The Gophers Need to Win in the Trenches This Weekend
A massive Big Ten clash takes place this weekend as the Minnesota Gophers (4-1) head on the road to take on the Illinois Fighting Illini (5-1). This game could go a long way in determining who emerges on top of the Big Ten-West division and heads to the conference championship later this season in December. The Gophers are looking to bounce back this week after losing to Purdue two weeks ago while Illinois goes into the game riding a four-game winning streak.
The biggest storyline coming into this game, at least from the Minnesota side, is that star running back Mo Ibrahim looks to return to the field this week. The senior sat out the loss against Purdue with an ankle injury, but the time off over this past bye week seems to have allowed him to recover enough to play on Saturday.
Through the first four games of the season, Minnesota’s offense was a juggernaut, scoring 34 or more points in every game. This largely came from dominance in the trenches led by Ibrahim, along with a strong offensive line.
For Minnesota to win this game, they’ll need to win in the trenches. Ibrahim rushed 89 times for 567 yards and 8 TDS over the first four games. This production was very clearly missed as Minnesota relied on Tanner Morgan far more against Purdue, and the Gophers rushed for just 44 yards.
On the other side, Illinois also has a very strong offensive line as well, and their own star RB Chase Brown has rushed for 879 yards and 4 TDS through six games. Additionally, Tommy DeVito is playing very efficient football at QB, passing for 1163 yards, 9 TDs, and 2 INTs and completing passes at a clip of 68.9%.
To this point, both of these defenses have been the best in all of FBS, quite literally. Illinois is allowing 8.0 points per game, which is first in the country. Minnesota sits right behind them in second, allowing 8.8 points per game. This game very easily could turn into a race to 20 points, and the Gophers must utilize their strong running game in order to get there.
Josh Frey is a Class of 2020 graduate of The College of Idaho with a bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing as well as minors in History, Human Biology, and Journalism. When he’s not writing about the NFL, Josh enjoys marathon training, playing video games, or rooting for the Milwaukee Brewers and Bucks. For more of his takes, NFL and otherwise, check out his Twitter account: @Freyed_Chicken.