Sam Brief: Northwestern 21, Minnesota 17
‘Sota’s run defense is solid—24th in the country—so I don’t expect a huge day from Justin Jackson. But also keep in mind that the Gophers’ four conference wins are against Maryland, Rutgers, Purdue and Illinois—all weak teams. Rodney Smith is a stud in the backfield for Minnesota, but Mitch Leidner’s inconsistent play (he has more interceptions than touchdowns in the season) will hold Minnesota back, even against Northwestern’s secondary. With the pressure of a potential bowl-clinching game on their shoulders, Thorson & Co. squeak past the Gophers, winning by 3-4 points.
Zach Pereles: Northwestern 27, Minnesota 17
Fun fact: Mitch Leidner has thrown five touchdowns this year.
Fun fact: Four of them came against Indiana State, an FCS school.
Prediction: The Wildcats stop the run well enough and Leidner throws a pair of picks. A fourth-quarter touchdown drive puts this one out of reach. Vote for Austin Carr for the Biletnikoff Award during this game (and all the time).
Will Ragatz: Northwestern 24, Minnesota 13
As a native of the great state of Minnesota, I’ve been watching the Gophers since the days of Laurence Maroney and Marion Barber. I also know that, like most of my state’s professional sports teams, the maroon and gold pretty much always suck. That’s no different this year. Their 7-3 record has been inflated by a marshmallow-soft schedule and I simply think Northwestern is the better team in this matchup. Rodney Smith is a great player and Minnesota’s defense is solid, but a few turnovers by first round pick Mitch Leidner and another typical performance from Austin Carr will be enough to give the Wildcats their sixth win. #FireMason #FireBrewster
Tristan Jung (random number generator): Northwestern 25, Minnesota 22
Fresh off giving the most accurate prediction in last week’s Northwestern-Purdue contest, the random number generator is back with yet another Northwestern victory. I really don’t understand why the RNG keeps picking Northwestern to win. The methodology is as follows. I go on RANDOM.ORG and simulate a number between 1-45. That first number is the total points of the home team. The second number is the road team. Northwestern has had the higher point total every time. It appears the generator has decided that Northwestern and Minnesota will get a safety, go for two or miss an extra point along the way. Along the way, Justin Jackson will score two touchdowns and Mitch Leidner will throw at least one pick.
Caleb Friedman: Northwestern 17, Minnesota 21
Yes, Minnesota’s wins this season aren’t that impressive. But after hanging with Nebraska last week, I’m going with the Gophers. Northwestern has had trouble with teams with strong defensive lines this season, and Minnesota fits the bill there. The Gophers are 22nd in defensive rushing S&P+, so it’s going to be tough for Justin Jackson and the offensive line to get going. And with forecasts in mid 20s, it’s also going to difficult for Clayton Thorson to throw the ball down the field. I don’t think Mitch Leidner will play particularly well, but he won’t really have to. The Gophers will ground and pound on offense, and their defense will come up with some big plays. Northwestern will get off to to a poor start again—as they have in recent weeks—but this time they won’t be able to overcome it.
Josh Rosenblat: Northwestern 31, Minnesota 20
Northwestern is better than Minnesota on both sides of the ball. Justin Jackson and John Moten IV will build on their strong performances from last week. Mitch “first-round pick” Leidner, who threw for a total of 72 yards against Northwestern a year ago, has averaged an interception per start over his last seven starts. The turnovers will be an issue for the Gophers, as the Wildcats become bowl-eligible.
Ian McCafferty: Northwestern 27, Minnesota 17
There are two very important things to know about the Golden Gophers. Minnesota is 7-3 and Minnesota is not actually very good. Its best win of the season is Maryland while also adding such stellar wins as Rutgers, Purdue and Illinois. The Gophers can run the ball pretty well, but Mitch Leidner is a trash fire at quarterback. He’s a senior, but his stats resemble 2015 Clayton Thorson. Northwestern will get off to another slow start on the road, but the offense will put up enough points to win fairly easily.
Rob Schaefer: Northwestern 27, Minnesota 13
It’d probably be unreasonable to expect as thorough a trouncing as Northwestern gave Minnesota in Evanston last year, but I’ll chalk this one up as an easy enough victory for NU. It’ll come down to stopping Rodney Smith on the defensive end and slowing the Minnesota pass rush offensively for the Wildcats, and I think they do both well enough to win relatively handily. Don’t expect another 40+ point outburst, though - this game should be a grind throughout - but at the end of the day, Northwestern clinches a bowl berth with a few weeks to spare in 2016.