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THREE KEYS FOR THE GOPHERS

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1. Tackle Braelon Allen: This sounds obvious, but the seven consecutive teams that have allowed Allen to rush for more than 100 yards all had trouble bringing down the Badgers’ star freshman tailback. Allen is clearly not 100%, as he’s been slow to get up after tackles and dealing with some lower-body injuries as his role has increased, but the Gophers must wrap up after contact and attack him low.

Watch both of Allen’s long touchdown runs last week and you’ll defenders bounce off him because they don’t follow their initial contact by holding onto Allen, and others trying to bring him down around his shoulders, which his tremendous upper-body strength prevents. PFF credits Allen with 706 yards after contact and 36 missed tackles forced this season.

Illinois Minnesota Football

Minnesota wide receiver Chris Autman-Bell runs away from the Illinois defense during their game earlier this season in Minneapolis. (Stacy Bengs, Associated Press)

2. Attack with deep crossers early: The Big Ten isn’t known as a copy-cat conference because each program’s identity on offense has its own merits. But the Gophers should try to take a page out of Nebraska’s playbook and attack with deep crossing routes. Those plays were effective against UW’s defense for much of the game and took advantage of the Badgers’ lack of top-end speed in the secondary.

Minnesota receivers Chris Autman-Bell, Mike Stephens-Brown and Dylan Wright could be dangerous on those routes, and the Gophers should make UW prove it can stop them.

3. Stay on the field: Watching a Minnesota game this season feels more like watching a Badgers game with how much the Gophers are running and possessing the ball. Minnesota leads the Big Ten in time of possession with an average of 35 minutes, 37 seconds per game. UW is second at 34:03 despite the third-worst third-down offense in the league (33.6% conversion rate).

Minnesota’s been good at extending drives, converting 45.2% of its third downs, and it will need to do that Saturday against the Big Ten’s best third-down defense in the Badgers. UW allows a 25.2% third-down conversion rate. If UW can get consecutive three-and-outs, the offense has shown it will pay off that effort more often during the seven-game win streak.

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