Week 11 – Minnesota at Illinois

Posted Nov 9, 2012

Week 11 Fearless Prediction – Minnesota at Illinois


Minnesota (5-4) at Illinois (2-7) Nov. 10, 3:30, BTN

Here's The Deal: This is it for the Gophers. They might be 1-4 in the Big Ten, and they might have struggles since a hot 4-0 start, but now they need just one victory to go bowling and to make a big step in the turnaround under Jerry Kill. With a road trip to Nebraska up next and with Michigan State to close out the regular season, getting a win this week could a must to have any real hope of going bowling. At the very least, this is the easiest game left on the slate.

Illinois has been a total mess, losing six straight games and raising the speculation that Tim Beckman might not be a sure-thing to last a second season. It's not just that the team is losing; it's that it's a disaster getting blown out week after week after week. After beating Western Michigan to start the season, the Illini haven't come within double digits of any FBS team the rest of the way. The offense finally showed a few signs of life last week against Ohio State, but the points didn't start coming until the Buckeyes were up 38-6 late in the third.

There are still opportunities to win a few games with Purdue and the in-state rivalry date with Northwestern to follow, but the team hasn't been able to show any signs of life when given the opportunity. Can this be the week things start to come together? If the spoiler role can be appealing, there's a chance to close out with a decent finishing kick.

Why Minnesota Might Win: The Illinois offense continues to be a disaster. Where's the running game? It has yet to crank out more than 200 yards since the loss to Arizona State in early September, and the passing game has gone in the tank over the last few weeks including a 29-yard day against Michigan and 96 against Ohio State. The lllini have yet to throw for more than one touchdown pass in a game against an FBS team with five of the 11 scores coming against Charleston Southern. The offensive line isn't getting a push, and the skill players aren't taking advantage of any breaks. Minnesota might not have a nasty defense, but it hasn't been bad allowing just 344 yards per game.

Why Illinois Might Win: It's not like the Minnesota offense is working, either. The 44-point outburst against Purdue was an aberration in a sea of 13s – the Gophers scored 13 points in four of the last five games, all losses. While the defense has had problems, and it has been giving up too many big plays, it's not giving up a ton of yards and it's not getting pounded on. Without a deep passing game and without a tough, consistent ground attack, there's a chance the Minnesota offense falls flat on the road yet again.

What To Watch Out For: Can Donnell Kirkwood carry the Minnesota offense? The sophomore leads the team with 667 yards, but he only has rushed for three scores with two of them coming against Syracuse six games ago. With consistency problems at quarterback, the more Kirkwood, the better, and that comes with carries. When he gets the ball, not only to the Gophers win, but he produces with three 20+ carry games rumbling of over 100 yards in two of them and with 99 yards and two scores in the other against Syracuse.

What Will Happen: Minnesota is 5-0 when scoring 17 points or more, and 0-4 when it's under. Illinois allowed seven points in its two wins, and haven't allowed fewer than 31 in any other games. Something has to give. It's going to be the Illini.

CFN Prediction: Minnesota 24 … Illinois 17
ATS Consultants Line (Click for more lines and picks) Minnesota -3.5 O/U: 47
Must Watch Rating (5 – Skyfall, 1 – Wreck It Ralph): 2