After a 34-7 win over Michigan State on Saturday, Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck said that sometimes the difference between being a team or just simply being a group boils down to defensive culture and intensity.
If that's true, the Golden Gophers are as much of a team as anyone in college football.No. 21 Minnesota (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten) will look to continue terrorizing opposing offenses on Saturday when it faces Purdue (2-2, 0-1) in a conference matchup at Minneapolis.
The Gophers have allowed just 24 points this season. They've also allowed the fewest average yards per game in the nation (187.8), with the next-closest team, Alabama, at 201.2.
Thanks to those impressive defensive numbers and a lethal rushing attack, Minnesota has slid into the AP Top 25 for the first time this season.
"I think any time that happens, that's good for the brand of the University of Minnesota, period. It's good for our president, it's good for our admissions, it's good for everything," Fleck said. "Enrollment's up. You get even higher quality students to come here that continue to do medical research, change the world, do things like that.
"Now, that doesn't mean anything necessarily inside of our program. We have a lot of guys who have had that happen before. They've been there. They understand how the external message will get louder, but the internal message has to be the loudest."
One player who has experience in the program is senior running back Mohamed Ibrahim, the centerpiece of one of the top backfields in the country.
Minnesota has averaged the second-most yards per game on the ground (294.5) and has 17 rushing touchdowns, which is tied with Michigan for first. Ibrahim has rushed for over 100 yards in each of his first four games. He has eight touchdowns, including at least one TD in each game.
Purdue coach Jeff Brohm knows his defense can't overreact to the run, because if it does, it'll get picked apart by Gophers quarterback Tanner Morgan.
"The sound running game, once you start to want to commit more guys, they're going to get you on a deep pass over the top," Brohm said. "And if they're allowed to do that, then they're just going to continue to roll."
The Boilermakers will need to tune up things in that department if they want to have any chance of slowing Minnesota. Purdue allowed 419 yards in a 28-26 win over Florida Atlantic last Saturday and gave up a touchdown with seven seconds remaining one week earlier while falling 32-29 against Syracuse.
Purdue quarterback Aidan O'Connell also will look for revenge on Saturday.
With his team trailing 20-13 in the fourth quarter against Minnesota last season, O'Connell threw an interception on the Boilermakers' last offensive drive. Morgan then kneeled twice to run out the clock, handing Purdue its fourth consecutive loss against its conference rival.
Minnesota has dominated the all-time series lately, winning eight of the last nine meetings.
--Field Level Media