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Purdue schedule ranking: No. 6 Minnesota

Tyler Johnson could pose issues for Purdue once again after making five grabs for 73 yards and a TD last year.
Tyler Johnson could pose issues for Purdue once again after making five grabs for 73 yards and a TD last year. (USA Today)

6. Minnesota, at West Lafayette, September 28

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This is Purdue’s Big Ten opener. And it will be coming off a bye, giving the Boilermakers two weeks to prep for the Golden Gophers. That's good, because this is a big one, as it’s at home vs. a division foe that—like Purdue—appears to be on the rise.

The Golden Gophers are a “sleeper” pick in the Big Ten West by some pundits this year. If the Boilermakers want to return to a bowl, they in all likelihood will need to protect Ross-Ade Stadium and beat Minnesota, which has won five of the last six meetings. Purdue needed to rally with 18 fourth-quarter points to topple the Gophers, 31-17, in Ross-Ade in 2017 in a wild game that featured a weather delay.

The Gophers enter 2019 with plenty of mojo. They won three of their last four in 2018 and feature a seasoned roster. Nine starters are back on offense, led by one of the Big Ten’s top running back units paced by precocious Mohamed Ibrahim. Tyler Johnson will be one of the Big Ten’s best wideouts. Minnesota has two capable quarterbacks: Zack Annexstad and Tanner Morgan.

Joe Rossi was a revelation when he took over as defensive coordinator in the middle of last season. End Carter Coughlin is the best of six returning starters on defense. Safety Antonie Winfield, Jr., is back from injury. That’s big.

The Boilermakers would like to forget about last year’s meeting in Dinkytown, when Purdue got whipped, 41-10. And, honestly, it wasn’t even that close. What made the loss especially galling for the Boilermakers was the fact they began the day with a chance to remain in the Big Ten West title hunt. But those hopes got smashed on a cold, snowy November day. The Gophers entered the contest allowing 43.2 points and 507.7 yards per game, but Minnesota rationed Purdue 233 yards as the Boilermakers spun their wheels all day in going 0-of-12 on third down.

Bottom line: Minnesota’s P.J. Fleck and Purdue’s Jeff Brohm both got their jobs the same year and in the same division, so they always will be measured against each other. So far, the score is 1-1. Who will crawl over the other toward the Big Ten West summit? This is one of the most fascinating games on the slate.

Series: 38-33-3, Minnesota

Last Purdue win: 2017, 31-17 at Purdue

Last Minnesota win: 2018, 41-10 at Minnesota

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