Northwestern heads home for its Big Ten West opener tonight against Minnesota, marking the first time it will play a game with everyone back on campus this season. For the most part, the staff thinks it could at least be a little closer than last week (maybe even with a chance to win?!)
Iggy Dowling: Minnesota 24, Northwestern 13
Minnesota can run the football. Northwestern didn’t show it could stop Duke’s ground game whatsoever, and tackled poorly. The Golden Gophers are in a really good spot to dominate time of possession. However, given it’s a night game with students back on campus for the first time, this should be Northwestern’s biggest home-field advantage of the year, which could make it closer than the talent gap between these two teams might indicate.
Bradley Locker: Minnesota 34, Northwestern 18
This game will probably shape up up as one of NU’s better chances to beat a conference opponent all year, with the Golden Gophers 2-1 but averaging just 17 points a contest. However, Minnesota boasts a strong offensive line and a potent two-headed rushing attack with Darius Taylor and Sean Tyler, not to mention defensive playmakers like Tyler Nubin, Kyler Baugh and Jah Joyner. UMN has killed the Wildcats on the ground in each of the last three meetings between these teams, and based on how Northwestern’s defense failed to make stops in Durham, I doubt that changes much.
Natalie Wells: Minnesota 24, Northwestern 20
This will be the first game on Northwestern’s schedule in which Ben Bryant isn’t completely outmatched at quarterback. Golden Gophers signal-caller Athan Kaliakmanis has a 1:3 TD-to-INT ratio through three games and has rendered their offense wholly dependent on its run game. Luckily for them, Minnesota has a star in the making in freshman running back Darius Taylor. If Taylor can rumble for over six yards per carry against No. 20 UNC, that does not bode well for NU. The ‘Cats should keep it close for most of the game, but they will ultimately fall as Bryant and the offense fail to measure up to their visitors’ output.
Ascher Levin: Minnesota 21, Northwestern 13
Coming off a blowout loss, Northwestern is looking to respond against Minnesota. The Golden Gophers heavily rely on the run game, and their first-year running back, Darius Taylor, has run for 331 yards in his last two games. Last week, the Wildcats frequently missed tackles against Riley Leonard and Jordan Waters, so it will be paramount for them to improve if they want to win Saturday night. Minnesota has a strong defense led by ball-hawking safety Tyler Nubin. Nubin is one of the best safeties in the country, amassing nine interceptions over the past three seasons. Northwestern has to keep the ball out of harm’s way if it wants to succeed on offense. While Minnesota doesn’t have the offense to dominate the scoreboard, their run game and stingy defense will carry them to their third win.
John Ferrara: Minnesota 30, Northwestern 17
The fact that Minnesota — fresh off an 18-point loss to UNC — is the undisputed leader in the B1G West speaks volumes about the state of the division. What’s worse is that despite the grouping’s uninspiring play, Northwestern remains near the bottom of the totem pole. Northwestern’s outing versus Duke wasn’t as bad as many thought it might be, and there were some positive takeaways — only one penalty and one turnover, for instance. Still, Minnesota knows how to run the ball and a weak interior defense has proven fatal for the ‘Cats so far this season. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Gophers rush for close to 250 yards on Saturday.
Ethan Segall: Minnesota 20, Northwestern 17
I really do expect this game to be far more competitive than prognosticators are forecasting. Despite Tyler Nubin lurking in centerfield, I expect Ben Bryant to take a lot of the positive flashes we’ve seen over the past two games and turn it into his most complete game as a Wildcat. The key to this one, in my opinion, is the Wildcats’ defensive line. If that unit is able to generate some more penetration and remain stout in run defense (an issue the team has had against the Gophers in past matchups), Northwestern can force Athan Kaliakmanis into less-than-favorable passing situations.
David Gold: Minnesota 24, Northwestern 10
I think this game comes down to one thing: running the football. The last time the Wildcats and Gophers squared off, Minnesota ran for over 300 yards. This past weekend, NU gave up over 250 yards on the ground, while the Golden Gophers rushed for 170 yards. Northwestern’s D-line, arguably its weakest position group on the roster, will have its hands full on Saturday night; however, I don't think it can do enough to stop Darius Taylor and the Gophers rushing attack.
Ashleigh Provoost: Minnesota 27, Northwestern 10
Despite this being one of our more winnable games, I still can’t see Northwestern managing to come out on top. NU’s defense has too many holes for a run game like Minnesota’s — yes, their pass game is not that good, and Kaliakmanis might be one of the only other quarterbacks in the Big Ten that compares to the three the ‘Cats play, but I still don’t think the defense can do enough to stop them. This matchup will be run-heavy, and I see Minnesota doing enough to break through David Braun’s defense and keep on scoring.
Adam Beck: Minnesota 31, Northwestern 10
Stop Darius Taylor and Northwestern has a chance. But after the ‘Cats surrendered 268 yards on the ground to Duke a week ago, I’m not so certain that’s entirely possible. The game will be within one or two scores at halftime, but the Gophers physical and effective rushing attack will chew away any chance of a Northwestern comeback. Northwestern’s first Big Ten win of the season will have to wait.
Noah Poser: Northwestern 21, Minnesota 19
Call it a gut feeling, but this is a game where the betting line seems unusually large. On paper, it’s clear that Minnesota has a major advantage in the run game, both offensively and defensively, but these teams are pretty even everywhere else. All of the outside factors, including the atmosphere, should benefit the Wildcats. Students are back on campus. It’s a night game. And this is the Big Ten West after all, where nothing goes as it should. In all seriousness, the game plan for Northwestern is simple. Force the Golden Gophers to have to pass the ball. They have the worst quarterback play in the Big Ten. Northwestern hasn’t shown the capacity to do that yet this season, but call me crazy, I think they pull it off this weekend.
John Olsen: Minnesota 34, Northwestern 18
Brendan Preisman: Minnesota 27, Northwestern 17
Neither of the assumed starters in this game (Athan Kaliakmanis and Ben Bryant) have a completion percentage over 56%. However, the Golden Gophers have something Northwestern doesn’t: a really good running back. Darius Taylor, at 334 yards on the season, is outrushing the entire Wildcats team. And in Tyler Nubin, the defending All-Big Ten safety, Minnesota has a player who can shut down any passing attack Northwestern tries to muster. It will not be fun football, but that’s the Big Ten West for you.
3-0: Bradley Locker, Jake Mozarsky, Natalie Wells, Brendan Preisman
2-1: Iggy Dowling, David Gold, John Olsen, Ascher Levin
2-0: Sammy Krimstein, Patrick Winograd, Noah Poser
1-1: Ethan Segall, Ashleigh Provoost
1-0: Jeremy Song
0-1: Adam Beck, John Ferrara