The prevailing thought is that the Golden Gophers haven’t experienced anything close to the strength of schedule played by Penn State. But they have taken care of business, outscoring their last four opponents by 168-41 in preparing for a stretch of three ranked opponents in their final four regular-season games.
The first quarter will be important. Minnesota has scored 66 first-quarter points. Penn State has allowed three and put up 83. Both teams want to play with the lead.
Two key areas will be the Nittany Lions’ success on offense in the red zone against a team that is in the bottom 10 in FBS in red-zone defense, and on special teams, where KJ Hamler might get to race to the house with a punt or kickoff return and have it count.
The Lions make a late defensive stop and win a close one.
Prediction: Penn State 24, Minnesota 21
Despite all of the impressive stats and what the eye test says, it’s still hard to truly get a grip on how good this Minnesota team really is. The Golden Gophers haven’t faced any meaningful opponents yet, and this Penn State defense is as good as any unit in the country.
It’s going to be cold. It’s going to be tough for the Nittany Lions to score on the road. But that didn’t stop them a few weeks ago against Michigan State. This Penn State team just finds ways to put points on the board when it gets down in the red zone, and any type of lead for its defense has been enough.
The Nittany Lions escaped their tough three-game stretch unscathed, but another tough stretch will begin this weekend in Minneapolis. The unbeaten run will continue.