THE CALL BY JOE CHRISTENSEN • JCHRISTENSEN@STARTRIBUNE.coM
Penn State has OT home wins over Michigan and Illinois but lost its past two road games — at Indiana and Ohio State — by a combined 107-38.
11 a.m., TCF Bank Stadium • TV: ESPN2 • Radio: 100.3-FM/1130-AM
Line: Gophers by 2½ • Series: Penn State leads 8-4
gophers offense vs. Nittany Lions defense
Quarterback Philip Nelson (hip pointer) and Derrick Engel (sprained ankle) are expected to play but could be slowed. Running back David Cobb needs another big game. Penn State ranks seventh among Big Ten defenses in both pass and run defense. Defensive tackle DaQuan Jones leads Penn State with 9 ½ tackles for loss but has a shoulder injury. Advantage: Gophers
NITTANY LIONS offense vs. GOPHERS defense
Quarterback Christian Hackenberg leads the Big Ten with 253 passing yards per game, but the true freshman has thrown eight interceptions. Allen Robinson ranks second in the nation with 130.4 receiving yards per game. The running game struggled until Bill Belton emerged with 384 yards over the past three games. The Gophers rank ninth in the Big Ten in pass defense (241.7 yards per game), and this is another test. Advantage: Nittany Lions
Gophers coach Jerry Kill was not pleased with his team’s kickoff coverage at Indiana. Just like in that game, field possession will be key against Penn State. Gophers punter Peter Mortell was Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week last week. Advantage: Gophers
The Gophers were 500 tickets from a sellout as of Friday afternoon. This is one of four trophy games for Minnesota, as the teams play for the Governor’s Victory Bell. The Gophers are 0-4 against Penn State since last claiming the bell in 2004. Advantage: Nittany Lions
Penn State has the better passing offense, and the Gophers have the better rushing offense. Defensively, they’re pretty close. Turnovers will be the difference. The Gophers are plus-five on the year (13 turnovers gained, eight lost), and Penn State is minus-six (11 gained, 17 lost).
Penn State 27
Numbers to know
Times the Gophers have scored in 30 trips to the red zone.
Times Penn State has scored in 27 trips to the red zone.
DON’T FORGET ABOUT
The Gophers cornerback will have his hands full with Robinson but prepared for this by handling Nebraska’s Kenny Bell.