The Daily Illini sports staff makes predictions ahead of Illinois football’s game against Minnesota


Cameron Krasucki

Tight end Daniel Barker runs past the Rutgers defensive line during the game on Oct. 30. The Daily Illini sports staff makes predictions for the upcoming game against Minnesota this weekend.

By The Daily Illini Sports Staff

Jackson Janes: Minnesota 20, Illinois 13

Coming off a disappointing loss to Rutgers, Illinois heads to Minneapolis with a near-impossible bowl berth technically still in the cards. That would mean the Illini would need to win road games against the Golden Gophers and Iowa Hawkeyes before returning to Champaign to take on the Northwestern Wildcats, a team they haven’t beaten since 2014.

OK, back to Saturday’s game. The Illini have been heavily reliant on their running game all season, but that won’t necessarily be easy against the Golden Gophers, who have the second best run defense in the conference.

The only team better than them? Wisconsin, which held Illinois to just 26 yards on the ground and less than 100 yards of total offense.

Despite star running back Mo Ibrahim out for the season, Minnesota still ranks second in rushing offensively, while Illinois has struggled to defend the run all season. I think Illinois puts up a solid fight, but the offense just can’t do enough to get another big road win, officially ruling out a bowl game for Bret Bielema in his first season in Champaign.

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Wes Hollenberg: Minnesota 27, Illinois 9

Let me paint two pictures. First, imagine a healthy, motivated Brandon Peters internalizing nine weeks’ worth of quarterback questions and answering the nod with an even stronger performance than his 14/19, 190-yard, two-touchdown game against Rutgers. Minnesota’s only real weak point is its secondary, which still ranks seventh within the Big Ten in passing yards allowed per game. Peters takes advantage and leads the Illini in yet another upset victory.

Oh, you wanted the realistic one? Minnesota is most likely going to cruise out to a win by dominating the trenches and running all over the Illini defense while keeping Josh McCray and Chase Brown from getting going. Minnesota ranks second in the Big Ten in rushing yards per game and rushing yards allowed per game, so it’s hard to imagine they won’t dominate the time of possession battle. The last time Illinois went against an elite run defense was Wisconsin, and we all remember how that went. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Bielema opt for a pass-heavy game plan like he did against the Badgers, but Peters will need to do much better than his 3/7, 12-yard performance if the Illini want a chance.

Illinois has already pulled off one gusty upset on the road at Penn State, so winning at Minnesota isn’t impossible. But it will be hard if the Golden Gophers take away the run game for Illinois, which has been its most effective way of winning games so far.

Will Payne: Minnesota 20, Illinois 17

After a crushing Dads Weekend loss to Rutgers, the Illini are back on the road. They’ll continue Big Ten play against the Minnesota Golden Gophers in the Twin Cities.

If Illinois wants any chance of snagging another win, it’ll come down to a strong defensive performance. The Illini have shown they can pull out victories even with shoddy offensive numbers, and this will surely continue against Minnesota.

The Illinois run game has been the saving grace of the team’s offense this year, so look for Chase Brown and Josh McCray to get loads of carries. Brandon Peters will also get another opportunity to start at quarterback this weekend.

Much like Rutgers, I think Illinois will keep this one close but lose in another heartbreaker.

Josh Pietsch: Minnesota 27, Illinois 13

Minnesota is good. The College Football Playoff rankings have the Golden Gophers at 20th, which I think is very fair considering their 6-2 ranking. They lost a bad one at home to Bowling Green State earlier this year but have taken care of business ever since then.

Even with the injury of star running back Mo Ibrahim, Minnesota has been able to rush the ball effectively behind a solid offensive line. Quarterback Tanner Morgan is having an off year considering his level of talent, but he has still performed well enough to lead the Golden Gophers to bowl eligibility in just eight games.

Their defense has also played really well, which makes them an all-around very good team. Illinois also has a defense that is playing well and somewhat similar to that of Minnesota, but the Illini offense just isn’t as good as their opponents this week. The running game would need to improve a lot from last game, and quarterback Brandon Peters would have to continue an improved performance from the past week.

Minnesota is already a very good team —I’m a huge fan of P.J. Fleck.—, and the Illini having to travel to the Twin Cities makes it that much harder to win.

Claire O’Brien: Minnesota 35, Illinois 14

Illinois enters the game coming off a 20-14 loss to Rutgers. Minnesota, on the other hand, defeated Northwestern, 41-14, in Evanston last week.
Brandon Peters went 14/19 and had 190 yards last week, while Minnesota quarterback Tanner Morgan went 12/17 and had 134 yards.
But, Minnesota posts stronger statistics than Illinois in most categories, and the Golden Gophers have not lost a game in over a month. Minnesota is heavily favored to win, and I think the home team is going to have another strong performance and end the day with another win.