People are less confident in Northwestern this week than you might think. Find out our predictions.
Both of these defenses are pretty good and both offenses have struggled. Looking at the full season, the NU offense is worse, but as I wrote the other day, there's reason to think the NU offense will be a little bit better, given the schematic changes.
Northwestern 21, Minnesota 17
It's hard not to be impressed by the way Northwestern has played over the last two weeks, but this is a letdown/lookahead spot with the Nebraska game on tap next weekend. The Wildcats will come out slow, fall behind by a couple of touchdowns and won't have enough firepower to make up the deficit in the second half. I think Northwestern is a better team than Minnesota, but the Gophers will win this one.
Minnesota 20, Northwestern 17
After feeling very confident about my pick of Northwestern over Wisconsin last week, I feel far less so about picking the Wildcats this week. So much so that I am picking Minnesota to win this game. The two teams are about as evenly match as possible. While I don't think Northwestern is "looking past Minnesota," Wednesday's practice seemed, at least to me, pretty sloppy and quiet. This will probably be one of those games that's a boring slugfest for 57 minutes but ramps up over the final few possessions. I don't think Northwestern will have enough offensive firepower to pull it out.
Minnesota 13, Northwestern 10
There are actually a lot of circumstances that make this a tough spot for Northwestern. The Wildcats are going on the road, coming off a big win, against a team coming off a bye week, so it's understandable that Minnesota is a 4-point favorite. But there's also one circumstance that favors NU: Minnesota just isn't that good. The Gophers have played one good opponent this year, and they fell to that opponent, TCU, 30-7. Siemian and his gimpy ankle hold the key to this game for NU, and if he turns the ball over, Northwestern could be in trouble, but the Wildcats are the better football team and I expect them to show it.
I've been wrong every single week. So, for the sake of Northwestern, I'm picking Minnesota here. (You're welcome, Fitz.)Northwestern is the better team, but this is the definition of "trap game." Minnesota has had two full weeks to prepare for the Cats, and I expect the Gophers D to confuse Siemian and the NU offense early and often.
Minnesota 20, Northwestern 17
I guess I'm not supposed to pick the game because I'll be on the WNUR broadcast. But if you want me to play the Kirk Herbstreit role this week, you have my keys to the game.
I can almost copy & paste my prediction for last week, then sub out "Wisconsin" for "Minnesota"... Its another tough team to judge based off the quality of work through 5 games. Minnesota got thumped by TCU who is now a top 10 team and have also played a very weak schedule thus far. While their win against Michigan is big for them in the grand picture of their program, its very miniscule in the eyes of what is today. This team looks every bit like Wisconsin except weaker all around on offense. They got smoked when they couldn't run the football against TCU. I think NU stops the run this week, Minny gets under 150 in rushing since there is no Melvin Gordon ripping off 50+ runs every now and then... and NU defense rolls on a team on 3rd down for the 3rd straight week. Trevor finally comes along and looks healthy enough to finish his throws and Justin Jackson finally breaks a long one. Minnesota stays in it only off of a couple of turnovers but NU finally pulls away in the end.
Northwestern 31 Minnesota 17
There is a lot to write about this game, but I'll keep it very simple. Northwestern has two keys to success and they're both related: don't lose the turnover battle and keep Siemian healthy. Siemian's injury in the Wisconsin game last year contributed to two very costly turnovers the following week against Minnesota. Those ten points were the difference. This year, both teams have thrived on an identical turnover margin per game. I think the defenses are about even and NU has more potential on offense, so I don't think they necessarily need to win the turnover battle. They just can't lose it. I am a little nervous about facing a more mobile QB or two. The line will have to focus more on contain than they have been. Neither team does well in converting red zone opportunities into touchdowns, though NU's defense has done a better job in that area than Minnesota's. Both teams feature new and inconsistent kickers and I fully expect them to have a large role in the outcome.
Northwestern 20, Minnesota 17
Continuing my two-week-old tradition of not submitting my pick, for obvious reasons.
Two good defenses! Two awful offenses! Expect punts. Someone will grab a couple scores, probably off short fields.
Northwestern 17, Minnesota 13
The best decision Fitz ever made was firing that joke of a defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, and two games into 2014. That guy had no clue what he was doing.
Northwestern 31, Minnesota 13