne is quietly putting together a solid year. Hawthorne has connected on 11-of-14 field goal attempts and has been booting his kickoffs into the end zone on a regular basis. Punter Peter Mortell is averaging 42.4 yards per punt and has kicked a whopping 11 punts inside the 20. One could argue that Mortell has been the most consistent player for the Gophers this year. Marcus Jones has returned a kick and a punt for touchdowns this year and remains a threat to take it the distance every time he touches the ball.
Indiana Special Teams: Kicker Mitch Ewald has connected on all of his field goal attempts but he’s only attempted five — his long is from 50 yards.
Special Teams Edge: Minnesota
Minnesota Coaching: The Gophers may have found the winning coaching formula. They’re 2-0 with Jerry Kill watching from the press box and Tracy Claeys roaming the sideline as the acting head coach. This seemingly puts less stress on Kill, calms down the sideline and allows Claeys to focus on the defense and for offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover to focus on the offense. So far so good.
Indiana Coaching: Kevin Wilson is a brilliant and innovative offensive mind. But after this season, he needs to go find himself a similarly-minded defensive coordinator. Until that takes place, Indiana will struggle achieving bowl eligibility.
Coaching Edge: Minnesota
PREDICTION: Minnesota 42, Indiana 24
P.S. Las Vegas has Minnesota +8.5. I don’t condone betting, but if you’re in Vegas, rent a Brinks truck and back it up to the casino and put it all on the Gophers. Easy money!