Gophers football vs. Purdue: Keys to game, how to watch and who has the edge

Minnesota leads the all-time series, winning 8 of the last 9 matchups

Minnesota Gophers head coach P.J. Fleck leads his team onto the field at the start of an NCAA football game against Purdue at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on Nov. 20, 2020.
John Autey / St. Paul Pioneer Press
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Purdue at Minnesota

When: 11 a.m. Saturday
Where: Huntington Bank Stadium
Radio: KFAN, 100.3 FM
Weather: 61 degrees, partly sunny, 6 mph northwest wind
Betting favorite: Minnesota, minus-12.6

Records: Minnesota is 4-0 overall and 1-0 in Big Ten after a dominating 34-7 victory at Michigan State last Saturday. The Gophers have outscored all opponents 183-24 and climbed into the AP poll at No. 21 this week. Purdue is 2-2, 0-1 Big Ten. They lost the season opener to now-No. 11 Penn State 35-31, then fell 32-29 at Syracuse in Week 3. They beat Indiana State and Florida Atlantic.

History: At Minnesota, P.J. Fleck is 4-1 against Purdue and a win Saturday would be the first time he has beaten an opponent five times in his head-coaching career. The Gophers have won eight of the past nine games to take a 41-33-3 lead in the all-time series against the Boilermakers.

Key matchup: Gophers secondary vs. Purdue receiver Charlie Jones. Minnesota might have faced the best receiver corps of the season last week with the Spartans, but Jones is the best No. 1 option. The Iowa transfer leads the nation with 41 receptions and seven touchdowns, along with 533 yards. He will, of course, be the focal point for Minnesota defensive backs.

Who has the edge?

Gophers offense vs. Purdue defense: Tanner Morgan has been rolling, and Purdue’s pass defense gave up 308 yards through air in the loss to Penn State. Morgan won Big Ten co-offensive player of the week for completing 88% of his passes for 268 yards and three touchdowns vs. Spartans. Morgan feasted on Purdue in 2019 the same way he did Michigan State last week. He currently is the highest-graded QB in the nation (95.2), according to Pro Football Focus College. … The remade Gophers offensive line hasn’t had an issue integrating four new starters. Minnesota has allowed Morgan to be sacked only once in 79 pass attempts this season. Purdue lost top pass rusher George Karlaftis to the NFL and doesn’t have a player with more than one sack through four games. RT Quinn Carroll has allowed a team-high four pressures in four games. … LB/S Jalen Graham, all-Big Ten honorable mention last season, is out; CB Reese Taylor is a game-time decision. … Without elite receiver Chris Autman-Bell (season-ending knee injury), the Gophers’ by-committee approach had 10 pass catchers, including six with two receptions and four with at least three grabs. … Back from an ankle injury, WR Daniel Jackson had his first career two-TD game, and backup TE Nick Kallerup had his first career TD. EDGE: Gophers


Gophers defense vs. Purdue offense: QB Aidan O’Connell did not play in Purdue’s 28-26 win over FAU last week because of a reported rib injury suffered in the Syracuse loss. Head coach Jeff Brohm said Thursday O’Connell is a game-time decision. Gophers defensive coordinator Joe Rossi pegged O’Connell as a “top-five quarterback in the country.” ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. has him in the top 10 of his 2023 draft class. If O’Connell doesn’t play, Austin Burton is most likely to step in. He completed 72% of passes for 166 yards, three touchdowns and one interception against the Conference USA opponent last week. … Brohm is credited with vast offensive creativity but hasn’t gotten much out of the ground game. Boilers were dead last in the nation in rushing efficiency last season. Before Dylan Downing rushed for 113 yards against FAU, the Boilers hadn’t had a 100-yard rusher since massive RB Zander Horvath in 2020. No. 1 RB King Doerue is out. … The Gophers’ starting defense has yet to give up a touchdown this season and forced a season-high three takeaways against Michigan State. … LB Mariano Sori-Marin leads the team with 25 total tackles. CB Terell Smith (84.1) and Thomas Rush (82.0) are the two highest-graded defensive players, per PFF. Eight defensive linemen have played at least 40 of the 192 snaps this season; this keeps them fresher longer. … T Cam Craig is also out for Purdue. Minnesota, by comparison, is pretty healthy. EDGE: Gophers

Special teams: Charlie Jones is also a fearless kick and punt returner, but Minnesota has been stingy in both areas this season. Mitchell Fineran is 2 for 4 on field goals with two misses in the 40-50-yard range. K Matthew Trickett is 5 for 5, with a long of 46. EDGE: Gophers

Prediction: Brohm called the Gophers the “best team we’ve played to date,” and that includes a Penn State squad now ranked in the top 15 in the nation. Minnesota is a well-oiled machine and will continue to grind opponents to dust. Gophers, 31-13


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