Staff Predictions: Penn State vs. Minnesota
Penn State enters Saturday’s 3:30 clash with Minnesota sporting a 2-2 (0-1 Big Ten) record, while the Golden Gophers head to Beaver Stadium undefeated at 3-0. Our sports staff mostly thinks the Nittany Lions come out on top in what should be some slippery conditions, but a pair of our writers think Tracy Claeys’ bunch gets the job done.
Anthony Colucci: Minnesota 31, Penn State 20 (season record 2-0)
Last week’s brutal 49-10 loss to Michigan left Penn State as depleted as ever. Although Minnesota does not carry the same heft that the Wolverines do, dual-threat quarterback Mitch Leidner and dynamic running back Rodney Smith will provide significant issues to a worn down Penn State defense that has allowed at least 27 points in each of its last three games. The Golden Gophers will outlast the Nittany Lions in this inter-division matchup to keep the Governor’s Victory Bell in Minneapolis and hand Penn State its first home loss of the season.
Robbie Rockwell: Penn State 27, Minnesota 24 (season record 2-0)
After a tough start to Big Ten play, Penn State regroups and pulls off the victory this weekend. This game will be extremely close and one could argue it’s a must-win for Franklin and his staff. I think the offense gets back on track against an easier but still solid defense, and Saquon Barkley finally has some room to run. However, Trace McSorley still can’t solve his turnover problem, which makes this very nerve racking. Brent Pry’s defense gets things going but still allows a lot of yards in the run game, especially to mobile quarterback Mitch Leidner. This is a big game, and hopefully the defense can overcome its injuries and the offense proves last week was just a fluke. If the Nittany Lions lose though, Maryland could be the biggest game of Franklin’s career.
Joe Pickard: Penn State 30, Minnesota 24 (season record 2-0)
This weekend’s game will be a great opportunity to really judge where the Nittany Lions stand. Pretty much every Penn State fan knew the team wasn’t going to beat the fourth-ranked Wolverines, but this week should be a good battle versus an undefeated Minnesota. Mitch Leidner and Rodney Smith should both have a good game, but I believe Trace McSorley and Saquon Barkley will have better success due to home-field advantage. Overall, I think it’s gonna be a close one. If it were in Minnesota, I’d probably say the Nittany Lions lose, but I think they pull out a win on their own turf as the three-point favorites in Vegas.
Steve Connelly: Minnesota 35, Penn State 31 (season record 3-1)
The Golden Gophers are an unknown quantity right now. Yes, they’re undefeated, but all three of their wins came at home against Indiana State, Colorado State, and Oregon State. Nothing particularly impressive and two of those games were close. With that being said, I think Penn State’s defense is going to have a tough time stopping any Power 5 offense. It’ll be up to Moorhead’s attack to keep up with the Golden Gophers, which it has shown it’s capable of doing. It’s going to be tight and despite the home-field advantage, I think the Nittany Lions get edged this weekend.
Chris Weigl: Penn State 31, Minnesota 27 (season record 1-0)
Penn State comes in with something to prove after getting blown out last weekend, but this is going to be an old school dog fight. Minnesota boasts a fierce running game and the Nittany Lions’ front seven is going to have to prove their worth against that rushing attack. The Golden Gopher defense is nothing to get too excited about, having given up 25 points per game thus far. On what should be a rainy day in Happy Valley, look to Saquon Barkley and company to pound the ball all game long, which should set up for a nice down-field passing attack. It won’t be easy, but the Nittany Lions come away from this one victorious.
Ethan Kasales: Penn State 34, Minnesota 28 (season record 3-1)
Compared to last season, the weather’s been absolutely gorgeous for Penn State’s opening third of the schedule. However, Saturday’s forecast calls for an 80-percent chance of rain, and slippery Beaver Stadium conditions would put a premium on ball security against the Golden Gophers’ staunch front seven. Despite the myriad injuries on defense, I see the new batch of starting linebackers in Jake Cooper, Manny Bowen, and Cam Brown stepping up when the team needs them most to escape with a close conference victory.
David Abruzzese: Penn State 24, Minnesota 21 (season record 3-1)
This one will be close, but not in a good sense of the word. Minnesota loves to run the ball, and the Lions — as we saw last weekend — cannot stop opposing rushing attacks with its decimated linebacking corps. I believe the offense gets back on track, and hopefully we see a few names we haven’t seen in recent weeks (Juwan Johnson, Brandon Polk, etc.).
I’m not entirely confident about this game, but I feel the Lions will find a way to pull one out at home in what’s expected to be a rainy, ground oriented contest.