The Big Ten gets the spotlight on Friday night with a showdown between the Purdue Boilermakers and the Minnesota Golden Gophers. On the road, the Boilermakers are considered three-point favorites.
This season has been nothing short of a disaster for Minnesota, especially after an 11-2 campaign that ended with a bowl win over Auburn in 2019. The Golden Gophers let a game slip away against Maryland while also getting pushed around by both Michigan and Iowa on their way to starting 1-3.
Of course, they are already at the midway point of the regular season. With games against Wisconsin and Northwestern, both unbeaten and ranked, left on their schedule, the Golden Gophers will have a tough time finishing with a winning record if they lose on Friday.
On the other hand, the Boilermakers are 2-1 but coming off their first loss of the season. Purdue started the season with close wins over Iowa and Illinois, only to fall short last week against Northwestern.
With their game against Wisconsin getting canceled, the Boilermakers have a golden opportunity to get things rolling again and finish the season strong.
All on Aidan
Purdue quarterback Aidan O’Connell looked outstanding during the first two games of the season. He threw for 371 yards against Illinois and was the catalyst for Purdue’s 2-0 start.
However, a lack of a viable rushing attack caught up with the Boilermakers last week against Northwestern. Purdue is gaining just 2.5 yards per carry on the ground this year despite a pair of 100-yard games from Zander Horvath.
After he was held to 21 yards rushing against Northwestern, it’s critical that Purdue start running the ball better. Otherwise, it’ll be up to O’Connell to carry the offense by himself.
On the bright side for Purdue, the Minnesota defense has been nothing short of atrocious outside of a win over Illinois. The Gophers are giving up over 35 points per game in what is clearly a rebuilding year for the defense.
All four of Minnesota’s opponents have had no trouble establishing a rushing attack, which is a positive sign for the Boilermakers being able to get Horvath going and keep the pressure off O’Connell.
Before the season, Minnesota quarterback Tanner Morgan was considered a Heisman dark horse. But that’s not how the 2020 season has played out.
Despite an extraordinary effort from running back Mohamed Ibrahim, Morgan has taken a huge step backward. He’s thrown as many interceptions as touchdowns while watching his completion percentage drop from 66% last year to 57.5% through the first four games of this season.
Meanwhile, the Purdue defense has been steady but unspectacular. The Boilermakers played arguably their best game of the season last week against Northwestern. They kept the Northwestern running game in check, limiting the Wildcats to 80 rushing yards on 40 carries thanks to 11 tackles for a loss.
They will need a similar performance against the Minnesota rushing attack on Friday.
Hiding in a Gopher Hole
It’s tempting to give Minnesota the benefit of the doubt because they were so good last year and can run the ball effectively. But the Golden Gophers have been atrocious defensively, while the Boilermakers have held their own on that side of the ball.
Ultimately, that should allow Purdue to win and cover the three-point spread on the road.
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