It's time for this week's picks. Last week, we were all... a little off.
Kevin Trahan (@k_trahan)
I see Northwestern starting pretty fast behind an improved Trevor Siemian, and while Minnesota should be able to move the ball pretty well with the run (at least, better than it did against Iowa and Michigan) the Gophers won't have enough firepower to keep up with the Wildcats. NU will struggle some more in the red zone, especially if Kain Colter and Venric Mark aren't available, but the Wildcats should be able to pull out a win.
Northwestern 30, Minnesota 20
Chris Johnson (@ChrisDJohnsonn)
Last week’s game at Wisconsin did not go well for Northwestern. No one argues this simple fact. It’s also tough to argue the idea that the Wildcats can bounce back one week later, after watching the game film and making a few corrections and realizing, despite an 0-2 start to Big Ten play, they remain very much in the hunt for a Legends Division Title. The Wildcats will likely need to win out to make it to Indianapolis for the conference championship game, and they will begin that processSaturday by beating the visiting Gophers.
Here’s how it’ll happen: Trevor Siemian will throw for a bunch of yards and multiple touchdowns against Minnesota’s injured secondary, while the Wildcats defense will shut down the Gophers’ run game, which ranks fourth in the Big Ten and is more dangerous with dual-threat quarterback Mitch Leidner, who’s making his second start, under center. This is a game Northwestern needs to win, and that motivation alone would give me confidence to pick the Wildcats over most Big Ten opponents. Picking NU to beat Minnesota – one of the league’s worst teams to date – is an even easier decision.
Northwestern 31, Minnesota 20
Callie Counsellor (@CCounsellor)
Northwestern has struggled mightily in the red zone, and with Colter and Mark questionable for this game, I don’t see the red zone efficiency improving too much this week. However, I do think the rush defense steps up after a tough week at Wisconsin and holds Minnesota to field goals as well, so Northwestern will pull this one out and earn its first Big Ten win of the season.
Northwestern 19, Minnesota 16
Josh Rosenblat (@JMRosenblat)
If Northwestern was playing any other team on its schedule this week (Iowa, Nebraska, Michigan, Michigan State or Illinois) instead of Minnesota, this season could be in free-fall. Frankly, Minneosta is the youngest and most inexperienced team out of that group. Redshirt freshman quarterback Mitch Leidner has shown some promise as an athletic, dual-threat option, but hasn’t shown enough consistency in the passing game to warrant much concern. Although I don’t expect Kain Colter or Venric Mark to play much, if at all, on Saturday, Northwestern still has a clear talent and experience advantage. This is a must-win game for Northwestern and everybody knows it. Minnesota has the second worst pass defense in the Big Ten—ahead of Northwestern (shhh!)—so Trevor Siemian should have a big game. It will be important for him to get his confidence back this week after throwing an interception against Ohio State and getting nothing going against Wisconsin. Tony Jones should also have a nice bounce back game. Minnesota, though, could keep this one close early if they are able to control the clock with a steady running game.
Northwestern 31, Minnesota 17
Jon Davis (@NUHighlights)
I really don't know what to expect out of an offense that may be without Colter and Mark, abandoned the run game last weekend, and got nothing out of the passing game. I feel confident in saying that McCall will draw up a more balanced game regardless of the injury status, but I'm not sure what will work and what won't. Even if it is just Siemian and a combination of Green/Trumpy/Buckley, I do think NU is the better team and is more than capable of beating Minnesota through the air alone. I'd be a little more worried if this game were up north, but I think the Wildcats will have a two possession lead most of the day and come out on top. The offense has the ability to be explosive on Saturday, but I'll predict a typical Big Ten game that lacks any sex appeal whatsoever.
Northwestern 27, Minnesota 17