Early look at Minnesota Golden Gophers

Every day this week, NittanyNation will continue taking a closer look at a different game this season and how the matchup stacks up for PSU. Up today: Minnesota.

With Jerry Kill at the helm, the Golden Gophers are poised to become bowl regulars -- and could become one of the bigger surprises in the Big Ten this season.

Minnesota was 3-9 in 2010 before Kill took over. Then the former Northern Illinois coach equaled that record in 2011 before doubling the win total in 2012. It's Year 3 for Kill now, and this third year is the one in which Minnesota could take off.

Kill loves to run the ball, but his hopes are inextricably linked with sophomore quarterback phenom Philip Nelson, Minnesota's Mr. Football in 2011 who received recruiting interest from the likes of Nebraska and Wisconsin. Nelson experienced a rough rookie campaign, but Minnesota's hopes for a breakout season are tied to just how much he can improve this season.

Minnesota isn't a lock on the Nittany Lions' schedule. Not anymore. It's a wild card, and it's one PSU can't take for granted.