Gophers need only a memory to be motivated to play Illinois – Minneapolis Star Tribune

Posted: October 6, 2019 at 7:48 am


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Gophers coach P.J. Fleck said his team doesnt use words like revenge. That might be true for this one rematch, but the Gophers certainly exited last years 55-31 beating at Illinois with new motivation. Theyre 7-1 since with a new defensive coordinator and undefeated in 2019. Prediction: Gophers 41, Illinois 38

THREE BIG STORY LINES

Tangible transfers

Illinois has six Power Five transfers, all starters. From quarterback Brandon Peters, a transfer from Michigan, to receiver Josh Imatorbhebhe, a transfer from USC, to defensive end Oluwole Betiku Jr., also from USC, the Illini are a revamped team from last seasons iteration, which finished last in the Big Ten West.

High-scoring hopes

The Illini average 35.5 points per game. The Gophers average 34.8. Illinois posts an average of 380.3 offensive yards per game. The Gophers come in at 389.5. An offensive showdown will likely decide the winner.

Tackling turnaround

The Gophers missed plenty of tackles at Purdue last week, making wrapping up a priority in practice this week. Tackling was also their downfall at Illinois in 2018, so the Gophers will want to avoid reliving the past.

TWO KEY MATCHUPS

Illinois Reggie Corbin vs. Gophers Thomas Barber

The Illinois running back lit up the Gophers last season with 213 yards on 13 carries, plus two touchdowns. The Gophers linebacker made just one tackle in that game, despite amassing 229 throughout his career so far. Preventing Illinois from stacking up 430 rushing yards like last year is a Gophers imperative.

Illinois Oluwole Betiku Jr. vs. Gophers offensive line

The Illinois defensive end leads the nation in sacks (1.75) and tackles for loss (2.6) per game. The Gophers O-line made some adjustments last week, rotating guards and John Michael Schmitz in at center. But that unit has still played a part in allowing 11 sacks for a loss of 109 yards this season.

ONE STAT THAT MATTERS

1 possession, the margin by which the Gophers have won their four games this year. Theyre the first since 1985 to start a season that way, just the fifth in FBS history, according to Elias Sports Bureau. The record is six.

THE Gophers WILL WIN IF

they finish their tackles. They were winning at Purdue 28-10 at halftime this past Saturday. Then a series of defensive gaffes in the second half made it too close for comfort. The offense is thriving, especially through the air. The defense needs to follow suit.

Illinois WILL WIN IF

its pass defense improves. The Illini allow an average of 407.8 offensive yards a game, 261.8 of those from passing. The Gophers quarterback and receivers are only gaining power, so thats not an area to ignore.

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Gophers need only a memory to be motivated to play Illinois - Minneapolis Star Tribune

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October 6th, 2019 at 7:48 am

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