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Northwestern vs. Minnesota: gameday study guide

The hype has diminished. Just two weeks ago, Northwestern was riding a wave of positive momentum as it prepared for the program’s biggest game in more than a decade. The Wildcats had struggled a bit against weaker competition in nonconference play, but few doubted they would rise to the occasion against visiting Ohio State, on a weekend where local, regional and national interest and excitement in the program had reached something like a fever pitch. They did not squander their moment in the spotlight.

Northwestern’s 10-point loss to the Buckeyes was a disappointment, but the consensus afterward was that the Wildcats, even in defeat, had proven they could compete with the best team in their league. In a pressure-packed moment where Northwestern could have just as easily flopped, it stepped up. There was plenty of reason for optimism heading into a game at Wisconsin one week later.

That’s where it all went wrong, when Northwestern’s season seemingly transformed from one of the most promising campaigns in recent memory to a potentially dispiriting, more-losses-than-expected, setback type of year. Northwestern’s loss to Wisconsin wasn’t just bad because it meant the Wildcats fell to 0-2 in Big Ten play; it was bad because NU was thoroughly dominated in every phase of the game. One week after matching the then-No. 4 team in the country blow-for-blow, Northwestern looked overmatched.

Is that the Northwestern team we should expect moving forward? The one that couldn’t move the ball (or stop anyone) in Madison? Or is it the group that had the undefeated Buckeyes on the ropes in the fourth quarter? Today’s game against Minnesota probably isn’t the best barometer, but it’s at least a chance for Northwestern to prove whether it can move past last week’s jarring loss. There are more difficult, and more important (at Nebraska, Michigan, Michigan State), games ahead. Winning this one is essential.

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This week's picks panel is bullish on Northwestern (-12.5).

A recap of press conference and practice notes from the week: Monday press conference notes, Tuesday practice notes, Big Ten teleconference notes

Offensive headliners Kain Colter and Venric Mark, along with defensive tackle Sean McEvilly, are the biggest topics discussed in this week’s depth chart notes.

Read about Pat Fitzgerald’s unconventional method for cheering his team up after a tough loss.

We look back on a few key statistics from the Wisconsin game, and explain what they mean for the Wildcats going forward.

There will be no peanuts at Ryan Field Saturday. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Every phase of the game (offense, defense, special teams) is important in its own way. See whether Northwestern has an advantage in all three, zero or some number in between.

Not having McEvilly active could pose problems against Minnesota’s above-average rushing attack.

Our weekly podcast with WNUR recaps Northwestern-Wisconsin and previews today’s game against Minnesota. Plus, we teamed up with Northwestern News Network for a detailed video preview.

Here are three things you need to know before watching Northwestern take on the Gophers.

It’s understandable if you don’t know that much about Minnesota; it hasn’t exactly owned the primetime spotlight this season. Want to learn more about the Gophers? This week’s links are a good place to start.

It’s not insane to pick Minnesota in this game. Most people seem to believe Northwestern will win, but if you think the Gophers have a shot, your explanation probably won’t differ much from this one.