The Badgers beat the Gophers 20-7 for the tenth year in a row to keep control of Paul Bunyan’s ax on Saturday. The bitter cold weather could be somewhat to blame, but missed opportunities is what ultimately killed the Gophers. Minnesota needs to reverse these mistakes at Michigan State in the regular season finale to keep their dreams of playing in a New Year’s Day bowl alive.
Minnesota’s defense was tremendous at times on Saturday, but unfortunately the offense took a step backwards. Quarterback Philip Nelson had an off game as he failed to reach 100 yards passing. Receivers were dropping passes and the entire offense was just plain off track, but the defense was able to keep the game within reach.
Those fundamental mistakes are things that the Gophers must avoid doing as they head to take on the Legends Division champions Michigan State. The Spartans made a mockery of lowly Northwestern winning 30-6. The Wildcats had a good offense all season going into the game, but the Spartans shut it down with a bang.
The Gophers can surprise Michigan State by keeping up the solid defense and converting in key spots. Converting third-downs killed Minnesota against Wisconsin, and if the offense gets off the field too quickly on Saturday, the Spartans will use that to its advantage. To win, the Gophers will have to complete over half of their third-down attempts. Anything less will give the Spartans defense the momentum. The Spartans have arguably the most talented defense in the Big 10 aside from either Ohio State and Wisconsin.
I want to see Philip Nelson have the best game of his young career. Lately, Nelson has been making better and better decisions, but last week was a step the other way, the key late game fumble in the Endzone had the kid rattled. It’d be great to have this be his breakout game, which we are all anticipating to happen at some point.
I hate projections, but I have to do one. The Gophers win in East Lansing 21-17.