(Tanner Morgan photo courtesy Jesse Johnson/USA TODAY Sports)
This is the full preview(s) as seen on the Winners and Whiners and Stat Salt websites. The confidence rating for all picks on a scale from 1 to 5 is in parentheses.
Note: The 5/5 does NOT represent the best overall pick of the day’s games when there are multiple games, simply the best pick(s) from each individual game.
When and Where: Saturday, Oct. 5, TCF Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, Minn., 3:30 p.m. EDT.
It does not matter how you win, as long as you win.
Minnesota has taken this adage to heart as it looks to stay unbeaten Saturday when it hosts Illinois in a showdown of West Division teams in the Big Ten.
Illini trying to recapture momentum after pair of close losses
Illinois (2-2, 0-1 Big Ten West) has been idle since a 42-38 loss at home to Nebraska on Sept. 21 in which it squandered a 14-point, third-quarter lead. Reggie Corbin led an effective ground game with 134 yards, including a 66-yard touchdown run, but an inability to move the chains when it mattered plagued the Illini.
Illinois went 1 for 12 on third down, with Brandon Peters completing 9 of 22 passes for just 78 yards with a touchdown and an interception. The failure to execute was surprising considering the Illini entered the game converting at better than 50 percent, and with a challenging stretch of schedule starting with this match that includes home games versus No. 19 Michigan and eighth-ranked Wisconsin after this contest, Corbin and his teammates feel the urgency of getting a victory.
“(This Minnesota game) means everything, man,” Corbin told the Illini Inquirer. “Every game is a must-win now. We just gotta win now. That’s all it is. No game is bigger or smaller than the other. We want to be Big Ten champs. If you want to do that, you got to win every game from here on out.”
Corbin, who rushed for 1,085 yards last season while averaging a gaudy 8.5 yards per carry, has tailed off some with 314 yards in his first four games at 7.1 yards per pop. The senior had a career-high 213 yards and a pair of touchdowns last year in Illinois’ 55-31 victory over the Gophers and knows they are eager to deliver some payback.
“You just know they’re going to try to come back for revenge now,” Corbin said. “You got to buckle up because it’s going to be a battle. We just got to go out there, play as hard as we can and not worry about last year or the week after.”
Illinois has dropped 13 of its last 15 Big Ten road games, with both wins coming over lowly Rutgers.
Gophers seeking attention among FBS unbeatens
Minnesota (4-0, 1-0 West) is one of four undefeated FBS teams not in the AP Top 25 along with Memphis, Baylor, and Appalachian State. The Golden Gophers are also one of three unbeatens in their own division of the Big Ten with No. 8 Wisconsin and 14th-ranked Iowa.
But the Gophers have not distinguished themselves — none of the four wins have been by more than seven points and the four victories are by a combined 20 points. They held off a late charge by Purdue last Saturday, winning 38-31 on the road as Tanner Morgan threw three of his four touchdown passes in the first half.
Morgan was nearly perfect in the best collegiate game of his career, completing 21 of 22 passes for 396 yards and those four touchdowns. The sophomore has 10 TD passes, exceeding his total for all of last season while playing nine games, and has completed 73.4 percent of his passes for 1,095 yards.
“I definitely think we’re underrated. And even after this game, we’re probably still going to be underrated,” receiver Rashod Bateman told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune after the win. “That’s kind of what the article is telling us. We’ve just got to go out there and prove people wrong.”
Bateman leads Minnesota with 466 receiving yards while averaging 22.2 yards per catch. He shares the team lead with four touchdowns with Tyler Johnson, who has 25 receptions and 312 yards. Chris Autman-Ball has the other two TD catches and has hauled in nine passes for 190 yards.
- 4-2 ATS in its last six games vs. Big Ten teams.
- 8-2 ATS in it last 10 games after totaling more than 280 passing yards in its previous game.
- 4-1 ATS in its last five games after totaling less than 100 rushing yards in its previous game.
- 7-19 ATS in its last 26 road games vs. teams with an above.-.500 home record.
- 17-36 ATS in its last 53 games following an ATS win.
- 2-5 ATS in its last seven games vs. above-.500 teams.
Minnesota -14 (-110)
Corbin is right about revenge when it comes to this game for the Gophers, but Illinois’ pass defense also has been suspect the last two games while giving up 644 yards and six scoring passes in losses to Eastern Michigan and Nebraska.
Morgan has shown improvements from week to week in all four wins and has a competent trio of receivers who can give the Illini fits. Illinois’ poor road form in Big Ten play is another factor in expecting the Gophers to be able to cover the two-touchdown spread with their biggest win of the season.
OVER 57 points (-115)
Neither team’s defense is anything special, and with both offenses capable of breaking off big scoring plays, the over is the lean. The over has gone 6-1 in Illinois’ last seven games in conference play and 7-3 in its last 10 overall.
The over is also 7-3 in Minnesota’s last 10 overall, and most of the key playmakers from last season’s 86-point total return for both teams.
Minnesota -14/OVER 57.5 points double (+235)
There is plenty of confidence in Morgan putting together another solid game to power the Gophers to a victory, and playing at home for Homecoming weekend offers that little extra something that warrants a flyer on this double.
Illinois has held only one Big Ten rival under 24 points in its last 25 conference games.
Minnesota -7 first half (-121)
The suggestion is to get this line at a flat touchdown before a high-end hook gets attached. Minnesota is coming off its best first half of the season last weekend in Purdue and has totaled 49 points in the first two quarters of its last two games.
With the Illini coming off a bye week, there is a chance the Gophers can get off to a fast start and build a quick lead to force Illinois to play uphill.
OVER 28.5 points (-105)
The hook on a flat TD total prevents an aggressive play, but again, this is about Morgan and the Gophers continuing to roll in the first half. Illinois should be able to move the ball and contribute to the total. The teams easily cleared this mark last year with 41 first-half points in Champaign.