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INDIANA at Minnesota: Game preview, odds, how-to-watch, and more

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Friday night college football is an abomination

NCAA Football: Minnesota at Nebraska Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

Game Info / How to Watch

Who? Indiana Hoosiers (4-4 [1-4], #65 S&P+) vs. Minnesota Golden Gophers (3-4 [0-4], #67 S&P+)

When? Friday, 10/26/18 8:00 PM, Minneapolis, MN

Channel? FS1

Vegas? Indiana -2.5

S&P+ Projection? Minnesota -2.1


Friday football is such a terrible idea. If Jim Delaney hadn’t allowed Rutger into the Big Ten or scheduled the Big Ten tournament a week early in New York, it’d be his worst idea yet.

Take this Friday in Indiana, for example. Postseason football is well underway with the second sectional games taking place for Class 1A through 4A programs and the opening sectional matches in Class 5A and Class 6A after bye weeks. And I’m sure Minnesota has similar problems.

I’m all for innovation and changing things for the better, but across the country foot is scheduled as high school games on Friday, college on Saturday, pros on Sunday. You can’t innovate something that is dependent on the other parts. There’s a reason pro teams only schedule playoff games on Saturdays well after the college season ends.

The only way you could make this remotely viable would be putting Ohio State, Penn State or Michigan in these games. Otherwise, fans aren’t skipping Friday night plans for two teams with one combined conference win at the end of October.

Anyway, I was right about Michael Penix Jr.

ONTO THE NUMBERS

Four Factors

- Explosiveness (86%) Efficiency (83%) Field Position (75%) Finishing Drives (72%) Turnover Margin (73%)
- Explosiveness (86%) Efficiency (83%) Field Position (75%) Finishing Drives (72%) Turnover Margin (73%)
INDIANA (#79 offense) 0.98 (123rd) 46.1% (33rd) 29.6 (72nd) 3.83 (118th) 1 (55th)
MINNESOTA (#45 defense) 1.25 (98th) 43.0% (91st) 23.5 (16th) 5.19 (115th) -6 (112th)
- - - - - -
MINNESOTA (#95 offense) 1.08 (108th) 41.6% (71st) 31.2 (36th) 3.80 (121st) -6 (112th)
INDIANA (#50 defense) 1.18 (71st) 40.7% (62nd) 28.9 (62nd) 5.29 (118th) 1 (55th)

While Indiana’s defense remained largely the same after last week despite a 40th percentile performance, the offense took a surprisingly fairly significant jump, up nine spots in S&P. Indiana’s line played well with an overall opportunity rate of 67 percent and, as a result, Stevie Scott was able to run for over 100 yards.

That, paired with some flair from Penix, turned the offense into something we hadn’t seen all year in what was fairly easily its best performance. Even with Ramsey in the game, Indiana looked dangerous offensively. It’s incredible what competent offensive line play does for a team.

Now, that being said, Ramsey was sacked six times ahead of this week’s match-up against one of the best pass rushers in the conference and the nation. It couldn’t all be roses and sunshine.

The Opponent

Stop me when any of this sounds familiar. After a perfect start in non-conference play, Minnesota has looked largely putrid in the Big Ten. The defense that once carried the offense has struggled mightily and the offense isn’t picking up any slack. Now, what once looked like a promising, bowl-bound season will come down to whether the Gophers can win each of it’s three winnable games left on the schedule.

Yes, I know you stopped me about five times in that paragraph. These two teams are near identicals of each other in many ways.

Offensively, Minnesota is bad. Like bad bad. They’re 95th in S&P and share some of the same struggles Indiana does. They aren’t explosive, especially on the ground, and rely on an efficient passing game. The Gophers offensive line is worse than Indiana’s as they struggle to open up running lanes or protect the quarterback.

Who will be the quarterback is another area of question. Zack Annexstad, a freshman walk-on, was nursing an injured ankle before being briefly hospitalized with an injury to the midsection during last week’s loss to Nebraska. His status is up in the air but nothing about that injury sounds fun and it certainly would seem like one big hit or even awkward fall could force him out of the game if he starts.

Through the air, Minnesota has relied on efficiency over explosiveness as their 58th in efficiency and 71st in explosiveness but 114th in completion percentage. Tyler Johnson has been the main threat out wide with 47 receptions for 705 yards and six touchdowns. But overall, it’s hard to project the passing attack because of Annexstad’s injury. His backup, Tanner Morgan, looked competent last week but he’s also a freshman.

On the ground, the Gophers have struggled mightily. They’re relying on two freshman backs, like Indiana. Mohamed Ibrahim has 89 carries for 464 yards and Bryce Williams has 86 carries for 336 yards. Indiana fans are familiar with the struggles of a freshman back with a bad offensive line.

Look for Indiana to potentially dial up some blitzes this week as Minnesota’s average distance on third down this season is 8.0 yards and they are bad on third downs, particularly on third and shorts. Against blitzes, Minnesota has a success rate of 103rd in the nation.

Defensively, this is a unit that is reeling in a big way. Winless Nebraska hung 659 yards on them last week as the latest team to gash them. Just a few weeks ago, the Gophers were a top-20 defense. Now, they’re the 45th and quickly plummeting.

It’s hard to gauge this defense right now because of how quickly they’re reeling. Nebraska had a 50 percent opportunity rate on the ground and averaged an absurd 13.9 yards when reaching the second level. Generally, both of those aspects are the norm for Minnesota as they rank 120th in defensive explosive against the run and 61st in opponent opportunity rate. They also allow a staggering 64.1 percent completion percentage to opposing quarterbacks and have been sliced up through the air for three straight weeks.

Ramsey has thrived on being efficient and quick-hitting. The Gophers don’t allow me first downs on first or second downs but are also 88th defensively in third down success rate. Teams that can sustain drives will have success against Minnesota, especially through the air.

That being said, Minnesota is worst against the run. They allowed three 100-yard rushers last week and are 108th against the run. Overall, its a unit that is repeatedly getting gashed open by bad teams in lots of ways which should give Indiana tons of hope.

Things to watch

  • Finishing drives - Neither offense is good at finishing drives once getting inside the 40-yard line and neither defense is good at stopping teams from finishing drives once allowing opponents inside the 40. Something has to give.
  • Indiana OL vs. Carter Coughlin - Coughlin is one of the best pass rushers in the country and is basically the entirety of Minnesota’s pass rush. He has eight sacks on the year, 10.5 tackles for loss and 10 run stuffs. Minnesota has just three other sacks this year outside of Coughlin. He’s a one-man wrecking crew and should be the focus of Indiana’s pass protection.
  • Bowl eligibility - This is a make-or-break game for both teams. Each side has three games that are winnable and that includes Friday’s game. Minnesota needs three wins but still has Illinois and Northwestern on their schedule. Indiana needs two wins between Friday’s game, vs. Maryland and vs. Purdue. It’s a must-win for both teams.

Prediction

As stated, this is a make-or-break game for both teams. Minnesota is free falling right now while Indiana has a lot to build from last week even considering Penix’s injury. I’m hopeful about Indiana football again. This will go terribly. Indiana 31, Minnesota 17