SOC - Minnesota 2021
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You ever run out of words for the day? Of course you haven't. You don't have an Illini website. Well, I feel like I've run out of words for today. I'm in my Minneapolis hotel room, and I'm looking around the room for some words, but I can't find them.
Here's why. I fell asleep at 10:30 or so last night. And when I do that, I'm up at 5. My body has a pretty good "six and a half to seven hours" clock. So since I was up, I finished grabbing gifs from the Rutgers game for the previous post. Then I packed my bag and headed to the train station.
On the 2.5 hour ride to Chicago, I wrote more words in the previous post. Then I ate lunch at Union Station, switched trains, and headed north towards Minneapolis. Two more hours finishing that post, I published it, and then I moved on to writing certain sections of the basketball preview (out Monday). Basically sat there with my laptop on the seven hour train trip from Chicago to Minneapolis and wrote words about the Illini (some football, some basketball).
Then, once I checked into the hotel room, I recorded a Field Pass episode with Dan (I'm guessing it will be out by the time I publish this). We previewed the game tomorrow, and I got a bunch of audible words out. Now I'm sitting here trying to write the SOC and I feel like I'm out of words. I've had the words faucet on since 10:00 am and I think the well might be dry.
So this will probably be a very short SOC. I'll just try to work through my thoughts on the game tomorrow and then go to bed. Sleeping always recharges the words.
I don't have a feel for this game at all. Similar to Nebraska in that regard. I feel like I've had a pretty good feel for the last 6-7 games, but tomorrow, my mind isn't telling me anything. I could see an Illini upset win and I could see Minnesota in a laugher. Maybe I should do that thing where I talk through each scenario and see which one feels right.
If it's an upset win, I think it might be because of fumbles. We're pretty good at punching the ball out (even with Jake Hansen out for the season), and Minnesota has lost three tailbacks to injury and will be playing the freshmen. Young tailbacks + defense that is good at forcing fumbles sometimes = a fumble-fest.
I don't think we'll be able to run the ball on Minnesota like we did in the Penn State game (that was this one-off "Penn State doesn't really have a defensive package for a jumbo offensive package" kind of thing, I think), but I do think we can run the ball tomorrow. Chase Brown is due for another game north of 100 yards. So with a defense that can keep us in games + a tailback who can perhaps carry the offense, maybe the 14.5 point spread is way too high. Maybe we're in this game from the start and it comes down to another final drive like the Rutgers, Purdue, and Maryland games.
If it's a laugher for Minnesota, it's probably because this offense hasn't figured it out. Yes, the 199 yards in the second quarter against Rutgers made us all feel like maybe the offense turned a corner but the 98 total yards in the 1st, 3rd, and 4th quarters felt more like the Wisconsin game. This offense is bottom 20% in all of college football and that's probably going to continue to be the case.
It just feels like Minnesota will be able to do what Rutgers did. Sit on the run, dare us to pass, and grind out yards while playing keep-away. The CFP thinks they're the 20th-best team in the country, and this one is at their place, and they're 14.5 point favorites, so why would I even consider thinking Illinois could pull the upset? All signs point to Minnesota comfortably putting us away.
OK, so neither one of those feels right. I don't think it's a laugher for Minnesota and I don't think it's an upset win for us. 14.5 feels about right. I'll lean in the positive direction and say that Illinois covers, but I can't say that Illinois wins. Feels like Minnesota by 11 or 13 or something.
I'll just pick a score here and then go to bed (I swear I will be sound asleep in only six minutes). I'll pick the old "lose, but cover". I'm going with...
Minnesota 28, Illinois 17