Last week's loss may have inspired doubts within the minds of Northwestern's media. Only two writers chose the Gophers outright, but the average predicted margin of victory is slim either way. The general feeling is that, no matter who comes out on top, this figures to be a hard-fought contest.
Kevin Trahan, Inside Northwestern - Northwestern 31, Minnesota 28 -- Minnesota will jump out of the gate early, but the Northwestern secondary will settle down after that, and with the exception of a few big plays, will hold the Gophers’ offense in check. The NU offense will start slow, but will eventually find its groove, as Colter and Mark use the zone read to carve through the Minnesota defense. Expect Colter to see the majority of the snaps — expect the same from Shortell, as well — but Colter will also get a number of targets in the receiving game, returning to the form we saw against Indiana.
Chris Johnson, Inside Northwestern - Northwestern 28, Minnesota 25 -- If Minnesota hopes to reach a bowl game this season, it needs this game. badly. The will-he-or-wont-he Marqueis Gray uncertainty will loom large right up until game time, though I fully expect him to be out there for a few plays. Even at less than full strength, Gray is a nightmare for D-coordinators. He’s a quarterback in name only; as dual-threat QBs go, Gray is a beast. If he takes over for incumbent Max Shortell, don’t be surprised to see a shootout. I expect NU to bounce back after a poor second-half at Penn State, but the sense of urgency around the Gophers, coming off a bye week and fully cognizant of just how critical this game is to their postseason hopes, will make this a close game. That said -- Cats win on a late Budzien field goal.
Danny Moran, NBN Sports - Northwestern 31, Minnesota 19 - I doubt the Northwestern defense will see MarQueis Gray on Saturday. If they do, he will be rusty, so I expect the defense to bounce back. Kain Colter will be in the backfield more than against Penn State and the Wildcats will give the Gophers a heavy dose of the Colter-Mark delayed option. The steady ground game will get the offense back in rhythm, as well as Trevor Siemian if he enters the game.
Chris Emma, PurpleWildcats.com - Northwestern 21, Minnesota 17 - Northwestern was its own worst enemy in the loss to Penn State. So the Wildcats can learn from their mistakes they made in the defeat. Most importantly: NU will get its defense off the field and the offense will find rhythm. The Wildcat defensive line will rebound from a weak effort and create pressure on the Gopher offense. NU will hold off a late Minnesota drive and get a big victory in the land of 10,000 lakes.
Jonathan Hodges, Hail To Purple - Northwestern 27, Minnesota 7 - NU’s offense will get back into a rhythm and control time of possession while the defense does well defending the pass on third down conversions. This one won’t be a comfortable win, but NU will take a first quarter lead and never surrender it.
Josh Walfish, The Daily Northwestern - Minnesota 34 Northwestern 7- The Wildcats may be saying all the right things, but the defense reverted back to last season’s form. The offense won’t get going and Max Shortell throws all over the secondary. Minnesota is going to put 7 in the box to stop the run and Siemian won’t be able to make the big play against an underrated pass defense. Troy Stoudermire takes a kick back for a score in the rout.
Colin Becht, The Daily Northwestern - Northwestern 24, Minnesota 21 - Northwestern bounces back from its loss to Penn State with a hard-fought win over Minnesota. Don’t take Minnesota too lightly, especially if MarQueis Gray can play, and never get too high on NU coming off of a loss. We’ll learn how the Wildcats handle the adversity of a defeat. My prediction? They respond to a loss better than they did last year -- not that that’s saying much -- but still get off to a rough start. NU will face early deficit and a dressing down from Pat Fitzgerald, before the Cats offense clicks to get the win. Kain Colter gets back to his usual offensive production with 100+ yards on the ground and a score. Venric Mark does the same, and Trevor Siemian tosses a touchdown. I’ll go out on a limb and say Minnesota return specialist Troy Stoudermire takes a kick back for a touchdown.
Nick Medline, PurpleWildcats.com- Minnesota 24, Northwestern 20 – Penn State provided the blueprint for beating Northwestern. It’s not complex: complete mid-range passes, attack the offensive line and force Trevor Siemian to make plays. The Gophers have three wins by 7 points or fewer, and in need of a signature win, the return of MarQueis Gray – even in limited action – spurs Minnesota to a stunner.
Callie, Inside Northwestern- Northwestern 31 Minnesota 24 -- Northwestern learned its lesson last week: Kain Colter should not be sitting on the sidelines. And when the Colter/Trevor Siemian combo goes as planned (see: week 5, Indiana), they’re nearly impossible to stop. Minnesota has a similar duo in QBs MarQueis Gray and Max Shortell, who will rack up some yards and points on the slipping Northwestern defense, but ultimately the defense will get a big stop to pull out the victory.