Minnesota (3-2) vs. Purdue (1-4)
Time: 2:30 P.M CT, Saturday, October 10th
TV: ESPNU - Dave LaMont (play-by-play) and Ray Bentley (Analyst)
Last week: Northwestern defeated Minnesota 27-0; Michigan State beat Purdue 24-21
All-time series: Gophers lead the series 35-32-3 (39-38 Minnesota in Minneapolis, October 2014)
Vegas betting line: Minnesota (-3)
Know Your Enemy: Five questions with Purdue beat writer Brock Reish
Five things you need to know
1) Minnesota travels to Purdue on Saturday for its second Big Ten game of the season. The Gophers lead the all-time series with the Boilermakers 35-32-3. The home team has had the upper-hand in the series, as Minnesota is 30-12-3 against Purdue at home, while the Boilers are 20-5 against Minnesota in West Lafayette, Ind. Purdue won its first eight home meetings against Minnesota and is 12-5 at home against the Gophers since 1974. Minnesota has won two straight games against Purdue (44-28 in 2012 and 39-28 in 2014) and both of those games were play at TCF Bank Stadium. The Gophers last win on the road against Purdue was a 17-6 victory in 2008 in front of 54,215 fans. Minnesota has been felled on its last two prior trips to Ross-Ade Stadium, as the Boilers topped the Gophers 45-17 in 2011 and 28-17 in 2010.
2) Minnesota beat Purdue 39-38 last season at TCF Bank Stadium on Oct. 18, 2014. The Gophers were trailing 31-20 at halftime, but stymied Purdue’s offense in the second half. The Boilers scored seven points in the final 30 minutes and were held to 18 yards passing and 132 yards of offense (69 yards came on one play) as Minnesota rallied for a 39-38 win. The Gophers, who generated 450 yards of offense, were led by running back David Cobb, who had 194 yards and one touchdown. Mitch Leidner, who passed for 165 yards and two touchdowns, also rushed for 84 yards and a score. Ryan Santoso made a 52-yard field goal with 4:59 remaining to make the score 39-38
3) The Gophers play their second straight Big Ten game on the road when they play at Purdue on Saturday. Minnesota opened Big Ten play with a loss at Northwestern last Saturday, meaning that the Maroon and Gold’s first two Big Ten games of the season are both on the road. This the first time since 2011 and the eighth time since 1924 that Minnesota opens Big Ten play with consecutive road games. After Saturday, Minnesota plays at home against Nebraska on Oct. 17 and then has a bye week before hosting Michigan on Oct. 31. After Saturday, Minnesota will have 27 days between road games, as it travels to No. 1 Ohio State on Nov. 7.
4) Purdue will be the fourth non-ranked opponent that Minnesota has faced this year. Previously, Minnesota has played six ranked teams in its last nine games dating back to last season and includes contests this year against No. 2 TCU and No. 16 Northwestern (Gophers ended 2014 with consecutive games against No. 8 Ohio State, No. 21 Nebraska, No. 14 Wisconsin and No. 16 Missouri). The Gophers are 3-0 this year against non-ranked teams and are 17-4 in their last 21 games against non-ranked teams. Minnesota is also 8-2 in its last 10 Big Ten games against non-ranked opponents.
5) Minnesota is 9-6 in its last 15 Big Ten games, which is tied with Iowa for the fourth best mark in the league during that span. Ohio State in 15-0, Michigan State is 14-1 and Wisconsin is 12-3 (doesn’t include B1G title games). Minnesota and Iowa are both 9-6, while Nebraska is 8-7. Michigan and Penn State are next with a 6-9 record.
Purdue players to watch
1) David Blough, quarterback: Blough took over as the starter against Bowling Green two weeks ago and proceeded to throw for 340 yards and two touchdowns. He's averaging 35 passing attempts the last two games and ten carries on the ground, so Minnesota will have to account for him with his arm and legs.
2) Markell Jones, running back: The true freshman is coming off a 22 carry game in which he rushed for 157 yards and two touchdowns. He has over 400 yards on the ground so far this season and is averaging almost seven yards a carry. Minnesota will have to stop Jones if they're going to win this game.
3) Ja'Whaun Bentley, linebacker: Another week, another stellar Big Ten linebacker the Gophers have to go against. Bentley is averaging almost 10 tackles a game and has 7.5 tackles for loss on the season. He's the top tackler on the team by almost 20, so he'll be around the pile at all times.
Keys to the game
1. Quick start: Same as last week and the week before. Minnesota has scored three points in the first quarter all season and Minnesota needs to get something positive going on offense and points on the first drive would go a long way. If Purdue gets out to a quick 10-0 lead, I don't know that this Minnesota offense can sustain multiple long drives for scores considering how banged up and youthful they are up front. Minnesota will need to establish the running game against this Boilermaker defense that gave up 267 yards and two touchdowns on the ground last week. That's where Minnesota is going to make their hay if this offense is going to get on track.
2. Big plays: I sound like a broken record, but Minnesota has only one play over 40 yards this season through five games, and I think that'll have to change if the Gophers are going to win on the road in the Big Ten. Minnesota didn't even attempt a deep ball down field last game and some of that was because of the high winds, but it's also the faith in the offensive line giving the QB enough time, faith that the QB can deliver an accurate ball and that the receiver can make the play. Minnesota will need to try and keep Purdue honest and will have to take some shots down the field. I also think this could be the game Rodney Smith or Shannon Brooks breaks one for a long touchdown run. They've been ankle tackles away multiple times, and I believe the Gophers will get a bounce going their way.
3. Cleaning up on special teams: This has been an area of concern the last few weeks as Minnesota has had breakdowns on multiple special teams, costing them precious field position. If the Gophers are going to win the game, they'll have to execute on all special teams and win the battle there.