2:30 p.m., TCF Bank Stadium • TV: BTN • Radio: 100.3-FM • Line: Gophers by 13½ • Series: Gophers lead 37-29-3
The Illini are riding a four-game losing streak, and their season might have hit rock bottom with a 35-24 home loss last week to a Rutgers team that was on a 16-game Big Ten losing streak. They have lost six consecutive conference games, and that skid could stretch through the season.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Illinois quarterback Jeff George Jr. can sling the ball around like his dad, the former Vikings QB. He passed for a career-high 308 yards against Rutgers, but interceptions have been his downfall. He has thrown seven picks this season.
GOPHERS OFFENSE VS. ILLINI DEFENSE
With the mobile Demry Croft expected to get most of the snaps at QB over Conor Rhoda, the Gophers should have an answer if the Illini stack the box. Five Illinois linebackers were injured last week, further tilting momentum. Advantage: Gophers
GOPHERS DEFENSE VS. ILLINI OFFENSE
An injury-riddled Gophers defense has struggled in Big Ten play, but a visit from the Illini should be just the salve it needs. Illinois has coughed up the ball 13 times this year, and that number should grow. Advantage: Gophers
Illinois kicker Chase McLaughlin is 9-for-11 on field goals, just ahead of Emmit Carpenter’s 9-for-12. The return games are even, but punter Ryan Santoso swings the edge to Minnesota. Advantage: Gophers
Though they still did lose to Michigan State, the Gophers gained confidence and energy. The chance at a first Big Ten win for both the team and coach P.J. Fleck should prevail. Advantage: Gophers
Gophers 31, Illinois 17 Expect the Gophers to follow the script they used in their 3-0 start: ball-control offense and stingy defense against an overmatched opponent.