What do the "experts" think of the Gophers chances vs. Penn State Saturday?

Vegas favors the Nittany Lions by 6.5

Lindsey Peterson
November 07, 2019 - 2:19 pm

© Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

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It's defnitely an exciting week for Gopher football fans.  They are ranked #13, they are 17th in the initial College Football Playoff Rankings, P.J. Fleck just signed a new contract, and they take on the #4 team in those rankings, Penn State, on Saturday.  Phew.  What a whirlwind!

The big knock on the Gophers and their 8-0 start (in case you want to knock a program that hasn't been 8-0 in 78 years), it's that they have yet to play a great team.  That changes this week.  Penn State is officially a great team.  

RELATED: 20 Years Later- Gophers upset Penn St. in Happy Valley.

While we're cautiously optimistic, this is a huge game for the program.  Win this, and you are officially entering "championship" territory with some major firsts up for grabs:  the Big Ten West Championsiop, first time to the Big Ten Championship Game, competing for a spot in the College Football Playoffs.  Not to mention, the potential of getting back to the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1961 or a first national tittle since 1960.  

Even former player, NFL coach, current NBC Sports analyst Tony Dungy is Rowing the Boat!

But we're now getting way ahead of ourselves.  Penn State first. 

Las Vegas thinks this is Penn State's game, with all the Vegas Sportsbooks taking the Nittany Lions at -6.5 (MGM has it at -7).  

We took a look around the internet to see what some of the national "experts" think of this game, and whether or not the Gophers will win.  It's not good news from here on out.  Here's a snapshot (note: click on each headline to see the full synopsis from each website):

Sports Illustrated
SI does a composite of several contributers that pick games, but doesn't pick the score.  The consensus (6 out of 7) picked Penn State.  The only holdout was college football writer Lorenzo Arguello (who has the lowest pick percentage of all of their pickers unfortunately).  

Pat Forde fleshed out his Penn St. pick a bit more, saying, "Let's be honest, the Gophers still haven't played anybody. Best opponent to date, according to the Sagarin Ratings: No. 60 Nebraska. Penn State's Big Ten–leading rushing defense will challenge the Minnesota ground game."

He does add, "If Fleck wins this one, we'll all be in the rowboat with him going forward."

We all will Pat.  We all willl.  

College Football News
Probably a website you don't frequent, but I'm a big fan of their coverage.  Written by a Minnesotan Pete Fiutak, they break down why each team could win. 

Run defense is the story for Penn State.  Minnesota gets the nod for the Penn State offense being "just OK", and the Gopher's ability to dominate time of possession.

But, what does he think will happen?  

All the Gopher motivation (we're underrated and disrespected, Fleck's new contract, biggest game in years) will produce early and give the Gophers a lead.  "But, the Nittany Lion pass rush will take over as the game goes on, Minnesota won’t be able to get its downfield passing game going, and in a low-scoring fight, two late PSU scoring drives will break Gopher hearts," wrote Fiutak.  

Penn State 23, Minnesota 16.  Sad.  He also grades the game a 5 out of 5 for "Must See Rating" so that's good.  

CBS Sports
CBS also goes all-in on the "Minnesota hasn't played anyone" narrative. 

Pointing out that the non-conference schedule was a bunch of nobodys, and all the Big Ten wins have been against 2nd or 3rd team quarterbacks, CBS says "The Gophers are a good team, but I don't think they're good enough to beat Penn State. The Penn State defense is unlike anything the Gophers have seen to this point. Plus, this is a situation that Penn State is used to. It has played in big games with high-stakes. Minnesota hasn't. I can't help but think the stage could overwhelm Minnesota here."

Penn State 31, Minnesota 21.  Boo.  

ESPN
The giant of TV and online sports, ESPN made it hard to find picks.  At least on Thursday afternoon.  But, eventually I tracked down this list, and it's more bad news.

"It is really hard to run against the Nittany Lions; No team in the Big Ten runs more and passes less than the Gophers." 

I guess they forgot about Tanner Morgan, Tyler Johnson and Rashod Bateman?  Penn State 23, Minnesota 17

Bleacher Report
Bleacher Report leans in on the Penn State defense too.  But unlike ESPN, they don't forget about the Gopher weapons at receiver.

"Since a scare-filled opening to the season, Minnesota has outscored its last four opponents 168-41. Though the competition level wasn't high, that's a dominant stretch. We're still leaning toward Penn State because of a defense that allows fewer than four yards per snap, but Minnesota's aerial efficiency gives the Gophers a shot."

Penn State 27, Minnesota 24

Sporting News
Picking games against the Vegas spread, Sporting News thinks the sports books are right on the money this time.

"The Gophers get a showcase game at home, and both teams had a bye week to add new wrinkles. Penn State won the last meeting 29-26 in a 2016 thriller that set the course for where the program is now.  This is right on the line."

Penn State 24, Minnesota 16 and COVERS the spread.  

WCCO Radio
We don't normally pick games.  I don't normally pick games.  

Since everyone else thinks the U is over their head, we're going the other way with a revisiting of the '99 upset win coming full circle. 

A late field goal gives Minnesota a 27-24 win over Penn State in a thriller.  

So, there you go.  Six national websites, all picking Penn State, all of them right around a touchdown difference.  We'll find out for sure Saturday.  Go Gophers!

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