Penn State (5-3) at Minnesota (7-2)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 9, 12 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: TCF Bank Stadium (50,805) -- Minneapolis, Minnesota. Television: ESPN2. Home Record: PSU 4-1, Minnesota 4-1. Away Record: PSU 0-2, Minnesota 3-1. Neutral Record: PSU 1-0, Minnesota 0-0. Conference Record: PSU 2-2, Minnesota 3-2. Series: PSU leads, 8-4.
GAME NOTES: The Governor's Victory Bell will be on the line Saturday afternoon when the Penn State Nittany Lions step into TCF Bank Stadium to take on the Minnesota Golden Gophers in Big Ten Conference play.
The trophy has been awarded to the winner of this matchup since the first meeting in 1993. PSU has won four straight against Minnesota and leads the all-time series, 8-4. These teams have not faced each other since 2010, and they are not scheduled to do so again until the 2016 season.
Penn State is coming off last week's 24-17 overtime victory against Illinois, its second overtime in the last three games after beating Michigan in four overtimes on Oct. 12. Had they not been serving a four-year postseason ban, the Nittany Lions would be playing for bowl eligibility this weekend. Following this tilt, they'll wrap up their schedule with home games against Purdue and Nebraska, and then at Wisconsin for the regular-season finale.
Meanwhile, Minnesota is riding a three-game Big Ten winning streak for the first time since 2008, and the team has not won four in a row in league play since 1973. All three victories have come under acting coach Tracy Claeys, while head coach Jerry Kill remains on leave to get treatment for epileptic seizures. Most recently, the Golden Gophers were a 42-39 winner at Indiana last weekend.
Penn State's offense has been productive both on the ground and through the air. Against Illinois last week, Bill Belton became the school's first 200- yard rusher since Larry Johnson in 2002 as he churned out 201 yards and a touchdown on 36 carries, earning Big Ten Co-Offensive Player of the Week honors. Over the last three games, Belton has run for 384 yards for an average of 128 per game. Quarterback Christian Hackenberg threw for 240 yards and a touchdown on 20-of-32 passing against Illinois. Hackenberg, a true freshman, leads the conference in completions (164) and passing yards (253.0 ypg), and he is the only freshman in school history to post six 200-yard passing games. A lot of that success has to do with star wideout Allen Robinson, who hauled in 11 passes for 165 yards against the Fighting Illini. Robinson tops the Big Ten in receptions (8.2 rpg) and receiving yards per game (130.4), and he is in the top-10 nationally in both categories. He is 42 yards away from breaking Bobby Engram's single-season school record of 1,084 receiving yards.
Linebacker Glenn Carson leads the Nittany Lions defense with 66 tackles, while DaQuan Jones ranks fourth in the Big Ten in tackles for loss, with 9.5. Safety Ryan Keiser sealed the win against Illinois with an interception in the end zone in overtime. Sophomore Jordan Lucas also had an interception on the game's opening drive, his second pick of the season. Linebacker Mike Hull had a game-high 13 tackles, and Carson tallied 11 stops. The Nittany Lions held Illinois to just three first-half points, but the Illini took the lead with a pair of long touchdown drives in the second half. Overall, the PSU defense performed well enough to earn the victory, as Illinois managed only two touchdowns and a field goal out of five trips inside the red zone.
Minnesota enters this weekend's matchup boasting the nation's 20th-ranked rushing offense (221.1 ypg). David Cobb has taken over the backfield duties and run for 803 yards and six touchdowns on 148 carries (5.4 ypc). He gashed Indiana for 188 yards and a touchdown on 29 carries in last week's victory. As a team, the Golden Gophers have rushed for 21 touchdowns on the year, after notching only 14 scores on the ground last season. Mitch Leidner has shared time at quarterback with Philip Nelson, and that two-quarterback system has served the Gophers well to this point. Nelson completed 16-of-23 passes for 298 yards and four scores against Indiana, while Leidner notched his seventh rushing TD of the season and is averaging 47.6 rushing yards per contest.
Minnesota's defense had its hands full with the Hoosiers and their ninth- ranked scoring offense. The Gophers led 35-13 midway through the third quarter before allowing IU to storm back and take a 39-35 lead with five and a half minutes remaining in regulation. After coughing up that lead, the Hoosiers got the ball back and drove down to the Minnesota nine-yard line, but Gophers linebacker Aaron Hill thwarted that potential game-winning drive when he recovered a fumbled lateral on 2nd-and-goal to preserve the victory for Minnesota. The Gophers managed to win despite giving up three touchdowns through the air and another two on the ground as Indiana's Stephen Houston and Tevin Coleman both went over 100 yards rushing.
Minnesota is off to its best start in the Big Ten in quite some time, thanks to a prolific offense. However, the Nittany Lions also have several playmakers of their own on that side of the ball.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Penn State 37, Minnesota 34
11/06 10:45:16 ET