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Unbeaten Penn State Travels to Unbeaten Minnesota Saturday
MINNEAPOLIS – No. 5 Penn State and No. 13 Minnesota will put their unblemished records on the line when the Nittany Lions and Golden Gophers meet for the first time in three years Saturday in TCF Bank Stadium. Kickoff is set for noon (ET) on ABC.
(Photo by Paul Burdick. Check out more of Burdick’s work here)
In 2016, Penn State was 2-2 following a disappointing loss at Michigan before it earned an overtime win over Minnesota. That win proved to be the first of nine-straight victories that would lead Penn State to the Rose Bowl. Now, Penn State looks to extend its current winning streak to nine when it faces a Minnesota team looking to reach nine wins for the first time since 2016.
Penn State is playing its second consecutive trophy game, as the Governor’s Victory Bell will be up for grabs. The Nittany Lions have held it since defeating Minnesota in 2016. Penn State reclaimed the Land Grant Trophy from Michigan State for the first time since 2016 in its last outing.
Penn State and Minnesota are one of seven undefeated teams remaining in FBS. The Lions are 8-0 for the first time since 2008 and the fourth time in their Big Ten era (since 1993).
Penn State rose to No. 5 in both the Associated Press and Amway Coaches Polls, marking its highest ranking since reaching No. 2 in Weeks 8 & 9 in 2017.
Penn State (9.6 ppg) ranks second nationally in scoring defense and ninth in total defense (280.0 ypg), led by a stingy rushing defense allowing just 68.1 yards per game (2nd FBS) and an FBS-best 1.99 yards per rush. Penn State has 30 sacks through eight games to average 3.75 sacks per game (7th in FBS). The Nittany Lions also rank ninth in the country with 8.4 tackles for loss per game.
Minnesota is ranked No. 13 in both the AP and Amway Coaches polls for its highest ranking since also reaching No. 13 in the AP Poll in 2004. The Gophers are on a 10-game winning streak that dates back to last season and is tied for the third-longest active winning streak in FBS. Minnesota is 8-0 overall for the first time since 1941 and 5-0 in the Big Ten for the first time since 1961.
SCOUTING THE GOLDEN GOPHERS
The Gophers are strong on both sides of the ball ranking third in the Big Ten in both total (429.5 ypg) and scoring (38.4 ppg) offense and sixth in both total (283.8 ypg) and scoring (20.0 ppg) defense.
Minnesota leads the Big Ten and ranks ninth in FBS with 11 interceptions, led by Antoine Winfield Jr. with five to lead the Big Ten and rank second in FBS.
Quarterback Tanner Morgan is among the Big Ten leaders in multiple categories, highlighted by an average of 15.6 yards per completion to lead the Big Ten and rank fifth in FBS.
Running back Rodney Smith ranks 12th in FBS and third in the Big Ten with 111.1 rushing yards per game.
The offense boasts a 50 percent conversion rate on third down that ranks eighth in FBS and second only to Ohio State in the Big Ten.
WINNING THE WEST
Penn State has won its last 12 games against Big Ten West Division opponents, dating back to an overtime win over Minnesota on Oct. 1, 2016. Penn State’s last loss to a Big Ten West team was at Northwestern in 2015 (23-21).
The streak includes Penn State’s Big Ten Championship Game victory over Wisconsin in 2016.
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