The Minnesota Golden Gophers might be the most overachieving team in the Big Ten. If you look at the raw numbers, they rank in the middle or bottom half of most statistical categories, both offensively and defensively. Yet, this team is looking at a shot for an eighth win this weekend against Penn State, with the potential to get to as many as 10 wins before the season ends.
Those raw numbers include the Golden Gophers ranking dead last in the conference in passing offense and next to last in total offense. In most defensive categories, Minnesota is in the middle of the pack. The Golden Gophers’ secret to success over these past few weeks is that they don’t beat themselves.
Minnesota has been penalized fewer times than any other team in the Big Ten and has a turnover margin of plus five. Their time of possession is tied for third in the conference, largely thanks to their running game, which ranks fourth in the Big Ten.
In their three game conference winning streak, the Golden Gophers have dominated these facets. They held the ball for 39 more minutes than their past three opponents, won the turnover battle six to one, and were penalized less than half the number of times.
Still, Minnesota has shown signs that it hasn’t yet arrived at its destination of dominant program looking to contend for a Rose Bowl berth. They blew a 22-point lead against Indiana last week and needed a late touchdown pass from Philip Nelson to Maxx Williams to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. An honestly objective Golden Gophers fan would have to admit that this team is far from a finished product. Fortunately for them, perfection isn’t necessary to win in the Big Ten.
No matter how unimpressive the wins might be, the fact is that Minnesota is looking for it’s fourth straight victory on Saturday. The only number the Golden Gophers are concerned about is the final score, and they are doing what it takes to have that number work out in their favor.