Minnesota v. Indiana: Week 12 Preview

Nov. 17, 2021After picking up four straight wins and getting ranked as high as No. 20 in the country, the Gophers have quickly dropped two in a row and they are now fighting for their season lives against a struggling Indiana team in Week 12.

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Broadcast Info:

  • Date: Sat., Nov. 20
  • TV channel: BTN
  • Time of kickoff: 2:30 p.m. (CST)
  • Broadcast team: Chris Vosters (play-by-play) & J Leman (color)
  • Betting line: Minnesota (-7.5) @ Indiana; over/under (43.5)

Opponent Information (Indiana):

  • 2020 record: 6-2
  • 2021 record: 2-7
    • @ Iowa 6-34 L 
    • V. Idaho 56-14 W
    • V. Cincinnati 24-38 L
    • @ Western Kentucky 33-31 W
    • @ Penn State 0-24 L
    • V. Michigan State 15-20 L
    • V. Ohio State 7-54 L
    • @ Maryland 35-38 L
    • @ Michigan 7-29 L
    • V. Rutgers 3-38 L
  • Head Coach: Tom Allen (6th season)
  • Returning starters: 13
  • Players to watch: Ty Fryfogle (WR), Stephen Carr (RB), Peyton Hendershot (TE), Micah McFadden (LB) and Jaylin Williams (CB)

After finding itself ranked No. 20 in the season’s first CFP top 25 poll, Minnesota has dropped two straight and the outlook for the season has completely changed. The Golden Gophers are now set to travel to Bloomington, Indiana for a Week 12 matchup with a Hoosiers team that has suffered six consecutive losses. They are also only one of three power five schools that do not have a win over another power five school this season. Indiana was picked to finish in third place in the Big Ten East this season, now sitting at 2-7 in last place, they have absolutely nothing to lose against a Gophers team that is now reeling.

Indiana season storylines:

  • Disappointing Season:

The Indiana Hoosiers came into this season with high hopes — voted to finish fourth in the Big Ten East, after trips to the Gator Bowl and Outback Bowl in consecutive seasons. It seemed as if the program was trending in the right direction under Tom Allen. With 13 total starters returning, including veteran QB Michael Penix Jr. returning from an ACL injury, it seemed like it would be possible for another great season in Bloomington.

Fast forward to week one, three first-half Penix interceptions against Iowa put the Hoosiers in a hole that they could not pull themselves out of. A pair of wins over Idaho and Western Kentucky sandwiched between a close loss to Cincinnati at home, resulting in a slow 2-2 start for Indiana. The following week, Penix went down with an AC joint (shoulder) injury against Penn State, in a matchup that was his coming-out party a season ago. It’s not as if Penix was playing like his old self, but the Hoosiers would fall 24-0 against Penn State. It has only gotten worse dropping five more straight and hosting one of the worst offenses in the country averaging 18.6 PPG (120th in NCAA).

  • Quarterback Carousel:

A lot has factored into Indiana’s disastrous season, but having what seems like a different quarterback under center every drive, certainly does not help a team find its groove. Penix started the first five games of the season completing 53.7% of his passes for 939 yards, 4 TDs and 7 INTs. Redshirt-junior Jack Tuttle, who replaced Penix when he went down last season was tasked with doing the same this year. He made only two starts before going down with a foot injury until he since came back last week against Rutgers. He has completed 51.7% of his passes this season for 423 yards, 2 TDs and 5 INTs.

When Tuttle went down, in-stepped true freshman Donaven McCulley who has made two total starts this season, completing 42.7% of his passes for 458 yards and 2 TDs. Walk-on sophomore quarterback Grant Gremell even made an appearance last week against Rutgers, when it seemed like the Hoosiers couldn’t get anything going. There are no reports of who will be starting this week against the Gophers, but I would expect to see either Tuttle or McCulley getting the nod with the other one possibly getting an opportunity, as the leash for whoever has been under center the last few weeks has been pretty short. As the Gophers have had QB problems of their own this season, it’s refreshing that is nowhere near the mess that it has been for the Hoosiers.

  • Is Tom Allen a good head coach?:

This time last season, Tom Allen was one of the hottest names in coaching. Indiana only had one close seven-point loss to eventually National-Runner ups Ohio State last year in the regular season, and many were looking at Allen as one of the up-and-coming coaches in the Big Ten conference. Many will try to poke holes at Indiana’s record a season ago, saying that it was the perfect storm and they got a bunch of bounces, but I think otherwise. This Hoosiers team has faced a boatload of adversity this season, losing their two best offensive weapons Whop Philyor and Stevie Scott II, as well as their best defensive player Jamar Johnson all to the NFL it was a lot to rebuild for a program that certainly does not have the luxury of reloading.

Michael Penix Jr. was one of the best QBs in the country a season ago, and he certainly did not look the same after recovering from his ACL injury, which really hurt the rhythm of a team with a lot of new pieces. Now it might look like the Hoosiers are at rock bottom and they have nothing to play for, but sometimes that can be the scariest opponent.

Gophers’ path to victory:

The only way that I see the Gophers letting Indiana stay around in this game is if it gets “dirty”. In both the Bowling Green and Illinois games, it got “dirty” for Minnesota. It has a bunch of punts, turnovers, dropped passes and penalties — a lot of correctable mistakes. With so much uncertainty at QB, Indiana’s offense has struggled tremendously to find any rhythm this season. Their defense has shown life at times, so I would not be shocked if this game is not smooth-sailing for the Maroon & Gold. They have gotten out to slow starts in back-to-back weeks and a fast one on Saturday against the Hoosiers could go a long way.

The last time I checked, Tanner Morgan‘s name is still atop the QB depth chart. Mike Sanford Jr. and co. will need to get some quick passes early and help him get easy competitions to his receivers. His confidence is likely at an all-time low, so getting him some completions early will only help. This team has a plethora of talented pass catchers, the Gophers just need to use them. At the end of the day, they nearly went into Kinnick Stadium and knocked off Iowa for the first time in 20 seasons. It was obviously a very tough pill to swallow, but this team still has a lot to play for and if there is a coach that knows that is P.J. Fleck.

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