Bloomington, Ind. - I suspect that it's going to be tough to write a blog while watching the Vikings-Cowboys game, but I'll try.

(I thought Tony Romo's knee was down on that early fumble.)

The Gophers (12-5, 3-2 Big Ten) need a road win against the Hoosiers (7-9, 1-3 Big Ten) for their psyche, as they prepare for Michigan State, which comes to town Saturday.

And the numbers suggest they'll get one.

(If the Vikings' offensive line can't seal off the edges, the team's in trouble. I know DeMarcus Ware is a good, but c'mon.)

Indiana leads the Big Ten in turnovers (16.3 per game). Plus, the Hoosiers have the worst overall scoring defense (69.2 points per game allowed) and scoring offense (57.5 points per game in conference play) in the league.

The Gophers force more turnovers than any team in the conference (18.6 per game). They have the No. 2 scoring offense (77.4 points per game) and top field goal percentage defense (38.3 percent) in the Big Ten.

(Felix Jones is a dangerous running back. He can hit that second-gear as well as any RB in the league. If he gets loose ... like that screen right there ... you're in trouble. You can't give him open space.)

Indiana's best hope, however, is that it appears to be a different team at home.

(Romo has a bad case of the fumbles right now. ... Why not go for it on fourth-and-1 in the playoffs? Guess that's why I'm not an NFL head coach. Yet.)

The Hoosiers opened Big Ten play with a home win over Michigan. They suffered a six-point loss against Illinois a week ago.

Plus, they defeated No. 16 Pitt at a neutral site in nonconference play.

The Gophers know from experience that Assembly Hall's a tough place to secure a win. Last year, they needed a late push to get a 67-63 victory over the Hoosiers on the road.

But I think the Gophers have a lot of confidence in their defensive abilities after holding off Purdue and Michigan State during stretches in a pair of road losses. But they're also extremely frustrated because they had legitimate chances to win those games.

With Michigan State ahead, the Gophers need a good game before they face the Spartans. I don't believe players when they say, "We're not looking ahead to the next game."

They are. The Gophers know they'll have a chance to pick up a huge victory and stay in the crazy race for the Big Ten crown when they face Michigan State for the second time in 10 days. They have two solid wins over Butler and Ohio State, but they haven't beaten a team that's currently ranked in the AP poll. They'll need more quality wins to get back into the NCAA tournament.

(I love the old extend-your-arm past the first-down marker play. Doesn't happen enough. Great field-awareness by Sidney Rice. ... Great touchdown catch, too. Someone needs to tell Terence Newman he's in the playoffs. How did B. Favre find Rice?)

I think Sunday's matchup between the Hoosiers and Gophers will come down to Minnesota's ability to impose its defensive will. The Gophers are good at that against teams with limited athleticism.

They'll press early and often. And I expect a young Indiana squad to crack under the pressure.

Prediction: Minnesota 82, Indiana 69

-Damian Johnson will play at Indiana Sunday, according to a source close to the team. Following Saturday's practice, Tubby Smith said Johnson sprained his finger and threw out the possibility that Paul Carter might start if Johnson can't go. But it looks like the Gophers will have their defensive leader.

(Tony Romo's cutting up the Minnesota defense with short passes ... to open up a big-play opportunity like that one to Mr. Bennett. Shouldn't former Arkansas running back Felix Jones be the only guy that lines up in the Razorback formation?)

-What a crazy week for the Big Ten. Ohio State's cruising. Purdue's losing? Northwestern's building up its resume for its first NCAA tournament bid. It's only mid-January, but this league's wide open, although I expect Michigan State to be the toughest squad by season's end.

(They're trying to strip the ball out of AP's hands. But he's holding on.)

 

 

 

 

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