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Northwestern - Minnesota Predictions

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Can the ‘Cats slow down the West’s hottest team?

Nebraska v Minnesota Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

Daniel Olinger: Minnesota 32, Northwestern 10

If you just ignore the week in which the Gophers were taken down by a MAC opponent who is 2-6 and 0-4 in conference, Minnesota holds the resume of a fairly intimidating foe. P.J. Fleck’s squad went toe-to-toe with Ohio State during their Friday night opener in September, which seems more impressive by the day given that the Buckeyes are back into full death star mode. Likewise, Minnesota is a perfect 3-for-3 in its other conference matchups thus far, with its defense showing major improvements in limiting Purdue, Nebraska and Maryland to 13, 23 and 16 points, respectively. It shouldn’t be too shocking if Northwestern gets beaten rather handily this Saturday (and yes, through the transitive property this makes Northwestern the worst team in the MAC’s East division).

Mac Stone: Minnesota 30, Northwestern 14

Minnesota is arguably the hottest team in the Big Ten West, having won three in a row against Purdue, Nebraska and Maryland. Those three wins came after a shocking loss to Bowling Green, a game in which the Golden Gophers were 30-point favorites coming in. As of now, this Minnesota team sits tied for first in the division with No. 9 Iowa, and if they keep playing the way they have these last few games, I wouldn’t be surprised if they were playing in Indianapolis. They could very well pull a 2018 Northwestern by making it to Indy even with a loss to a MAC opponent. All of that has nothing to do with this actual game, which will see the ‘Cats fail to move the ball offensively without Stephon Robinson Jr. and Bryce Kirtz. Meanwhile, NU’s defense will struggle greatly against Tanner Morgan and company. Gophers cover with ease.

Ben Chasen: Northwestern 23, Minnesota 20

C’mon, y’all! Let’s have a little optimism! Yes, it’s true that Minnesota is probably a better football team than Northwestern. Yes, the Golden Gophers rushing offense and defense are downright scary, and Northwestern has struggled to both defend and establish the run all season long. But at no point this has NU ever dropped to two or more games below .500, and I don’t think that changes today. We can all face the fact that this is probably not the strongest Wildcat squad there’s ever been... but I think they’re just dignified enough to pull off a 7.5-point upset at home and keep themselves on pace for bowl eligibility against a team that has both shown its depth and strength in conference play while also showing its ability to slip up in an upset loss to Bowling Green.

Didi Jin: Minnesota 26, Northwestern 13

Since losing to Bowling Green, Minnesota has recovered well to win its last three games in contests against Purdue and Maryland as well as an impressive takedown of Nebraska. Despite having lost their two top running backs in Mo Ibrahim and Trey Potts a few weeks ago, the Gophers run game has still been the key to their success. Combine that with their stymying run defense, which is allowing just under 86 yards per game, and the ‘Cats are in for a tough challenge this Saturday. Northwestern will continue its season-long struggles of stopping the run and getting its own ground game going, leading to another bleak, Michigan-like performance in which it will keep it close in the first half, only to let things slip away as the game goes on.

Jacob Brown: Minnesota 24, Northwestern 6

I’m going to preface this with the fact that I do think that Ryan Hilinski is the guy for NU. His ability to throw the ball deeper than 12 yards with any accuracy is questionable, and he’s missed open receivers more times this season than you’d like to see, but the reason I’m hopeful is that he’s growing. Earlier in the season, Hilinski hit his receivers in the feet in the flats and on screens, but he didn’t against Michigan, and it’s the small improvements like that that give me hope. He’s got a ton of talent and just needs some time to grow. With that said, it’s not going to happen in this game. With his top two receivers out and Mike Bajakian’s playcalling hampering him, Hilinski will struggle to get rolling. Northwestern’s defense keeps them in the game for the first half, and Northwestern starts the second half with a dominant drive, before getting stuffed at the five, prompting an easy miss from Kubhander (who doesn’t get pulled,) killing NU’s momentum. The defense has a tough drive on the back end of the missed kick and things spiral from there.

John Olsen: Minnesota 27, Northwestern 14

The Golden Gophers are ranked 25th in the country in rushing yards per game. Northwestern has faced four other teams in the top 35 in that category: Michigan (fifth), Nebraska (24th), Duke (28th), and Michigan State (32nd). Anyone know what the results of those four games have in common? If you said “Northwestern lost,” then you would be absolutely right. The ‘Cats run defense is among the worst in the FBS, and this game will likely be predicated on whether they can curb that trend and slow down RB’s Ky Thomas and Mar’Keise Irving. I don’t see NU being able to do that, and with Mike Bajakian’s offense looking less threatening than the common cold on far too many possessions, Minnesota will win this game comfortably.

Bradley Locker: Minnesota 27, Northwestern 21

To me, this game boils down to two elements: whether or not Stephon Robinson Jr. plays, and Northwestern’s ability to stop the run. As of now, I’m relatively bleak on Robinson suiting up on October 30. The fact that he couldn’t return at all after leaving the game in the first quarter is alarming. Additionally, Pat Fitzgerald seemed very non-committal towards the grad transfer being able to gut out a lower leg injury against the Golden Gophers — then again, NU is extraordinarily vague about most injuries. In terms of the second point, Minnesota has continued to excel in the ground game despite losing Mohamed Ibrahim and Trey Potts. I think the ‘Cats will continue to rattle Tanner Morgan — who’s far worse than Cade McNamara, and McNamara didn’t exactly have a banner day last weekend — but UMN’s ability to control the ball (and make field goals) will give P.J. Fleck’s team the win.

William Karmin: Northwestern 21, Minnesota 17

Only one person above has picked Northwestern, and I am buried in the middle tier of the prediction standings. Time to make up some ground.

Liam Hubbard: Minnesota 34, Northwestern 17

Yet another week of betting against Northwestern, much to my own chagrin. While I’d want want to go against the grain here, Minnesota’s in-conference record to too good to ignore. Their past three wins against Big Ten opponents are no joke, especially when you compare their conference play to that of the “Cats. NU’s only Big Ten win was against Rutgers, who themselves are yet to win a conference game. However, it should be noted that the ‘Cats succeed at home, boasting a 3-1 record Ryan Field. Yet, I don’t think DJ Commando will be enough to sway this one. I predict a loss by several possessions with one field-long Evan Hull detonation sometime in the first half.

Andrew Katz: Minnesota 28, Northwestern 14

This is a matchup game, and unfortunately, the ‘Cats do not stack up well against the Golden Gophers. Northwestern’s rare offensive success has come through the run game and Minnesota bolsters a top-five run defense. On the other side, Northwestern’s 122 ranked run defense goes up against a top 25 Golden Gophers’ rushing attack. Stephon Robinson Jr. has been another bright spot for the Wildcats’ offense but with his status in flux, the ‘Cats offense might be in for a long day.

Season Standings

Jacob Brown: 6-1

Mac Stone, Bradley Locker, Andrew Katz: 5-2

Daniel Olinger, Ben Chasen, John Olsen, Will Karmin: 4-3

Gavin Dorsey: 3-2

Michael Barthelemy: 2-0

Meredith Revsine: 1-0

Eli Karp, Myles Gilbert: 2-1

Colin Kruse: 1-1

Didi Jin, Lia Assimakopoulos: 1-2

Sarah Effress, Brian Paget, Nik Mehrotra, Isaac Diaz, Sydney Supple, Jackson Gordwin, Liam Hubbard: 0-1