05 October 2006

Penn State vs. Minnesota

Last week's Northwestern game is a strong foundation upon which to build the remainder of the season. Will the Nittany Lions continue to improve with the potential to run the rest of the schedule, or will they regress? We'll see on Saturday.

Penn State has alternated wins and losses this year, with both losses coming on the road. With a win last week and a road game this week, that seems to spell doom. But wait. This is Minnesota we're talking about, not Ohio State or Notre Dame. So let's not throw out the game just yet.

Minnesota is a team well known for their rushing offense. And this year is no exception: they are averaging 203 rushing yards a game, good for second in the conference. But not so fast, Penn State is right behind, averaging 200 yards a game. We could call that a toss up, but there are defenses to factor in here. Penn State is second in the Big Ten, allowing only 82 rushing yards per game. Minnesota is dead last--allowing 167 rushing yards per game.

Passing-wise, the teams are also well-matched, with Penn State averaging 202 passing yards per game and Minnesota averaging 199 passing yards per game. Both teams are solidly in the middle (muddle?) of conference passing statistics. But again, defense is where the difference is found: Penn State is giving up 174 passing yards per game (4th) while Minnesota is surrendering 215 passing yards per game (9th).

The combinations of these statistics demonstrate the point even more: Minnesota is third in total offense with 402 yards per game; Penn State is fourth less than a yard behind. However on defense, Penn State is third giving up 259 yards per game while Minnesota is 10th giving up 382 yards per game.

Despite the shuffling of the offensive line, Tony Hunt should be poised for his fourth straight 100-yard rushing game. I don't see how Minnesota will be able to stop Penn State's rushing attack. We should see another week of 200+ rushing yards.

Anthony Morelli should have plenty of time to pick apart the Minnesota secondary. We're not looking for miracles here, just a solid performance that builds on last week's success. 200+ passing yards and a couple of touchdowns (without any stupid INTs) would be a nice afternoon in the Metrodome.

With the exception of the Notre Dame game, Penn State's defense has shut down Heisman candidates left and right. Minnesota has a strong running game, but Amir Pinnix is not Lawrence Maroney, either. Still, the key will be to stuffing Pinnix and then getting pressure on quarterback Bryan Cupito with Penn State's front four.

Statistics aren't everything, but in this case I think they demonstrate two well-matched offenses but two defenses going in different directions. Penn State is on the up while Minnesota is going to suffer because of their weak defense. So there you have it: defense will be the difference. Penn State 27, Minnesota 14.
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