Five things: Penn State at Minnesota

November, 9, 2013
11/09/13
7:00
AM ET
While Penn State is trying to finish the season strong, Minnesota is seeking its fourth consecutive Big Ten win for the first time since 1973.

The Governor's Victory Bell is on the line, and here are five things to keep an eye on:

1. Allen Robinson nearing another school record. The Penn State receiver is just 42 yards shy of breaking the single-season school record for receiving yards (1,084), a mark set in 1995 by Bobby Engram. Robinson is averaging 10 catches and 149 yards in each Big Ten contest, so it seems almost certain that he will break the record against Minnesota. Of course, there's also an outside shot he'll break another record in the afternoon -- the single-season receptions record. Robinson is at 66 catches right now, and he needs 12 more to break his record from last season. He has twice grabbed a dozen receptions in Big Ten games this season.

2. Stopping quarterbacks on the run. In the last three games, quarterbacks have run for 247 yards (82.3 per game) against Penn State. Minnesota quarterbacks Philip Nelson and Mitch Leidner are both dual-threats -- Leidner tends to run the most -- and have averaged a combined 75 rushing yards a game. The Nittany Lions have been mostly good against the run, outside of the Ohio State game, but they haven't fared well against running quarterbacks. Penn State's ability to limit both quarterbacks on the run will be paramount to stopping Minnesota.

3. Can Bill Belton continue playing at this level? The junior tailback rushed for 201 yards last week, the first time a Penn State running back gained 200 yards in a game since Larry Johnson in 2002. Belton has been the most improved player on the offense, and he's solidified his status as the starter. But, after carrying 36 times last week, can he keep carrying such a heavy load? This game, against the No. 39 run defense, would go a long way in helping cement him as a top player. Big Ten Blog readers already voted him as the most surprising tailback in the conference.

4. More aggressive Minnesota passing offense. In the first six games of the season, the Golden Gophers averaged just 116.8 passing yards a game and amassed a total of just nine completions of 20 yards or longer. In the last three games? It's been completely different. Nelson has helped guide Minnesota to an average of 202.3 yards per game and the Gophers have accounted for 13 big passing plays. Offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover has opened up the playbook, and it will be a challenge for Penn State's secondary.

5. PSU defense vs. Minnesota offense in the red zone. The Gophers aren't the highest-scoring team in the Big Ten. But when they get inside the red zone, they're almost automatic. Minnesota ranks third in the nation by recording scores on 29 of 30 red-zone trips, with 22 touchdowns and seven field goals. Penn State is a middle-of-the-road team when it comes to bending and not breaking. The defense was able to come up with big plays when it needed against Illinois, but it will have to be even better against Minnesota. The Gophers have a penchant from running it in within five yards; 11 rushing touchdowns have been from 1 yard out.

Josh Moyer | email

Penn State/Big Ten reporter

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