Penn State-Minnesota Preview

Ben JonesContributor IOctober 15, 2009

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - OCTOBER 07:  Tony Hunt #26 of the Penn State Nittany Lions runs over Trumaine Banks  #4 of the Minnesota Golden Gophers as John Shevlin #46 helps out on the tackle on October 7, 2006 at the Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

So with another glorified practice out of the way, it’s time to look ahead to the next matchup in the all important Big Ten season.

A win against the Gophers gives this Lions squad some credibility and some positive momentum going into the Big House. Last week the Gophers beat up on Purdue after losing a close game against the surprisingly improved Wisconsin squad.

Even though Minnesota is ranked last in total offense in the Big Ten and Penn State is ranked first in total defense, this game won’t be as simple as looking at the numbers and rolling your 12-sided die.

All hail the BCS Selection Committee

All of that aside, what do the Lions need to do to come out with the ''W'' this week? True to form, there are three keys to the game.

See the guy with the ball? Knock him over:  This sounds like Football 101, but Adam Weber depends heavily on his wideout Eric Decker, and considering Decker is one of the top three wideouts in the league, you can’t really blame him.

That being said, if you shut down the passing game and take Decker out of the equation you’re helping yourself out a whole lot. The Gophers dont really have a notable running game. Take Penn State's running game and subtract 250 yards and divide by two. Thats how many yards each back has for Minnesota.

So, yeah, for all the times you’ve wondered where the Lions running game went, remember the Gophers running game was never there.

So it boils down to this, get to the quarterback, play smart, and the game is in the bag. It’s simple but this could be a game that the Lions win easily or a game where they struggle when they don’t really need to.

Get that ball to the endzone: Wagner took great steps towards keeping the Aspirin away from the Lion faithful by kicking off well into the opposing endzone a few times last week.

If you can win the field position battle without taking a snap you’re helping yourself out a whole bunch. His ability to continue his success from last week will be a key factor in the Big Ten games to come.

Bomb it like Prince…only with your foot

Do your homework and play smart: You’ve got to play with your head. So many times teams end up beating themselves with penalties and a lack of concentration. “Don’t make it harder than it needs to be” should be the mindset of the Lions this week.

They’re a better team on paper and even though I’ve advised that you stay away from die spinning, it is not unreasonable to expect the Lions to outplay the Gophers. They have more talent on both sides of the ball, they just need to execute. I guess this isn’t a specific key to the game, but more like: Come to the game with the right mindset.


Other games around the Big Ten

Upset Watch: Iowa @ Wisconsin

The Badgers have quietly put together a solid season and are looking for their big win. Iowa is a solid team, as we’ve all seen, but they have gotten lucky a few times. It’ll be a big matchup between one of the Big Ten's best running teams and one of the Big Ten's best defenses.

Somebody needs to beat the Hawkeyes if the Lions want a chance to win the Big Ten—so go Badgers.

Ohio State plays Purdue in a game that should be an easy "W" for the Buckeyes. As hard as it is, you dont want them to lose until they make the trip up to Happy Valley for the sake of the Lions' resume. It isn’t fun to root for the Buckeyes, but at this point you have to figure out what is best for you in the long run.