Purdue Boilermakers (4-1 SU, 3-2 AS) vs. Minnesota Golden Gophers (3-2 SU, 2-3 AS) TCF Bank Stadium, 12 p.m. Eastern, Saturday, October 10th, Minneapolis, MN; TV: ESPN2
By Oracle of Predictem.com
Point Spread: Purdue +4/Minnesota -4
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The Minnesota Golden Gophers have already christened their brand new TCF Bank Stadium for the 2009 college football season. But the new swag the Gophers now play their home games in hasnt brought them much luck. Theyre just 1-2 in their pristine stadium, including a tough 31-28 loss against Wisconsin last week.
Theyll have to hope TCF will bring them some better results on Saturday when they host a struggling Purdue Boilermakers, who is riding a four game losing streak, at Noon Eastern time on ESPN 2.
Purdue has ran into some tough luck as of late, losing their last four games by an average of just 4.5 points, including a three-point loss to Notre Dame and a two-point road defeat at the hands of a good Oregon team. To top it all off, the Boilermakers, who were up 21-3 at one point last weekend against Northwestern, were stopped on 4th and goal in the waning seconds of their Big Ten tilt and lost, 27-21.
Although the straight up record differential between the teams is significant and the fact Minnesota is at home, online sportsbooks do have Minnesota favorites, but just -4 to open up. That line has moved as well to -3.5 at some books.
Many bettors may be fooled by those SU marks and assume the Golden Gophers walk away with this one, but the Boilermakers have stuck with some pretty good teams so far this season.
Meanwhile, the over/under is at 52.5, as both defenses arent necessarily stellar at any given spot.
The Golden Gophers are coming off a tough loss against Wisconsin, where they were beaten for the sixth straight year and failed to get the Paul Bunyan Axe. Minnesota did make it interesting in the end, but fumbled on their final drive to end the game.
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Eric Decker is one of the main weapons on their offense, as the wide receiver caught eight balls for 140 yards and a score against Wisconsin. Decker has 639 receiving yards on the year and 43 catches to go along with five scores.
Adam Weber is coming into his own at quarterback. The junior has thrown for 1,150 yards and six touchdowns on the year.
The X-factor in this one might be Minnesotas running game, which has been less than average all year long. Duane Bennett (53 carries, 5 TD) and DeLeon Eskridge (37 carries, 165 yards) have shared carries.
With Decker and Weber, the run game has been almost an afterthought for the Golden Gophers. If they want to keep Purdue off the field, they will need to establish their ground game.
The Boilermakers average 411.8 yards offensively, good enough for 34th in the nation. They have a very balanced attack as well with Joey Elliott at the helm and Ralph Bolden at running back.
Elliott has thrown for 1,276 yards and 10 touchdowns. He spreads the ball around, too, with five Boilermakers having at least 10 catchers on the year. Keith Smith leads that corps with 35 grabs for 459 yards and three scores.
After Bolden cracked the 200-yard barrier in the first week and added another 123 in Week 2 against Oregon, the sophomore running back hasnt gotten over 67 yards since.
If Purdue wants any shot at taking down the home team in Minnesota, Bolden needs to get going.
As always, bettors should look at the weather forecast heading into Saturday. Normally it didnt matter because the Gophers played indoors. But now that they have a new outdoor stadium, any game from now on will have the cold, breezy fall and winter Minnesota weather involved in it.
The over/under will certainly be effected by that weather. Even with the two high powered offenses and average defenses on both teams, there are some under trends. The under is 5-0 when Minnesota is favorites between 3.5-10. Its also 4-0 when facing a team with a losing record.
The Boilermakers tend to go under the total when dogs, as it is 4-1 in the last five.
Countering all those trends is the fact that the over is 4-0 in the last four games played in Minnesota. A reminder though, that was indoors and on turf.
Last season, with the over/under at 53, the two teams combined for 23 total points in a 17-6 Minnesota win. The Gophers defense dominated in that contest by creating four turnovers.
Bolden had just three carries in that game as a freshman and Elliott wasnt the starting quarterback.
In that game a season ago, Minnesota was favored by just 1 on the road and covered.
A big trend bettors will need to look at is the favorite is an amazing 8-1-1 in the last 10 head-to-head battles.
Something has to give in this contest, as both squads have been involved in some very tight ball games all season long. Expect no different in this one.
Oracles Pick: Both teams have good pass offenses, and itll be the team who runs the ball well that will win this one. Look for the Gophers to do just that and eventually have playmaker Eric Decker put the game out of reach. Gophers end up covering in the end. Take Minnesota -4!