2:30 p.m., TCF Bank Stadium • TV: BTN • Radio: 100.3-FM • Line: Gophers by 13½ • Series: Gophers lead 37-29-3

THE OPPONENT

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

 

SPECIAL TEAMS

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

INTANGIBLES

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

RJ’S PREDICTION

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.