Sitting at .500 on the season, Northwestern travels to the Twin Cities to take on the Minnesota Golden Gophers, looking to clinch their second consecutive bowl berth. The Gophers though, 7-3 on the season, should provide a stiff test for the ‘Cats, on the road at TCF Bank Stadium. WNUR Sports will have the call, with the kickoff show starting at 1:30 CST followed by the opening kick at 2:30 CST.
Here’s how our broadcasters think the ‘Cats will fare against Minnesota:
Ryan Fish (@ryanmfish): Northwestern 24, Minnesota 20
The ‘Cats haven’t been good in close games this year (0-3 in games decided by fewer than 7 points). I think they buck that trend this week.
Player to Watch: Justin Jackson, RB, Northwestern. The Ballcarrier had 127 yards and two scores on the ground last week against Purdue’s porous run defense. He had only 118 yards and no touchdowns in the previous two games, against the top two rush defenses in the Big Ten (Wisconsin and Ohio State). Northwestern’s success on Saturday could depend on how well Jackson does against the Gophers’ front seven.
Roger Wu (@rogerwoo221): Northwestern 24, Minnesota 21
It will be a close battle, but Northwestern ends up improving to 6-5 thanks to a field goal from Jack Mitchell as time expires. Minnesota’s front 7 can create much trouble for Justin Jackson, but Austin Carr will have another big game and eventually lifts the Wildcats over the Golden Gophers.
Player to Watch: Rodney Smith, RB, Minnesota. Smith has compiled 1008 rushing yards and 14 TD for the Gophers this season. Minnesota will keep going to the ground game, and it is very possible that Smith will score, considering that Mitch Leidner is going through a tough time throwing accurate passes.
Michael Stern (@michaeljstern23): Northwestern 28, Minnesota 24
The Wildcats make enough big plays and avoid turnovers, clinching their second straight bowl berth in the Twin Cities.
Player to Watch: Andrew Scanlan, WR, Northwestern. Scanlan has been a hot target for Clayton Thorson as of late, with five catches each of the past two weeks. The Gophers will have to pay lots of attention to Austin Carr, so Scanlan could get some more big opportunities on Saturday.
Sam Brief (@sambrief): Northwestern 21, Minnesota 17
Minnesota has a pretty solid defense, but Northwestern should squeak by against a Minnesota team that has played some pretty weak competition.
Player to Watch: Austin Carr, WR, Northwestern. I’m just curious to see if he can have a bad game again, ever.
Ari Ross (@aross50): Northwestern 24, Minnesota 20
Don’t let Minnesota’s 7-3 record deceive you, the Golden Gophers are not a good football team, having given up 31 points to Rutgers. But the Gophers have a good run defense, which could force Northwestern to be one-dimensional on offense and keep this game close. The ‘Cats defense forces a few key turnovers, and a late Austin Carr touchdown proves to be the difference.
Player to Watch: John Moten IV, RB, Northwestern. The Wildcats might not be able to run between the tackles much on Saturday, and after a big game against Purdue, the ‘Cats will look to Moten IV again to fill the chance of pace back role and give Jackson some much needed rest.
Adam Braunstein (@braunstein_adam): Northwestern 30, Minnesota 21
The hot offense will carry over from Purdue to Minnesota, and the Golden Gophers will be unable to keep up with Thorson and the rest of the ‘Cats offense.
Player to Watch: Anthony Walker, LB, Northwestern. It’s been an unspectacular season for Walker, but expect him to finish strong after recording an interception last week.
Parker Johnson (@sportsbyparker): Northwestern 23, Minnesota 16
Northwestern sneaks out of Minnesota with a close, ugly win in freezing temperatures.
Player to watch: Rodney Smith, RB, Minnesota. Smith has amassed over 1,000 yards rushing and is the Gophers’ second-leading pass catcher with 18 catches. If Minnesota is going to hurt the Northwestern defense, it will be through Smith as the passing game only averages 177 yards per game.
Matt McHugh (@mattmcsports27): Northwestern 27, Minnesota 23
The ‘Cats hang in there in a tight road game against a decent Minnesota team. Clayton Thorson comes through with the late-game heroics and the ‘Cats will pull out the dub.
Player to Watch: Tommy Doles, OG, Northwestern. He’s the heart and soul of the offensive line, which will need to put up a solid game up front to keep the ‘Cats high-powered offense moving.
Amit Mallik (@amitkmallik): Northwestern 24, Minnesota 19
The ‘Cats grind out a tough midseason victory behind a dominant run game, and a defense up to the task.
Player to Watch: Austin Carr, WR, Northwestern. He’s really good
Austin Miller (@austinjames906): Minnesota 27, Northwestern 17
Minnesota might be underrated. Or overrated. I don’t know, maybe they’re somewhat rated.
Player to watch: Mitch Leidner, QB, Minnesota. Quarterbacks win football games.