Opponent Preview: Minnesota
Minnesota is 7-3 this season and the Golden Gophers are one game out of first place in the Big Ten West Division standings with a 4-2 conference record. Minnesota, which is 1-2 on the road this season, controls its own destiny in the West Division race.
The Golden Gophers are no strangers to close games this season. Two of their four Big Ten victories have been by seven or fewer points, while Minnesota’s first conference loss was a four-point setback at Illinois.
Minnesota features a strong rushing attack that averages 224 yards per game. David Cobb ranks seventh nationally with 1,305 rushing yards this season. Minnesota’s passing attack ranks 121st out of 125 teams nationally. But even though the Golden Gophers average just 135 passing yards per game, Minnesota ranks 12th nationally with an average of 14.6 yards per completion. Mitch Leidner is completing 52 percent of his passes and has thrown for 1,310 yards and 10 touchdowns, including seven touchdowns to tight end Maxx Williams.
The Golden Gophers have also excelled inside the red zone, scoring on 90 percent of their chances, a rate that ranks 21st nationally.
Defensively, Minnesota is allowing only 351 yards per game and 22.3 points per game to rank 33rd nationally in total defense and 228th nationally in scoring defense. The Golden Gophers are allowing 153 rushing yards per game and 198 passing yards per game. Minnesota ranks 24th nationally in pass efficiency defense.
The Golden Gophers have also forced 25 turnovers this season. That total ranks 10th nationally and has helped Minnesota rank 12th nationally in turnover margin.
Minnesota leads the all-time series with Nebraska, 30-22-2, but the Huskers have won 17 of the last 19 matchups dating back to 1959. The Golden Gophers snapped a 16-game losing streak to Nebraska by defeating the Huskers, 34-23, last year in Minneapolis. That win marked Minnesota’s first victory over Nebraska since 1960. The 34 points scored by Minnesota last season marked the most points the Gophers have scored in the series since 1951. Overall, Nebraska has held Minnesota to 14 points or less in 14 of the last 15 meetings dating back to 1967.
Minnesota Head Coach Jerry Kill
Jerry Kill is in his fourth season at Minnesota, where he owns a 24-24 record. Minnesota has improved its win total every season under Kill, going from three wins in 2011 to six victories in 2012 and eight wins in 2013. The Golden Gophers are 7-3 this fall. Kill has Minnesota poised for back-to-back eight-win seasons, after the Gophers had totaled only three eight-win seasons in the 43 seasons prior to his hiring. Overall, Kill boasts a 151-97 record in 21 years as a collegiate head coach.
Kill came to Minnesota after a three-year stint at Northern Illinois from 2008 to 2010. NIU was 23-16 under Kill, including 10-3 in his final season. Northern Illinois was Kill’s first FBS head coaching job after extensive experience in the FCS ranks. Kill coached Southern Illinois from 2001 to 2007, guiding the Salukis to a 55-32 record in seven seasons, including a 50-14 mark in his final five seasons. He led Emporia State to an 11-11 record in 1999 and 2000. Kill’s first head coaching job was at Saginaw Valley State from 1994 to 1998, compiling a 38-14 record in five seasons.