Cal Stoll was Minnesota’s coach in 1973 when the Golden Gophers won their final four Big Ten Conference games to finish the season with a 7-4 record.
Why the history lesson? Minnesota plays host to Penn State today at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, and a victory would give the Gophers four consecutive Big Ten wins for the first time since Stoll’s team did it 40 years ago.
“That’s not something that we’ve talked about,” Minnesota defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys said. “That’s pretty amazing.
“It’d be another great accomplishment just to show that we are making progress to where we want to be.”
The Gophers are 2½-point favorites over the Nittany Lions, who have been outscored 107-38 in two true road games this season.
This is the 12th time since 1980 that Minnesota has produced a three-game winning streak in Big Ten play. There’s reason to believe the Gophers will get over the hump this time under Jerry Kill, who will spend another week watching the game from a coaching box rather than the sideline as he goes through treatment for epilepsy.
Kill said the Gophers, who could reach eight wins for the first time in a decade, finally believe in themselves.
“You can talk through a program, ‘Hey we’re turning the corner, we’re getting better,’ and keep telling them, ‘This is what you’ve got to do to get better.’ But until you have a little success, it’s hard to believe in that,” said Kill, whose team sandwiched road wins at Northwestern and Indiana around a home victory over Nebraska.
“We’ve had blind faith for a while, but now they’ve started having success. Indiana, we’re in a situation where back is against the wall and we found ways to lose those games my first two years here. And we found a way to win. I think that just builds confidence.”
Pick: Minnesota 24-17.
BYU (+8) at No. 21 UW: One interested observer in this game will be Buckeye Nation. Ohio State’s best win this season came against the Badgers. A UW loss today would be a big blow to the Buckeyes’ already flimsy BCS resume.
Pick: UW 28-24.
Nebraska (+6½) at Michigan: If it can build off the momentum it gained from a Hail Mary victory over Northwestern last week, and beat the Wolverines and Michigan State in consecutive weeks, the Cornhuskers would have the inside track to a Legends Division title. That’s a lot to ask of Bo Pelini’s inconsistent team.
Pick: Michigan 34-31.
Iowa (-15) at Purdue: Just how bad is Purdue’s offense? The Boilermakers haven’t run a play in the red zone since the fourth quarter of a 55-24 home loss to Northern Illinois on Sept. 28. That streak covers three-plus games.
Pick: Iowa 27-7.
Illinois (+9) at Indiana: Indiana is 1-3 in Big Ten play despite averaging 39.5 points per game. That’s because the Hoosiers are allowing a league-worst 42.8 points and 551.8 yards per game.
Pick: Indiana 48-35.
Last week: 5-1 overall, 4-2 vs. the spread.
Season: 64-10 overall, 37-27 vs. the spread.