The Indiana Hoosiers celebrate homecoming this weekend by welcoming in the Minnesota Golden Gophers. This game is monumentally important for IU’s chances of reaching a bowl game this season.
All the focus has been on the basketball team this week as exhibition games kickoff and Big Ten Media Day takes place, but the football team is in a position to accomplish something.
IU sits at 3-4 (1-2) right now, needing to win three of its last five games in order to become bowl eligible. The Gophers are already eligible, sitting at 6-2 (2-2) and coming off of an impressive 11-point upset over No. 24 Nebraska (who were dropped from the rankings after the loss).
This is simply a must win game for IU. Only three of IU’s final games are in-fact winnable, and they’re all at home. The Hoosiers have a two week road trip to No. 24 Wisconsin and No. 4 Ohio State, which is currently undefeated. IU isn’t winning those games. If they lose on Saturday, all hope of a bowl trip goes out the window.
While the Gophers are 6-2, they’ve benefitted from a very easy non-conference schedule. They won each of those games by 17 or more points. Their two Big Ten losses come against a mediocre Iowa squad and a beating against Michigan.
Here are our keys to the game:
- Pass to Win. That seems like a no brainer for the Hoosiers who have one of the best passing attacks in the nation, but Minnesota isn’t very good at defending the pass. The Gophers are 73rd in the country, and give up over 238 yards per game. It looks like Tre Roberson will start for the Hoosiers, and while he isn’t as accurate as Nate Sudfeld, he is a mroe dynamic player. He can avoid the rush better and extend plays. That said, he will need to keep his eyes downfield and maintain his accuracy and poise if the Hoosiers are going to have a chance.
- Defense. Something, really anything on defense would be a huge boost for IU. Last in the Big Ten and 119th in the country on defense. How Doug Mallory still has a job, I’ll never know, but he’s had two weeks to prepare so maybe they’ll play a little bit better this week. The Michigan game was embarrassing and hopefully lit a fire under some of the players to have a little pride. The Gopher’s offense ranks 8th in the conference and can’t pass the ball to save their lives. They average 122.9 yards per game, 119th in the country. IU should be prepared to attempt to stop the run, which clocks in with 217 yards per game. It’s the worst defense IU will face in the Big Ten, next to Purdue.
- Shootout. If this game turns into a shootout, I like the Hoosiers chances. They should have no problem keeping up scoring wise with Minnesota and have the ability to score incredibly fast. Ball control be damned on Saturday. If the Hoosiers can’t get anything done on defense, then pile on the points as quickly as possible.
IU is 26-37-3 against Minnesota all time, but the two teams haven’t faces each other since 2008.
The Hoosiers are far more desperate than the Gophers this week, and all Minnesota has left to play for is a better record.
IU wins a back-and-forth game, 45-42.
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