I cannot lie. These have become progressively more interesting to write about. When I started this countdown a little over a week ago, it was an effort to make Purdue sound interesting. Mostly because Purdue is not interesting. But as we’ve made our way into the middle part of the countdown, some good story lines have begun to develop. Penn State’s trip to Minneapolis in early November sticks out to me for a few reasons.
For one, Minnesota is a program improving steadily under now 3rd year coach Jerry Kill. Last year saw the Gophers in a bowl game for the first time since 2009, and they nearly sprung a huge upset, falling 34-31 to Texas Tech. Other than quarterback turned wide receiver MarQueise Gray, and fullback John Rabe, the Gophers return everyone on offense, including all 5 members of what was a pretty good offensive line. For me, the key to the Gophers was getting Philip Nelson in at quarterback, and getting him comfortable. To have success, however, they will need to improve on a passing game that was in bottom quarter of FBS, and an offense that only topped 17 points twice in their final 10 games.
On the defensive side, Minnesota loses two leaders at linebacker in Mike Rallis and Keanon Cooper, along with experienced defensive backs Michael Carter and Troy Stoudermire. The defense was of course the strength of last years team, and will need to step up in 2013, along with an improved offense.
Now why does this rank where it does? The road game factors in highly, as anytime you are away from home, it’s more of a challenge. Minnesota is also a program on the rise, and a win over Penn State, regardless of any sanctions, would be huge for the program. In short, you now you’re going to get Coach Kill’s squads absolute best. From a Penn State perspective, this is one of those “must have” games if you want to have a successful season. There is of course no bowl game on the line, but this is one that PSU should still expect to win, but not one that gets written in as a W in early June.
Follow VBR Lead Editor Matt de Bear on Twitter for the latest on Penn State