The Minnesota Gophers (4-1) travel to Champaign to take on the #24 Illinois Fighting Illini (5-1) at Memorial Stadium at 12:00 pm (EST). The Gophers are a -6.5-point favorite and are given a 62.8% chance to win according to ESPN’s FPI. Illinois is coming off a tight 9-6 win over Iowa. Minnesota on the other hand is coming off their bye week and before that they suffered their first loss of the year to Purdue 20-10. With that let’s look at what to expect in Minnesota at #24 Illinois.
This is the start of the Gophers hardest remaining stretch of the season. First they take on #24 Illinois, then they travel to Happy Valley for a showdown with #10 Penn State in their White Out game. A win on Saturday would mean the Gophers are back on track and can add a ranked road win to their resume. A loss will likely put them at best second in the Big 10 west. While they could still compete for the division, it’s hard to see them catching Illinois, who should really only have one or two more losses this year at most.
Also, if they lose, it puts that much more pressure on their matchup with Penn State next week, which I don’t see them winning as of right now. This game is the Gopher’s season. Yes, it is bold to say that in week seven, but if the Gophers want to win the west and make it to Indianapolis, they cannot lose this game. If they lose here, it’ll likely end their chance at claiming the west.
What To Watch
What I am watching on Saturday for the Gophers is their offense. Mohamed Ibrahim missed the Purdue game with an ankle injury he suffered against Michigan State. Minnesota’s offense struggled in his absence only having 47 yards rushing in the entire game. Trey Potts and Bryce Williams couldn’t get anything going against the Boilermakers defensive front. With Ibrahim back, I’ll be looking for the offense to return to normal. This is no easy task with a good Illinois defense. They give up eight points per game, 228 yards of total offense (160.8 passing and 67.2 rushing). This will be a tough task, especially since Illinois has a blueprint on how to slow down the Gophers high power offense.
My biggest question is how the Gophers will look coming off their first loss. They didn’t have Mohamed Ibrahim and am curious to see how his return impacts the offense. Will he be able to help the Gophers get back to a more balanced offense or will they continue to struggle against a good Illinois team. I’m expecting them to be back to normal with Ibrahim’s return. A week off to get rested up and an extra week to really scout the Illini should have the Gophers ready to go for their toughest game of the year.
If the offense can return to their normal look, it should allow their defense the time, they need to really shut down Illinois’s offense. The defense was great in their loss and only looked bad due to being gassed at the end of the game. If they can avoid getting into that situation, I have a hard time seeing Illinois do much against the Gopher defense.
The Fighting Illini look to keep their Big 10 West dominance going as they host the Minnesota Gophers on Saturday. The Illini are coming off of back-to-back wins over Wisconsin and Iowa. They now have their hardest test in their Big 10 schedule as they take on the Gophers.
A win for Illinois puts them in the driver seat in the Big 10 west with their hardest games left being at home vs. Purdue and at #4 Michigan. It’s not hard to see a two-to-three loss Illinois team in the Big 10 Championship if they can get a win on Saturday. A loss puts them behind in the Big 10 West race, though a good season of three to four losses still is likely.
What To Watch
What I will be watching is how Illinois’s defense handles the Gopher’s offense. No one has been able to stop the Gophers when Ibrahim is playing (which he will be). The problem with trying to stop him is that the Gophers can beat you deep if you’re not careful. It’ll be up to a stout Illinois defense to slow a Gophers offense that averages 495.2 yards per game (250.2 passing and 245.0 rushing). Thankfully for them Purdue gave them a blueprint in to how to slow them down, the Illini hope it will translate over to stopping Ibrahim as well.
The biggest question I have is can the offense score on another good defense, especially with who will be at quarterback in question. Tommy DeVito left last week’s game against Iowa with an ankle injury and his status is in question. Backup quarterback Artur Sitkowski had 103 yards passing with an interception in the Ilini’s win.
For Illinois, the Gophers are a different animal than the Hawkeyes. While nine points might be enough to beat Iowa, the Illini will need more than that if they want to beat the Gophers. Illinois had 316 yards of total offense (116 passing and 200 rushing) but had three turnovers.
That is something they must avoid as the Gophers do a good job of taking advantage of their opponent’s mistakes. Minnesota’s defense has been great, holding opponents to 8.8 points per game and 222 total yards of offense (140.6 passing and 81.4 rushing). The Illini have a tall task getting points off a defense that doesn’t give up much.
My bold prediction for the game is that both teams will stay under 300 yards of total offense and will score no more than 20 points each. These are great defenses that hold teams to under nine points a game and under 230 yards of total offense. Each offense also averages over 400 yards of total offense a game, but that won’t be the case on Saturday. It’ll be a defensive showcase in Champaign as the defenses shut down these good offenses.
The following betting lines are according to ESPN’s Pick Center.
- Minnesota: -6.5
- Illinois: +6.5
- Minnesota: -255
- Illinois: +205
Where To Watch
Minnesota at #24 Illinois will air on the Big Ten Network at 12:00 pm (EST) on Saturday. Streaming Services that have the Big 10 network are Big 10 Plus, Fox Sports, Directv Stream, fubo TV, Hulu (with live TV), Sling (with live TV), and Vidgo.
Minnesota at #24 Illinois is going to be a hard-fought defensive battle. While it won’t be like last week’s 9-6 Illinois-Iowa game, it’ll still be a low scoring affair. Unfortunately, for the Illini the Gophers are just better on both sides of the ball, especially when Mohamed Ibrahim is playing. The Gophers will wear down the Fighting Illini as Ibrahim makes a huge impact in his return. In the end the Illini won’t be able to score enough to beat the Gophers. Minnesota wins 20-13.
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