MINNESOTA: One Day and Counting

Indiana (2-2) and Minnesota (4-1) both have bowl aspirations this season, and both are counting on a victory in their head-to-head match-up Saturday to make that happen. HoosierNation.com continues its day-by-day preview of this weekend's match-up with its prediction for the game's outcome...

Bloomington - It's pretty early in the season for a "must win" game to surface on the schedule, but for all intents and purposes, that's what IU is facing this weekend in Minneapolis.

The Hoosiers are looking to get back on track after back-to-back losses against a pair of beatable teams in Ball State and Michigan State. They are probably in need of victories this weekend against Minnesota as well as next weekend at home against Iowa if they want to rekindle fans' enthusiasm about the prospects of a second straight bowl trip at season's end.

"This game is huge for us," said quarterback Ben Chappell.

They'll be going up against a Minnesota team that is much improved from a year ago. A year ago, the Gophers went 1-11, ranked last in the Big Ten in turnover margin, and gave up 40 or more points in five of its eight Big Ten games. But an influx of junior college talent has helped Coach Tim Brewster shore up the defensive secondary, and sophomore quarterback Adam Weber has eliminated many of the mistakes and turnovers that plagued him and the offense last season.

The end result is a Minnesota team that is off to a 4-1 start and has its own thoughts of bowl eligibility.

"We knew that was kind of a one-year blip (last year)," Lynch said. "They've got good players, they're well coached, they play well at home. They've got more speed on defense. Offensively, they're athletic up front, Weber is playing really, really well, and they've got their receivers."

It's clearly a significant challenge for an Indiana team that is going on the road for the first time this season, and at a place where they haven't played well in recent years. IU's last trip to the Metrodome resulted in a 63-26 loss, the first of three straight setbacks to end the 2006 campaign where bowl eligibility was on the line.

With all that said, I think IU's big-play ability on offense is going to prove to be the difference in a game that figures to be wide-open and high scoring. IU tailback Marcus Thigpen should have opportunities to turn in some big plays against a Gopher run defense that gave up 279 yards last weekend to Ohio State. The IU passing attack, meanwhile, should once again benefit from the use of the two-quarterback set that had the Spartan defense on its heels at times last weekend.

Look for a game that goes back and forth throughout, one that has fans from both teams on the edge of their seats all afternoon. But IU has a couple more proven playmakers on both sides of the ball, and I look for the Hoosiers to secure their first win in Minneapolis since 1993.

HoosierNation.com Prediction: Indiana 35, Minnesota 33

What's coming up:
On Monday - Five Numbers to Note
On Tuesday - Four Players to Know
On Wednesday – Three Key Match-Ups
On Thursday – Two Big Concerns
On Friday – One Bold Prediction



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