Mohamed Ibrahim ran wild as the Gophers dominated Nebraska 31-3 Saturday in Minneapolis, setting the stage for what could be a dramatic finish at the top of the Big Ten West division.
Here’s what stood out in the victory…
1. The race in the Big Ten West
Three weeks ago, after three straight losses, the Gophers looked dead in the Big Ten West. Now after wins over Rutgers, Nebraska and Northwestern they’re back in the race with Purdue, Illinois and Iowa, who beat Wisconsin on Saturday.
No matter how you look at it, the West is messy.
- Iowa owns the tiebreaker over Purdue.
- Purdue owns tiebreakers over Illinois and Minnesota.
- Illinois owns the tiebreaker over Iowa.
So the division is coming down to the final two weeks of the regular season. Here’s who each team plays:
- Purdue: vs. Northwestern, at Indiana
- Iowa: at Minnesota, vs. Nebraska
- Illinois: at Michigan, at Northwestern
- Minnesota: vs. Iowa, at Wisconsin
Purdue has the edge because they play the last place Hoosiers and last place Wildcats, so even if the Gophers win out they’ll need Purdue to drop one of those games.
Illinois is going to be a big underdog at Michigan, but they should have no problem with Northwestern.
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Iowa has two tough games, but if they can win both they’ll win the West as long as Illinois loses one more game.
2. Mohamed Ibrahim runs wild
Ibrahim carried the ball 36 times for 178 yards and three touchdowns. He extended his streak of 100-yard games to 18, scored his 49th, 50th and 51st touchdowns and he’s now up to 18 touchdowns this season.
As a team the Gophers ran 58 times for 302 yards and four touchdowns, though no carry was longer than 21 yards. The dominant ground game helped Minnesota keep the ball for 40 minutes, 22 seconds compared to just 19 minutes, 38 seconds for Northwestern.
3. Zach Evans gets action at running back
With Ibrahim gone after this season it looks like Trey Potts could be the primary back in 2023, but who on the roster could be the long-term future at running back? Zach Evans might be that guy as he got some action in the blowout and wound up with six carries for 29 yards and a touchdown.
He’s a freshman from Texas who has big-time speed and at 5’9”, 200 pounds he doesn’t lack size. He’s certainly a name to watch going forward.
4. Athan Kaliakmanis rarely threw the ball
Minnesota ran the ball all day, leaving only 13 pass attempts for redshirt freshman Athan Kaliakmanis, who started for a second time in three games with Tanner Morgan injured. He was 7-of-13 for 64 yards and if he continues to start he’ll need to do more with his arm if the Gophers are going to be successful against the Hawkeyes and Badgers.
5. Can the defense shut down Iowa, Wisconsin?
The defense was statistically the best in the nation when Minnesota started the season 4-0, and they played well in two of three games when the Gophers dropped three straight. The only game they’ve been dominated was at Penn State, when they were on the field all night as the offense couldn’t get anything going.
The last three games they’ve held Rutgers to zero, Nebraska to 13 and Northwestern to three points. But all three of those teams are not as good as Iowa and Wisconsin. It’ll be extremely important for the defense to shut down the Hawkeyes and Badgers if the Gophers have any shot to complete the comeback and the win the West (with help from Illinois and Purdue losing).