Gophers football game preview
SATURDAY: PENN STATE (5-3) AT MINNESOTA (7-2), 11 A.M. (ESPN2)
Minnesota puts its three-game win streak on the line against visiting Penn State in the battle for the Governor’s Victory Bell. The trophy was established in 1993 when the Nittany Lions began Big Ten play. The Golden Gophers provided the opposition for Penn State’s first Big Ten game on Sept. 4, 1993 — won by the host Nittany Lions, 38-20.
This will be the 13th meeting between the two schools but first since 2010 with Penn State holding an 8-4 series edge. The Golden Gophers will be trying to reach the eight-win mark for the first time since going 10-3 in 2003 under Glen Mason. Minnesota also is trying to win its fourth straight Big Ten game for the first time since 1973 under Cal Stoll.
ABOUT PENN STATE (2-2 Big Ten): The Nittany Lions come in off a 24-17 overtime win over Illinois during which junior running back Bill Belton rushed for 201 yards and a touchdown on 36 carries en route to Big Ten Co-Offensive Player of the Week honors. Belton became the first Nittany Lion to rush for 200 yards since Larry Johnson did it in 2002 against Michigan State. Receiver Allen Robinson, who has posted double-digit reception totals in three of four Big Ten games, leads the conference in receptions (8.3 per game) and receiving yards (130.4).
ABOUT MINNESOTA (3-2 Big Ten): Philip Nelson, who has split time at quarterback this season with freshman Mitch Leidner, was named Big Ten Co-Offensive Player of the Week after throwing for 298 yards and four touchdowns in last weekend’s 42-39 victory at Indiana. Nelson, who is expected to start despite being hampered by a hip pointer, has thrown six touchdowns and no interceptions during the Gophers’ three-game Big Ten win streak. Running back David Cobb, who wasn’t listed on the team’s season-opening depth chart, leads a strong Gophers’ run game with 803 yards and six touchdowns on 148 carries.
1. Robinson needs 42 yards to break Bobby Engram’s school single-season record of 1,084 receiving yards.
2. Cobb has three straight 100-yard rushing games, the first Minnesota player to do that since Amir Pinnix had six in a row from 2006-07.
3. Penn State freshman QB Christian Hackenberg leads the Big Ten in completions (164) and passing yards (253.0 per game).
PREDICTION: Minnesota 27, Penn State 24