Ya, Gophers, eh?

Minnesota Golden Gophers
2007 record
: 1-4 (0-2)
2007 Sagarin: 79 (IU is #53)
2006 record: 6-7 (3-5), lost to Texas Tech in Insight Bowl
2006 Sagarin: 48
Series: Minnesota leads, 36-25-3
Last IU win: 2004 (30-21 in Bloomington)
Last Minnesota win: 2006 (63-26 in Minneapolis)
Last Minnesota win in Bloomington: 2005 (42-21)

The Hoosiers are favored in this one by 13-14 points, a very rare position for IU on the eve of a Big Ten game. I know there is a website out there with historical point spread info, but I can't find it, so if anyone wants to drop a link in the comments or send one via e-mail, it would be much appreciated. The Gophers currently own a two-game winning streak in this series. for the most part, in recent years, the home team has won. Before winning in Bloomington in 2005, Minnesota had not done so since 1985, and is only 5-16-2 all-time in Bloomington (before Big Ten schedules were normalized in the early 1960s, Minnesota, which then was a power, rarely played in Bloomington--only twice before 1964). IU hasn't won in Minneapolis since 1993, and a pretty mediocre Gophers team handed IU a humiliating loss last year.

Still, on paper, the point spread seems justified. The Gophers have been pretty bad this year. Although the Gophers' Sagarin schedule strength is good (32, mostly on the strength of playing OSU and Purdue), Minnesota has four losses but has played only two BCS conference teams. That's never good. Statistically, Minnesota scored 29 per game compared to IU's 37. The two schools are virtually tied in yards per game (445.4 for UM, 445 for IU), and the passing/rushing yards ratios are strikingly similar (1263/964 for Minnesota, 1244/983 for IU). Defensively, Minnesota allows a league-worst 36 points per game, compared to IU's 21. In yards allowed, the Gophers are just astoundingly awful, allowing 526 yards per game (10th place is 384). Minnesota has allowed 792 yards rushing, worse than 10th place Michigan's 714. Minnesota's passing numbers are something to behold. Minnesota has allowed 1840 passing yards, more than 600 more than 10th place Purdue and absolutely dead last in Division I-A. Minnesota has only three interceptions to IU's 8.
All that said, this is the sort of game that IU loses. IU can move within a game of bowl eligibility with a win, the fans are confident and interested: it's just a perfect setup for IU to lose. Still, I'm not sure that anything quite accounts for the enthusiasm of Gopher Nation:
Indiana is still Indiana and I am guaranteeing a golden gopher victory this week.
You know, I'll take that "Indiana is still Indiana" stuff from lots of Big Ten programs. Maybe not so much from the only team with a Rose Bowl drought longer than ours. Certainly, the Gophers were a powerhouse back in the days when men wore suits and fedoras to games, but in the last 40 years, Minnesota and Indiana are peer programs. Glen Mason is Minnesota's only coach of the last six with a winning record. Bernie Bierman isn't walking through that door. As we discuss Gopher Nation's remaining points, keep this in the back of your mind: Minnesota has won in Bloomington twice since 1968.
I contend that the only 2 teams have truly beating Minnesota. Ohio State and Minnesota (you could argue Purdue, but I'll show you a few unforced errors that took us out of it).
Having followed a lot of bad football teams, I can say firsthand that bad football teams are bad in large part because they make more mistakes than good teams. (See Cameron, Cam).
the Hoosiers are the most one-dimensional team we'll see all year. Their overall rushing numbers are decent but their leading rusher is their QB. Marcus Thigpen is their best RB and he is averaging just 3.6 yds per carry.
This isn't completely wrong. I have noted before that I would like to see a little more evidence that IU is capable of a "traditional" running game, and I have said that for all of his strengths, running out of the backfield isn't Thigpen's forte. Still, Lewis's rushing yards count, right? As noted above, IU's rushing/passing yards totals are nearly identical to Minnesota's. It seems to me that the Gophers are in a tough spot against IU's offense. IU has a mobile quarterback and one of the most difficult-to-cover receivers in the conference. Minnesota has the nation's worst pass defense. If they focus on defending the pass, IU may have the opportunity to run some more. If they focus on the run, well, IU could score some points. Again, I don't mean to suggest that the IU offense is unstoppable. IU could easily lose this game. But I'm not sure there is statistical evidence that would suggest Minnesota is going to stop IU. It may happen, but it will be a departure.
What will greatly help the gopher defense this week will be our rushing dominance. I am seeing visions of Bennett, Pinnix and Weber running all over this defense. Eating up clock and keeping our defense rested.
This does concern me. I think IU's solid rushing defense numbers are indeed skewed by competition. On the other hand, the Gophers managed only 1.6 per carry against the only decent defense they have played, meaning that nearly all of Minnesota's impressive rushing totals have come against the lower end of Division I-A and against a less-than-outstanding Purdue defense.
Brewster Factor - this will be the game that Brewster's kids are fired up by a pre-game speech AND they'll carry it over onto the field. Brewster is contagious and as we all know "passionate"!
Maybe. Again. I'm an Indiana fan. We could lose this game any number of ways. But what is it with these Minnesota fans and their Brewster-love? IU once hired an energetic, charismatic young coach who (details, details) had never been a coordinator at any level, let alone a head coach. Last I checked, he is 0-4, despite drafting the entire Ginn family. Still, Brewster can probably out-Gipper IU's staid Bill Lynch, so I guess we're toast.
BOLD Predictions...
Minnesota Wins by 10+
Indiana has under 400 yards of offense
Minnesota wins the turnover battle
Minnesota rushes for 250+
Any of those could happen, but there is no reason other than hope-against-hope that would suggest that any of those things is likely to happen, let alone all four.
Miscellaneous:
IU has been getting the the QB at a decent clip.
IU leads the nation in quarterback sacks and got to the Iowa QB nine times last week.
Get to Lewis - keep him in the pocket and at least make him uncomfortable.
Sure, that would be nice. Yet, as GN notes, Lewis is IU's leading rusher, so easier said than done, especially with the worst defense in the country.
Oh well. Again, I'm tempting fate by posting this. We'll probably lose by 20. But if so, it will be IU's worst Big Ten loss since, well, the last time we played Minnesota.


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