In their past three losses, the Gophers have run up against three teams ranked with the nation's top 20 in scoring defense -- Ohio State (second), Michigan (sixth) and Iowa (16th). The Gophers will close the regular season against Wisconsin's No. 1-ranked scoring defense.
First, Minnesota plays Illinois. The Illini ranked last in the Big Ten last year in scoring defense (34.0), but this year's Illini squad ranks tied for seventh in the 14-team league, allowing 22.3 points per game.
"Illinois' defense is on par with [Michigan, Ohio State and Iowa's], and I'm serious about that," Gophers offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover said Tuesday. "Their D-line is like a total transformation from last year as far as those kids up front. I think one of their corners is outstanding. Their linebackers I think have increased their physical ability and their speed, so they're going to be able to go sideline to sideline better.
"So I don't know this 100 for sure, but I don't think they're losing games because of their defense. ... Hopefully, we've got a few answers for them."
I'll have more on the Gophers' offense in tonight's first editions.