The Nittany Lions will drop out of the top four in the Playoff rankings - much to Clemson fans' delight - but Penn State still has a chance to claw back into the College Football Playoff if it wins out. Minnesota's start was written off as the Gophers had yet to beat a ranked team this season and had faced a string of Big Ten teams forced to use backup quarterbacks. Clifford threw an incompletion on second-and-24 from the Gophers 25, and then had his third-down pass picked off in the end zone by Jordan Howden with just over a minute left. Wide receiver Rashod Bateman piled up 203 receiving yards, and Tyler Johnson had 104 as the Gophers punished Penn State by mixing routes, throwing quickly and getting wide open. Two plays later, however, came the drive-killer. They will maintain a two-game lead in the Big Ten West over the victor of this afternoon's Iowa-Wisconsin game with three games to play.
Antoine Winfield Jr. had the first two picks in the first half, matching the FBS lead and setting the all-time Minnesota record with seven on the season.
Meanwhile, Penn State's pass defense has been a soft spot on an otherwise restrictive unit, and Minnesota exploited that.
Things may play out a bit differently in 2019 - thank you, College Football Playoff - but no one will be able to take away the flood of euphoria washing over Dinkytown as the Gophers look to build off the signature win of the P.J. Fleck era.
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"That's why you take a job", Fleck said when asked whether he had envisioned seeing Gophers fans storm the field to celebrate a win.
Penn State had an opportunity to stop the game-opening touchdown, but the safety took a bad angle on the tackle and whiffed on Bateman. The Buckeyes need to beat the Nittany Lions to clinch the East, but there are scenarios where Ohio State could lose to MI and still make the Playoff. Despite throwing for 340 yards, Clifford averaged just 7.9 yards per attempt and now in his last four games, he has completed 53.4 percent, 56.3 percent, 56.0 percent and 50.0 percent of his passes, respectively. The Nittany Lions lost to the Terrapins 3-1 in their Big Ten regular season opener in late September and are looking to avenge yet another loss in the postseason.
On the other hand, Minnesota's win increased the Gophers' profile and a hypothetical conference champion game between 12-0 teams would have a ton of intrigue. They won the Big Ten title in 2016, though, presenting the Gophers a program to strive for.