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November 8, 2013

BWI Staff Picks 'Em: Minnesota

Following another overtime win for the Nittany Lions at Beaver Stadium, can Bill O'Brien and company travel to Minneapolis to pull off another win against a streaking Minnesota team?

Find out who are we picking to win this weekend, and by how much, right here:

Nate Bauer
Blue White Illustrated Web Editor
2013 Record - 5-3

Penn State can't ask for a better matchup than what the Nittany Lions will face in Minneapolis on Saturday.

Yes, the Gophers are 7-2 and riding a three-game winning streak, and riding the teachings and motivational factor of coach Jerry Kill, that makes them a dangerous opponent this weekend, especially on the road. Still, this is a Minnesota team that really, can only run the ball. It's passing game is one of the worst in the country, they're not particularly fast as a team offensively, but they're going to try to overpower.

Penn State's defense can't stop anyone that can throw the ball and is fast. But, able to key in on stopping the run - while staying honest against the play-action - Penn State has proven itself capable of hanging with those types of teams this season.

Offensively, this is simply a matter of how Hackenberg and the offensive line play. Allen Robinson is going to get his no matter what, but against a Minnesota defense that hasn't gotten many sacks, Hackenberg has to stay upright this game and deliver the passes he's supposed to deliver.

Again, this will likely be a close one because of the ever-slimming margin of error the Nittany Lions have to work with as a program, but I think they're good enough to get this win on Saturday.

Penn State - 26
Minnesota - 23

Tim Owen
Blue White Illustrated Assistant Editor
2013 Record - 6-2

It's been a good run, Minnesota. But it ends Saturday when you host Penn State.

The Golden Gophers have won the last three, including what appeared to be highlight-reel victories against Northwestern and Nebraska. But the Wildcats aren't what the preseason prognosticators made them out to be, and the Cornhusker's defense is almost laughable. And in their matchup vs. Indiana last week, the Gophers tried their best to surrender the game away in the second half before squeaking out a three-point win.

Simply put, they aren't the quality of team that they're 7-2 record suggests. Plus, Minnesota hasn't won four straight Big Ten games in 40 years. On Sunday, that extends to 41.

Reports say this has been the most intense week of practice so far this season at Penn State. The Nittany Lions know that it will take pure physicality in order to squelch Minnesota's complex rushing attack. So that's what the team leaders have been emphasizing this week.

Penn State - 30
Minnesota - 28

Ryan Snyder
Blue White Illustrated Recruiting Analyst
2013 Record - 6-2

You guys know by now that I've called out Penn State a few times this year, but this week I'm actually rolling with the Nittany Lions. It's simple really: I'm still not sold on Minnesota.

The Gophers have done a lot of positive things, and I don't want to take anything away from that, but I think they've also outplayed their expectations and are due to take a step back. I've followed Vegas and odds for years now. If there's one thing I've learned, it's that when a team seems too good to be true, they usually are. I think that's the case for Minnesota.

Has Penn State been bad on the road? Absolutely, but I've heard a lot of solid things about practice this week, including two senior leaders -- that won't be named -- getting a bit chippy. Nothing too outlandish, but just showing some fire, which this team needs right now. To me, they've basically just been going through the motions the past two weeks, so hearing that this week's practice was a bit more physical has me believing that Penn State is going to really come and play this week.

Hackenberg and the offense probably need to score roughly 30 or more points if they're going to make that happen, and I think that's realistic, especially if Bill Belton can continue his recent form. If Bill O'Brien keeps the game plan balanced, I think Penn State has the playmakers to score early and often against Minnesota.

I also have faith in Penn State's front seven this week. Anthony Zettel has been playing with a chip on his shoulder lately, so look for him to have a solid day. I think we're going to see an aggressive defensive scheme tomorrow. The defensive backs will always play off on the receivers, but look for the linebackers to blitz early and often.

I know Minnesota has dreams of a nine-win season, but Penn State needs this game more than the Gophers right now. The past two weeks haven't been great for recruiting and a loss to Minnesota won't help. I think the staff knows how important this game really is. I really feel good about Penn State's chances this week.

Penn State - 31
Minnesota - 24

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