Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Minnesota is rarely in a position to pick up its seventh win in the first week of November. In fact, the Golden Gophers have not won more than seven games in a season since 2003.
But this is a different Minnesota club, one that has a great chance to finish 4-4 in Big Ten play for the first time in almost a decade. This season's squad doesn't have a pair of NFL running backs on its roster as the 2003 team had in Marion Barber III and Laurence Maroney, but Daniel Cobb has rushed for over five yards per carry and 615 total yards with five touchdowns.
Furthermore, quarterbacks Philip Nelson and Mitch Leidner have combined for 630 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns. Overall, the Golden Gophers are ranked 23rd in the country in rushing, and those numbers and rankings should improve against Indiana, a team that is ranked 112th nationally against the run.
Minnesota heads to Bloomington fresh off one of the school's biggest wins - an 11-point home victory over Nebraska. When one considers the Gophers lost by 27 points two years ago at home to the Cornhuskers (and fell 38-14 last year in Lincoln), it is apparent something positive is brewing in Minneapolis.
To that end, don't expect a letdown on Saturday because the Nebraska win wasn't an outlier in a terrible season. The 6-2 Gophers came into that contest fresh off a road victory at Northwestern, a game they held Wildcats quarterback Trevor Siemian to 25-of-46 passing with two interceptions.
In Siemian's prior home game, he completed just 13 throws (in 18 attempts) for 245 yards and two touchdowns against Ohio State. Overall, Minnesota has allowed just four passing touchdowns in its four conference games while intercepting four passes as well.
The Hoosiers come into this game ranked eighth in the country in scoring at 42 points per game. Nevertheless, they are 113th in scoring defense, allowing 37 ppg. Moreover, they actually are giving up more points than they are scoring against FBS competition.
Given all of the previous information, one has to wonder why Indiana is favored by 9.5 points. The likely answer is a combination of its 20-point home win over Penn State last month and the fact Minnesota could be in line for a letdown off its win over Nebraska. Don't fall for it. This game should be decided by a field goal either way.
Take Minnesota plus 9.5 points in the lone five-star play of the week.
Nebraska looks to recover from its loss to Minnesota when it hosts Northwestern. The Cornhuskers could be without quarterback Taylor Martinez for the game, but they are 3-0 in the three prior games he did not play. Still, despite its four-game losing streak, Northwestern is easily a notch above the likes of Illinois and Purdue.
The Wildcats gave it their all against Ohio State one month ago and would have lost by only four points if the Buckeyes had not scored a touchdown on the game's final play. Northwestern also lost by just three points to Minnesota and in overtime to Iowa.
This series has been extremely tight the last two years with Northwestern winning by three points in Lincoln (2011) and Nebraska taking a one-point victory last season. Expect another close battle in this one.
Take Northwestern plus seven points.
The biggest game of the week pits Miami (Fla.) at Florida State. No defense has been able to stop, or even slow down, the Seminoles as they are third nationally in scoring at 53 ppg.
However, this rivalry has brought out the best in Miami. Last year, the Hurricanes were getting 20.5 points at home and they lost by only 13. Two years ago, they were getting 12.5 in Tallahassee and lost by only four. Four years ago, they knocked off the Seminoles on the road as five-point underdogs.
Overall, the underdog in this series has covered the last 12 meetings. Look for No. 13 to come Saturday.
Take Miami plus 22 points.
The third and final three-star play is another rivalry game - Navy versus Notre Dame.
The Midshipmen have had an up-and-down season at 4-3. Still, there have been some bright spots with a win at Indiana, a cover in a tough double overtime loss at Toledo and then a victory over Pittsburgh last Saturday.
The key for Navy is the health of quarterback Keenan Reynolds. Even though he hasn't missed a game this season, he has not been 100 percent since taking a huge hit early in the Western Kentucky contest back in September.
Reynolds arguably had his best day in a while last week against the Panthers, so look for him to hold his own versus a Notre Dame defense that is allowing almost 12 points more per game than it had at this point in the 2012 campaign. Furthermore, the Fighting Irish have toppled the 31-point mark on offense just twice this season. All Navy has to do to cover the large spread is to score around 14 points.
Take Navy plus 17 points.
Go with Penn State -10 (Illinois), Georgia Tech -10 (Pittsburgh), Missouri -10.5 (Tennessee) and Tulsa -3 (UTSA)
Take Houston -18 (South Florida), Rice +4.5 (North Texas), ULM +3.5 (Troy), Virginia +17 (Clemson), UCLA -27 (Colorado) and Oklahoma State +2.5 (Texas Tech).
THIS YEAR'S RECORD
After nine weeks, my record stands at 60-53-3 following a 6-7-3 week. There were no five-star plays so that overall record stands at 10-6 overall. The three-star selections went 1-2-1 for a 10-12-1 total. The two-star choices finished 5-2 for a 26-20 overall mark and the one-star choices went 0-3-2 for a 14-15-2 total.
THIS WEEK'S JEFF FRANK "DIRTY DOZEN"
1) Oregon, 111; 2) Alabama, 110.5; 3) Florida State, 107; 4) Baylor, 104.5; 5- T) Ohio State and Arizona State, 100; 7) LSU, 99.5; 8) Wisconsin, 99; 9) Stanford, 98; 10-T) Texas A&M and Louisville, 97.5; 12) South Carolina, 97
(The Dirty Dozen is not a reflection of a given team's won-loss record. It is based on power ratings used to predict spreads for the upcoming week. At the beginning of the season, all FBS teams are assigned a power number, which changes on a week-to-week basis depending on the results of the previous week.)