The Call: Gophers vs. Illinois

  • Updated: November 9, 2012 - 9:59 PM

THE OPPONENT Tim Beckman has discovered just how difficult it is to win in the Big Ten. Illinois is in danger of going winless in the Big Ten for the first time since 2005.

GOPHERS OFFENSE VS. ILLINI DEFENSE

Illinois allows a lot of points, but the Illini actually have plenty of talent on defense, particularly on the line. They have sacked the quarterback 16 times and recovered 10 fumbles, and rank third in preventing third-down conversions. The Gophers will be without receivers Derrick Engel and A.J. Barker, so they might rely on their running game to shorten the game. Advantage: Even

GOPHERS DEFENSE VS. ILLINI OFFENSE

Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase has been injured and ineffective, and the running game, worst in the Big Ten, hasn't been able to bail him out. The Illini are particularly inept in the red zone, while the Gophers defense has noticeably improved as the season has worn on. Illinois has yet to score more than 22 points in a conference game, and there's no reason to expect that to change. Advantage: Gophers

SPECIAL TEAMS

Illini punter Justin DuVernois has 11 punts of 50 yards or longer, but the return and coverage teams are average. Gophers kicker Jordan Wettstein has made eight of his past 11 field-goal tries. Advantage: Gophers

INTANGIBLES

The Gophers know this is their best remaining chance of winning their sixth game and qualifying for a bowl, and they also know they have won three straight in Memorial Stadium. Illinois is playing out the string, and rumors in Champaign say some players are unhappy with the new coaching staff. Advantage: Gophers

PREDICTION

Minnesota's defense keeps Illinois bottled up for much of the day, and tailbacks Rodrick Williams and Donnell Kirkwood find ways to get past Illinois' front four. The game remains close, but no comeback is needed as Jerry Kill wins his first Big Ten road game.

Gophers 20

Illinois 14

NUMBERS TO KNOW

248

Minnesota's rushing yardage against Illinois last season

8

Turnover margin by Gophers in Big Ten games, worst ratio in conference

DON'T FORGET ABOUT

Troy Stoudermire

Senior kick returner needs only 159 yards to break NCAA record for career return yardage.

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