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THE ESSENTIALS

Date: Nov. 9, 2019

Time: 11 a.m. CT

Site: Minneapolis. Minn.

Stadium: TCF Bank Stadium

Surface: FieldTurf

Capacity: 50,805

Series: Penn State 9-5

Streak: Penn State W1

Last: Penn State won 29-26 (ot) on 10/1/16 at Beaver Stadium in University Park, Pa

FIFTEEN THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW

1. No. 13 Minnesota welcomes No. 5 Penn State to TCF Bank Stadium on Saturday. The game marks the 17th time that Minnesota will face an opponent when both schools are ranked in the top 15 of the AP Top 25 (poll started in 1936). The most recent game was 2004 when No. 13 Minnesota played at No. 14 Michigan. The most recent home game for the Gophers was Nov. 4, 1961, when No. 5 Minnesota beat No. 1 Michigan State 13-0. Minnesota is 7-9 in the 16 games, but owns a 4-3 home record in seven games. Minnesota and Penn State also play for the Governor’s Victory Bell.

2. Dating back to last season, Minnesota has won 10 straight games, which is tied with Baylor for the third longest winning streak in the nation. Clemson (24) and Ohio State (14) are the only schools that have longer winning streaks. The Gophers are one of seven undefeated teams in college football and are 8-0 for the first time since 1941. Minnesota is 5-0 in the Big Ten for the first time since 1961 and is 12-2 in its last 14 games. Minnesota’s No. 13 ranking in the AP Poll is the highest it has been since it was No. 12 on Dec. 5, 1999 (Gophers also reached No. 13 on Oct. 3, 2004).

3. Minnesota is 8-0 this year, 10-0 in its last nine games, 12-2 in its last 14 games (10 B1G games, 1 game vs. ACC and 3 nonconference games) and 20-13 overall under head coach P.J. Fleck. The last time Minnesota started a season 8-0 was 1941 when they were named National Champions. The last time Minnesota won 10 straight games was when it won 18 straight from 1939-42. The last time Minnesota was 12-2 in 14 games was 1947-49, as it went won the final game of 1947, went 7-2 in 1948 and then won the first four games in 1949. Coach Fleck’s (20-13 at Minnesota) win percentage of 60.6% ranks fourth in school history for anyone who has coached more than 30 games and is the best since Bernie Bierman, who last coached at Minnesota in 1950.

4. The Gophers are 8-2 in their last 10 Big Ten games. That 8-2 mark in conference play leads the West and ranks behind only Ohio State (10-0) and Penn State (9-1). Minnesota’s last win (52-10 vs. Maryland) was Coach Fleck’s 50th career victory. He is the second youngest active FBS coach to reach that milestone. Minnesota is 14-5 at home under Coach Fleck and that 73.6 win percentage is higher than Minnesota’s overall mark of 61.3% in 75 games at TCF Bank Stadium.

5. Minnesota has outscored its Big Ten opponents 206-72 this year. The Gophers have the No. 2 scoring offense (41.2) and the No. 4 scoring defense (14.4) in the league. Through eight games, Minnesota is averaging 38.38 points per game and has scored 28 or more points in all eight games it has played this year. The last time Minnesota started a season scoring 28 or more points in its first eight games was 1904 when the Gophers were still playing high school teams. Through eight games, Minnesota has allowed 20.00 points per game.

6. Minnesota has scored 34 points or more in its last seven games. Those are games two through eight this year, as the Gophers scored 28 to open the season against South Dakota State. Minnesota last scored 34 or more points in seven straight games (school record for scoring 34 or more points in consecutive games) in 1905, as it started the season scoring 74, 54, 42, 45, 42, 39 and 46 points. The streak ended when Minnesota scored 12 points in its eighth game of the season in 1905.

7. Minnesota has won four Big Ten games this year by at least 20 points for the first time since 1934. That year, Minnesota won all five of its Big Ten games by at least 20 points as it was named Big Ten Champions and National Champions.

8. Minnesota threw for 20 touchdowns last season. If it were to throw for two more touchdowns this year, it would be the first time since 2006 (22) and 2007 (25) that Minnesota would have consecutive seasons with 20 passing touchdowns. Minnesota rushed for 23 touchdowns and threw for 20 touchdowns last year. This year, Minnesota has already rushed for 21 touchdowns. If the Gophers reach 20 passing touchdowns, this would be the first time that Minnesota would have consecutive 20 rushing and 20 passing touchdown seasons since 2005 (34 rush, 20 pass) and 2006 (25 rush, 22 pass) and would be only the second time ever since 1955.

9. Tyler Johnson, Rashod Bateman and Chris Autman-Bell form one of the best trios in the nation, as they have combined for 80 catches, 1,426 yards and 15 touchdowns. Those numbers stack up well against the top five teams. No. 1 LSU’s top three receivers have 103 catches for 1,689 yards and 24 TDs. Alabama’s is at 106 passes for 1,699 yards and 20 TDs, while Ohio State is at 69 catches for 967 yards and 13 TDs. Clemson comes in at 90 catches for 1,472 yards and 12 TDs and No. 5 Penn State is at 79 catches for 1,223 yards and 18 TDs.

10. Between seven running backs – Rodney Smith, Shannon Brooks, Mohamed Ibrahim, Treyson Potts, Bryce Williams, Cam Wiley and Preston Jelen – Minnesota has a combined 1,598 carries on its roster for 8,116 yards and 68 touchdowns. Those numbers do not include Seth Green’s 331 yards and 12 TDs as a wildcat QB.

11. RTB has stood for Run The Ball in Minnesota’s last three home games, as the Gophers have rushed for 975 yards and 10 touchdowns in those games. Minnesota has played 75 games at TCF Bank Stadium and its three most recent home games rank fourth (332 yards vs. Illinois), fifth (322 yards vs. Nebraska) and sixth (321 yards vs. Maryland) for the school in stadium history.

12. Joe Rossi took over as defensive coordinator after Minnesota’s 55-31 loss at Illinois last season. Since then the Gophers are 10-1. In six of those games (2018: Purdue, Georgia Tech: 2019 Illinois, Nebraska, Rutgers, Maryland) the Gophers have allowed 10 or less offensive points. Minnesota did now allow an offensive touchdown against Illinois. It was the first time the Gophers have held a Big Ten opponent without an offensive touchdown since Nov. 10, 2012, at Illinois. The Gophers did not allow a touchdown to Nebraska until the fourth quarter. That touchdown stopped a stretch of 111:27 without allowing an offensive touchdown for the Minnesota defense. They went into the fourth quarter without allowing a touchdown against Rutgers and Maryland as well.

13. The Gophers have allowed 41 points in the past four games (17 Illinois, 7 Nebraska, 7 Rutgers, 10 Maryland). However, only 27 were allowed by the defense, as Illinois scored two defensive touchdowns. It’s the best defensive stretch for the Gophers in the Big Ten since only allowing 22 points in four games in 1967 (7 Illinois, 0 Michigan State, 15 Michigan, 0 Iowa). Under Rossi, the Gophers are only allowing 15.12 points per game in Big Ten play and are 7-1. In the previous eight Big Ten games the Gophers allowed 34.25 points per game and went 1-7.

14. The Gophers have not allowed more than 300 total yards in six straight games. However, the U has totaled more than 400 yards of offense in five straight.

15. Three of the team’s top five tacklers are in the secondary in Antoine Winfield Jr. (46 total), Chris Williamson (42 total) and Jordan Howden (38 total). The Gophers are ranked ninth in the country and first in the Big Ten with 11 interceptions this season. They have returned three of those for a touchdown, which ranks second in the nation. Last season, Minnesota had 11 interceptions in 13 games.

(info and photo courtesy of Gopher Sports)