Daily Breakdown: Gophers underdogs at home Friday

Minnesota will look to bounce back from its worst defensive performance of the season.

by Paul Hodowanic

Indiana hasn’t been to Minnesota in 10 years. The Hoosiers are expected to make the most of their first-ever visit to TCF Bank Stadium with a victory Friday.

Minnesota (3-4, 0-4) hosts Indiana (4-4, 1-4) Friday night as the Gophers chase their first Big Ten win of the year. Indiana has four losses, but they have come at the hands of Ohio State, Penn State, Iowa and Michigan State — all of which have been in ranked in the top-25 this season. 

The Gophers are coming off their worst defensive game of the year. They surrendered 659 yards of offense and 53 points — both season highs. Starting quarterback Zack Annexstad left the Nebraska game after the first half with an internal injury in his midsection. His status for the next game is uncertain. 

When Minnesota runs the ball 

The Gophers struggled when running the ball against Nebraska, due in part to their sudden deficit early in the game. This lull forced them to nearly abandon the run game. Starting running back Mohamed Ibrahim rushed 18 times for 49 yards and a touchdown, and the team averaged 3.5 yards per carry overall. Ibrahim won Big Ten freshman of the week after he ran for 157 yards and two touchdowns against Ohio State.

Indiana ranks 69th in the country in rush defense and has averaged 160 yards against per game in the run game. The Hoosiers struggled against Penn State last week. They gave up 174 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. 

Advantage: Minnesota

Matchup to watch: Running back Mohamed Ibrahim vs. linebacker Dameon Willis Jr. 

When Indiana runs the ball

The Hoosiers ran the ball effectively in their narrow loss to Penn State. Starting running back Stevie Scott exploded for 138 yards and two touchdowns. Prior to last week, Scott had struggled to build on a strong non-conference performance. He’s averaged 129 yards per game. In Big Ten play, he’s averaged 42.5 yards per game until breaking out against Penn State. 

The Gophers had their worst game stopping the run so far this season against Nebraska. The Huskers averaged 8.9 yards per carry and finished with 383 yards on the ground and four touchdowns. The run defense struggled to limit big plays on the ground, giving up runs of 40, 49, 53. Coming into the Nebraska game the Gophers had been playing well. They limited Ohio State and Iowa to 198 combined rushing yards in the previous two games.

Advantage: Minnesota

Matchup to watch: Running back Stevie Scott vs. linebacker Blake Cashman

When Minnesota passes the ball

Falling behind early in conference games has forced Minnesota to be aggressive with the passing game. A casualty of the aggressive pass, Annexstad has thrown seven interceptions since the start of Big Ten play. With Annexstad’s status for Friday still undecided, backup Tanner Morgan may be thrust into the starting role. Morgan went 11-16 for 214 yards and an interception during Annexstad’s relief on Saturday.

Indiana is 15th in the nation in interceptions, totaling nine this season. The Hoosiers’ defense ranks 75th in the country in passing yards allowed, holding teams to almost 230 yards per game. 

Advantage: Indiana

Matchup to watch: Wide receiver Tyler Johnson vs. defensive back Andre Brown Jr. 

When Indiana passes the ball

Starting quarterback Peyton Ramsey has, like Annexstad, struggled with interceptions. He has six interceptions in conference play. The Hoosiers rely on Ramsey heavily in Big Ten games, averaging 42.6 pass attempts per game. Ramsey finished with 236 passing yards with a touchdown and an interception against Penn State. He has struggled to return to his breakout 322-yard, three-touchdown performance against Ohio State three weeks ago. 

The Gophers have allowed 10 passing touchdowns over the last three weeks. With one interception and two fumble recoveries, they’ve also struggled to create turnovers in that span. Minnesota’s secondary depth has been tested this season, defensive back Antoine Winfield Jr. is out for the season and defensive backs Terell Smith and Kiondre Thomas have battled injuries of late. 

Advantage: Indiana

Matchup to watch: Wide receiver Donavan Hale vs. defensive back Terrell Smith


Indiana 27, Minnesota 21

Both Indiana and Minnesota are struggling. The Hoosiers have lost their last three games and the Gophers have lost their last four. The Gophers have accumulated injuries on both sides of the ball. With Annexstad potentially out, it will be a struggle for the Gophers to win the game. 

Everything else you need to know

Starting time: 7 p.m. CST, Friday Oct. 26

TV Network: FS1

Radio: KFAN 100.3 FM

Line: Indiana by 2.5