After a narrow win over Ball State, Northwestern jumped up to #16 in the AP Poll and looks to remain undefeated on the season when it hosts Minnesota this weekend (11 a.m. CT, BTN). Both teams are dealing with significant injuries as they head into their Big Ten opener. Minnesota won last year, 24-17, and leads the series 52 wins to 33 (with five ties). Here's how our writers think this year's encounter will go:
Josh Rosenblat: Northwestern 27, Minnesota 13
This has "dumb game" potential written all over it. But I don't think Minnesota is healthy enough to take advantage of Northwestern's mistakes. The Wildcats will put up some points and take care of business comfortably.
Zach Pereles: Northwestern 10, Minnesota 9
According to S&P+, Northwestern and Minnesota have the 10th and 11th best defenses, respectively. According to the same scale, they have the 105th and 67th best offenses, respectively. That doesn't sound like an equation for a lot of points. Clayton Thorson showed improvement last week in the third quarter, but that was after a game-and-a-half's worth of struggles. I think Minnesota will stack the box until Thorson proves he can beat them, and I don't think that moment will necessarily happen. On the other side of the ball, Mitch Leidner isn't anything special, and David Cobb, who mauled Northwestern last year with a workmanlike 97 yards on 30 carries, is in the NFL. Injuries have affected the Northwestern secondary, but the front seven is intact, and against Minnesota, that's what matters. Northwestern gets a Justin Jackson touchdown, a game-winner from Jack Mitchell and another strong, bend-don't-break effort-- three red-zone stands that result in field goals-- from their defense en route to a win.
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Henry Bushnell: Northwestern 23, Minnesota 13
You ready for some groundbreaking analysis? Minnesota is bad. Northwestern might be somewhat maybe kind of good. So Northwestern is going to win. Seriously, I don't have much else to say, other than that I'm going to go to sleep Friday night dreaming of another M00N.
Lyndsey Armacost: Northwestern 17, Minnesota 13
Minnesota is on a less than impressive three-game winning streak. All three victories have been decided by three points and have come against non-Power Five teams due to a struggling offense. Northwestern has all of the momentum coming into this game despite a close game last week against Ball State. In a game that could very much feature more turnovers than touchdowns, the Northwestern defense will overcome the loss of defensive back Kyle Quiero to hold Minnesota to a pair of field goals in the first half. Minnesota will make a late push with a fourth quarter touchdown but the consistent running game from Northwestern will keep them ahead.
Ian McCafferty: Northwestern 16, Minnesota 6
I'm really not sure if there will be any offensive touchdowns in this game. I think it will be sloppy, low scoring and really not that entertaining. That being said, I think Northwestern is the better team, especially on offense, and should at least be able to control field position. The injuries will hurt both sides of the ball for Northwestern, but Minnesota's bad enough that I don't think it matters too much. I think these teams trade field goals early until Minnesota quarterback Mitch Leidner throws a pick six, or Northwestern scores some sort of defensive touchdown. Then the defense will lock down the Gophers and get the win.
Zach Wingrove: Northwestern 13, Minnesota 9
Obviously no one is expecting this to be a high scoring game. The Gophers are averaging just over 19 points per game and have underwhelmed in their last three games. I wouldn't be surprised to see each side punt the ball at least 10 times this game and ultimately, just like the Duke game, turnovers will probably be the difference maker. In the end, I think both teams will trade field goals early on but Northwestern will find the end zone once in the second half and the defense will manage to force multiple key turnovers in the second half to preserve the lead.
Josh Burton: Northwestern 9, Minnesota 6
I don't have much faith in the offense of either of these teams, so I'm expecting a true field goal showdown. With the game tied at six and less than a minute left, Northwestern will drive down into Minnesota territory, setting up Jack Mitchell for the eventual game-winning kick to push NU to 5-0 overall.
Pick the final score the game below and it will compare your prediction with those from other Inside NU readers and readers of The Daily Gopher and the Vegas line.