Penn State vs. Minnesota Prediction Roundtable

Sep 17, 2016; University Park, PA, USA; Penn State football players kneel in the end zone prior to the game against the Temple Owls at Beaver Stadium. Penn State defeated Temple 34-27. Mandatory Credit: Matthew O
Sep 17, 2016; University Park, PA, USA; Penn State football players kneel in the end zone prior to the game against the Temple Owls at Beaver Stadium. Penn State defeated Temple 34-27. Mandatory Credit: Matthew O /

Penn State comes back home this week to take on the Minnesota Golden Gophers in an important Big Ten battle. 

After the drubbing in Ann Arbor last week, Penn State gets to head back to the friendly confines of Beaver Stadium. The Minnesota Golden Gophers are in town for the first meeting between the two schools since 2013.

Minnesota last visited Happy Valley in 2009.

Penn State is sitting at 2-2 after losses to Pittsburgh and Michigan. Minnesota is undefeated with wins over Oregon State, Indiana State, and Colorado State.

Although the Nittany Lions are favored, this one could be tough. Penn State is last in the Big Ten in rushing yards allowed per game, while the Gophers are one of the best rushing teams. On the defensive side, the Nittany Lions are still thin at important positions due to injuries.

Looking ahead to the schedule, this game is a must-win for the Nittany Lions. See how the VBR staff thinks things will play out on the field.

Site Expert Barry Leonard Jr.

From a talent standpoint, the Nittany Lions have an advantage in that category. However, Minnesota could have an easy time running the ball against a beat-up Penn State defense. With a lot of youth at linebacker, and an inconsistent defensive line, the Nittany Lions will likely struggle to stop the likes of Rodney Smith and Kobe McCrary.

Quarterback Mitch Lender is a dual-threat who will likely find some success against a defense that struggled against a running quarterback in Week 1.

Fortunately, Penn State has a ton of experience and talent on offense. Despite looking lackluster last week, I’d expect an uptick in production this week. The Minnesota defense, though solid, isn’t anything close to what the Nittany Lions saw at Michigan.

Look for quarterback Trace McSorley to bounce back this week and have a big game.

Although this one will be close, I’m giving the advantage in the end to the Penn State kicking game. Perhaps a game-winning field goal will send the crowd home happy.

Penn State 27
Minnesota 24

Contributor Marty Leap

Penn State is a more talented team than Minnesota. However, the Golden Gophers match up well with the Nittany Lions. Minnesota will have the advantage in the trenches on Saturday.

Working in Penn State’s favor is that the Golden Gophers will be short a few starters on Saturday. This includes Tai’yon Devers, who is their best defensive lineman and pass rusher. Also, this will be the first road test for a young Minnesota team. And Beaver Stadium is never an easy place to have that happen at.

Minnesota’s offense has a balanced attack. Mitch Leidner is one of the best pure passers in the Big Ten, and the Golden Gopher rushing attack led by Rodney Smith is solid. In my opinion, the Nittany Lion defense must be better against the run this Saturday if they are going to get the win.

I foresee Penn State’s offense putting up some points in this game. Minnesota has played three bad teams so far, and their defense has struggled. Penn State’s offense is by far the best they have seen so far.

In my opinion, this is a coin flip game. In coin flip games I tend to pick the home team. And that is what I am doing here. The Nittany Lions squeak by to improve to 3-2.

Penn State 28
Minnesota 25

Contributor Shane Lunnen

Minnesota enters this week undefeated at 3-0, and even though they haven’t played a difficult schedule, Penn State needs to bring their A-game against the Gophers. This will be the first road test and conference game for the Gophers.

The Gophers strength on offense plays right into the weakness of the Nittany Lion defense…the rushing attack.  I’m sure the Gophers have been watching film of the Pitt and Michigan games and can’t wait to get out on the field.  Minnesota is averaging 228 yards on the ground and scoring 39.7 points per game.  Scoring nearly 40 points per game is still impressive, regardless of the competition.  Also, Minnesota is perfect thus far in the red zone, 14-14 and all but one of those drives resulted in a touchdown.

The Nittany Lions may have caught a break though because the Gophers defensive end Tai’yon Devers will miss this week with an ankle injury.  Devers has three sacks in three games and delivered a punishing sack/fumble on Colorado State’s quarterback last week. Minnesota’s weakest part of their defense is their defensive line, so if the Nittany Lion offensive line can create some space for Saquon Barkley, he might rack up some big yards this week.

In the end this is going to be a hard-fought game on both sides that many Lions fans will probably sweat out the entire game.  I’m thinking Minnesota will still move the ball and get their points, but be held just enough by the Penn State defense.

The Lions will be able to bounce back in a close game with a big day from Barkley and the run game.

Penn State 30
Minnesota 27