|3 MINN (-108) @ pinnacle|
My 10* Las Vegas Insider is on Minnesota at 7:30 ET.
PJ Fleck 'rowed the boat' at Western Michigan back in 2016, leading the Broncos to a 13-1 season. He used that as a 'launching pad' to get the Minnesota job and in his third season at the school, led the Gophers to an 11-win season (1st since 1904), including that impressive win over Auburn in the Outback Bowl. However, so far in 2020, Fleck's long-time motto has 'run aground!' The Gophers opened 0-2 in losing 49-24 to Michigan and Maryland 45-44 on a missed extra-point in OT but rebounded with a 41-14 home win over Illinois. However, the not-so Golden Gophers followed up their first win of the year with a real clunker in a 35-7 home loss to Iowa last Saturday. Minnesota desperately needs a win here at home on Friday, when 2-1 Purdue visits Minneapolis.
Jeff Brohm had a strong three-year run as Western Kentucky's head coach (2014-16), going 30-10 overall, before accepting the Purdue job. He led the Boilermakers to bowl berths in his first two seasons (2017 and 2018) but Purdue was just 13-13 in those two years. A 4-8 season followed in 2019 and after opening 2-0 in 2020, the Boilermakers lost their showdown with Northwestern last Saturday (both schools entered unbeaten), 27-20 at home.
The Boilermakers are still hoping that standout WR Rondale Moore will return to provide Purdue's offense with a spark. Moore was sensational as a freshman in 2018 (114 catches for 1,258 yards with 21 TDs) and was off to another great start in 2019, when he was lost for the season in Purdue's fourth game. He's missed the first three games due to a lower-body injury. QB Aidan O'Connell (64.7% for 916 yards with 7 TDs and 2 INTs) threw for 263 yards and two TDs against Northwestern, while RB Zander Horvath caught nine passes for 100 yards. However, Horvath (252 rushing yards on 4.8 YPC) was held to just 21 yards, after topping 100 yards in wins over Iowa and Illinois. Purdue's ground game managed just TWO yards on 17 attempts! Without Moore, Bell (86 catches with 7 TDs in 2019) leads with 31 catches and four TDs grabs.
Minnesota's leading rusher Smith (1,163 yards / 5.1 YPC / 8 TDs) and record-setting WR Tyler Johnson (86 catches / 1,318 yards / 13 TDs) both moved on but QB Tanner Morgan returned, after throwing 30 TD passes last season (against only seven INTs). However, Morgan is off to a VERY slow start (57.5% / 769 yards / 4 TDs and 4 INTs). There is good news on offense for Minnesota, RB Mohammad Ibrahim has returned to his freshman form (1,160 yards on 5.7 YPC with nine TDs), after being injured for part of last season (he still ran for 604 yards on 5.3 YPC and seven TDs). Ibrahim has run for 140-plus yards in all four games, topping 200 yards, twice. He has 715 yards on the season, averaging 5.5 YPC with 10 TDs. WR Bateman is no Johnson but he does have 32 catches. Minnesota's D returned just four starters and has allowed 43.0 PPG in its three losses.
It's a 180-degree turnaround from last year for Minnesota in 2020, after the Golden Gophers won 11 games in 2019, winning close games because the team frequently made big plays and didn't make mistakes. That same attention to detail has been missing in 2020. Minnesota plays ranked schools Wisconsin (10) and Northwestern (19) the next two weeks, then ends the season at Nebraska, needing to win THREE of four to finish at .500. Is that a 'bridge too far?' Probably, but beating Purdue here at home is NOT! Minnesota has won SIX of its last seven meetings with Purdue and the last time the Golden Gophers hosted the Boilermakers (2018), they won 41-10, the largest margin of victory in this series since 1985. Home dog 'barks VERY LOUDLY in this one!