When: noon Saturday.
Where: TCF Bank Stadium (50,805).
TV: ABC (Sean McDonough play-by-play, Todd Blackledge color, Holly Rowe sideline.)
2019 records: Penn State 8-0, 5-0 Big Ten. Michigan St. 8-0, 5-0 Big Ten.
Last week: Both teams were off last week.
Series and last meeting: Penn State leads, 9-5, and won the last meeting, 29-26 in overtime Oct. 16, 2016 at Beaver Stadium.
Coach: P. J. Fleck, third year at Minnesota (20-13), seventh years overall (50-35).
Minnesota’s best player: WR Tyler Johnson, who has 43 catches and seven TDs.
Injury update: Both teams are apparently remarkably healthy for November. Minnesota LB Kamal Martin is questionable with an undisclosed injury. Penn State reserve WR Cam Sullivan-Brown remains out. Two key pieces who left the Lions’ last game with Michigan State, CB John Reid and RB Noah Cain, are expected to play.
Antonio Shelton, a starting DT for the Lions, will miss the game due to an unsportsmanlike conduct suspension.
Las Vegas says: Penn State is a 6.5-point favorite.
Outlook/notes: In week one, FCS South Dakota State led Minnesota with six minutes left. In week two, the Gophers edged Fresno State in double overtime. In week three, they scored with 73 seconds left to beat Georgia Southern, 28-25.
In the Big Ten opener with Purdue, the Boilermakers starting QB Elijah Sindelar and All-American WR Rondale Moore were injured and finished for the day on the same first-quarter play. Minnesota won, 38-31.
The Gophers’ five Big Ten victories have been against teams that are a combined 17-28. Since Sindelar’s injury, Minnesota has not faced a first-team quarterback.
Minny hasn’t faced a team nearly as good as Penn State, nor one with remotely comparable speed and athleticism on defense.
Still, it’s not hard to envision a way the Gophers can pull this off. Their excellent receivers have a size edge over Penn State’s corners. If their massive o-line can drive a reasonable ground game and protect QB Tanner Morgan just long enough, big plays in the passing game might be available.
Although the forecast isn’t crazy, it is November in Minnesota, and the weather can be a wild-card factor.
Sometimes, though, the better team wins because it’s the better team. That actually does happen, and in making our picks this year we’ve dismissed that truth too often. Can’t see a reason to dismiss it here.
Prediction: Penn State 24, Minnesota 13.