Battle in Big Ten
Minneapolis, MN - Minnesota might have some stellar individual talent on offense, but its overall defensive effort is most responsible for the program's resurgence.
The No. 20 Gophers and that stingy defense could be in for another strong outing Saturday in a Big Ten matchup against visiting Northwestern, which will be without at least one of its top offensive players.
Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made Minnesota –6.5 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for Saturday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 83% of bets for this game have been placed on Minnesota –6.5 (View College Football bet percentages).
Minnesota (7-1, 3-1) earned its third straight victory last Saturday, winning 17-6 at Purdue to move up five spots in the poll and climb to 17th in the BCS standings. The Gophers, in the midst of a remarkable turnaround from a 1-11 2007 season, have already secured a bowl berth and in the mix for the Big Ten title.
Minnesota, which suffered its only loss to Ohio State, doesn't play conference leader and third-ranked Penn State this season.
"People try to talk about (a conference title), but we really just want to keep it to one game at a time,'' sophomore defensive back Kyle Theret said. "That's what's been our mind-set all year, and we don't want to change it. We don't want to get ahead of ourselves.''
Theret intercepted a pass last Saturday, one of four turnovers the Gophers forced against Purdue. Minnesota's 24 forced turnovers rank first in the nation. The Gophers also rank fourth in the Big Ten with 17.1 points allowed per game, and have given up seven or fewer in three of their last five contests.
Minnesota allowed an average of 36.6 points last season.
"It's really different, especially from last year,'' said Theret, who has three interceptions in 2008. "We weren't even close to shutting down people to six points, no touchdowns. We've done that a couple times this year, and we think we can play better.''
The Gophers might have a hard time topping their latest effort after holding Purdue to 109 passing yards, the lowest in coach Joe Tiller's 12 years with the Boilermakers. Minnesota, which yielded 226 total yards, also recorded five sacks to increase its season total to 22 - double its output from 2007.
"I have tremendous confidence in our defense,'' Minnesota coach Tim Brewster said. "We did things good defenses have to do to be successful.''
Playing their first game as a ranked team this season, the Gophers face a Northwestern (6-2, 2-2) squad which is also bowl eligible, but will be without star running back Tyrell Sutton. The senior is expected to miss the rest of the regular season after injuring his wrist during a 21-19 loss at Indiana last Saturday.
"It's disappointing, especially for a senior to have something like that happen to him at the end of his career,'' said Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald of Sutton, who has rushed for 776 yards with six touchdowns this season and 3,772 yards and 31 TDs in his career. "Obviously, it's tough when you lose a great player like Tyrell.''
Another senior, Omar Conteh, will start in Sutton's spot. Conteh has rushed for 223 yards on 61 carries this season, and ran 14 times for 81 yards in the Wildcats' 49-48 double-overtime home victory over the Gophers on Oct. 13, 2007.
Quarterback C.J. Bacher went 41-for-58 for 470 yards and four touchdowns in that win, but is questionable for this contest after suffering a hamstring injury last week. If Bacher is unable to go, junior Mike Kafka will start.
Minnesota's Adam Weber was 25-for-38 for 341 yards with five TDs and two interceptions versus Northwestern last season. Last week, the redshirt sophomore went 21-for-34 for 212 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for 60 yards and a score for an offense that won despite scoring less than its 28.2 season average.
Junior Eric Decker, whose 66 receptions rank third in the nation, caught five passes including a TD last season against the Wildcats.
Despite last season's loss, Minnesota has won three of the last four meetings with Northwestern. The Gophers are seeking their third consecutive home win over the Wildcats.
Top Betting Trends:
All games in this series since 1992
MINNESOTA is 7-4 against the spread versus NORTHWESTERN since 1992
NORTHWESTERN is 6-5 straight up against MINNESOTA since 1992
5 of 7 games in this series have gone OVER THE TOTAL since 1992
Games over the last 3 seasons
MINNESOTA is 1-0 against the spread versus NORTHWESTERN over the last 3 seasons
NORTHWESTERN is 1-0 straight up against MINNESOTA over the last 3 seasons
1 of 1 games in this series have gone OVER THE TOTAL over the last 3 seasons
All games played at MINNESOTA since 1992
NORTHWESTERN is 4-1 against the spread versus MINNESOTA since 1992
NORTHWESTERN is 3-2 straight up against MINNESOTA since 1992
2 of 3 games in this series have gone OVER THE TOTAL since 1992
Key Player Injuries
[WR] Drake Dunsmore expected to miss entire season - ACL - 08/11/08
[OL] Keegan Grant missed last game ~?~ - Ankle - 10/23/08
[LB] Malcolm Arrington expected to miss the rest of the season - Knee - 10
[DB] Justan Vaughn out for the season - Illness - 09/19/08
No significant injuries.
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Posted: 10/28/08 1:30 AM