MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. - Purdue looks to keep pace in the Big Ten West Division race when it travels to face Minnesota in a conference game Saturday. The Boilermakers are coming off a narrow 38-36 victory over Iowa, pulling within a game of Northwestern and remaining tied with Wisconsin in the West, while the Golden Gophers are looking to bounce back from a 55-31 loss to Illinois.
TV: 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2. LINE: Purdue -12.5
Purdue's offense got back in gear against the Hawkeyes led by the passing of quarterback David Blough (333 yards, four touchdowns), who went over the 300-yard mark for the fifth time this season. Wide receiver Terry Wright was a big-play threat for the Boilermakers with six receptions for 146 yards and three scores, and coach Jeff Brohm hopes that continues to possibly open things up a bit for the running game, which has struggled the last two weeks. Minnesota has turned to freshman Tanner Morgan, who became the first Gophers signal caller in three seasons to throw for 250 yards in consecutive games in his two starts since replacing the injured Zack Annexstad. Defensively, the Gophers have struggled, and it will be interesting to see what if anything changes after coach P.J. Fleck fired defensive coordinator Robb Smith this week following the team allowing 646 yards of total offense -- including 430 on the ground -- to a last-place Illinois squad.
ABOUT PURDUE (5-4, 4-2 Big Ten)
Playing against the Gophers may be a plus for the Purdue running game, which has struggled a bit over the last two contests, averaging 81.5 yards against Michigan State and Iowa after going for 176.7 in the season's first seven contests. Against Iowa, Markell Jones led the way with 40 yards on 14 carries, while D.J. Knox had 34 on nine carries despite leaving the game briefly in the second quarter with a hand injury. Knox is trying to become the program's first 1,000-yard rusher since 2008 and needs to average 82.3 yards in the final three games of the regular season to reach that mark.
ABOUT MINNESOTA (4-5, 1-5)
Defensive line coach Joe Rossi was named the team's interim defensive coordinator in the wake of Smith being fired, and his first order of business will be to try to get rid of the Gophers' penchant for giving up big plays. The seven Illinois touchdowns scored last week were by an average of 47.6 yards per play, and the Gophers have allowed 43.2 points and 507.7 yards in conference games this season. Rossi, 39, served as defensive coordinator at Rutgers in 2014 and 2015 and will also take over Smith's duties as linebackers coach.
1. Purdue LT Grant Hermanns is expected to miss the remainder of the regular season after undergoing knee surgery for a meniscus injury last week.
2. Minnesota freshman WR Rashod Bateman either set or equaled career bests with seven catches for 175 yards and two touchdowns against Illinois.
3. The Golden Gophers lead a close series 37-33-3 against the Boilermakers but have dominated in games played in Minneapolis with a 31-12-3 mark.
PREDICTION: Purdue 42, Minnesota 20
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