Two weeks ago, Northwestern fans were flying. Their Wildcats were 4-0 for the first time since 1962, and had a huge game at home against Ohio State. Northwestern played admirably, losing 40-30 in a score that is inflated because the Buckeyes scored a defensive TD on the last play of the game. However, hopes that were still held on may have been diminished last week when Northwestern was dominated 35-6 at Wisconsin.
Fear not Northwestern fans. Your team isn’t all of a sudden terrible. They just aren’t as good as fans hoped they were. Bear in mind that Northwestern’s most impressive win on the year was a 21 point win against Syracuse. The Wildcats have been using two quarterbacks so far this year, with Trevor Siemian getting a majority of the action. Kain Colter comes in as a running alternative, second on the team in rushing with 263 yards and four touchdowns. He also has an impressive completion ratio, going 43-52 on the season, with three TD’s and three INTs.
The running game will be the key to success for Northwestern this week. They have three players who have run for more than 200 yards on the year, with Treyvon Green leading the way with 429 yards. He has found paydirt five times already this year, and perhaps most impressively, he is averaging 6.5 yards a carry on the ground.
Minnesota and Northwestern Similar
On the other side of the ball, Minnesota has had a strikingly similar season to Northwestern, at least when you look at the schedule. Minnesota too started the season out 4-0 before dropping their first two Big Ten games, and they also are coming off a blowout, losing 42-13 on the road at Michigan last week. And just like Northwestern, Minnesota moves the ball on the ground better than they do in the air.
Minnesota is anemic passing the ball, ranking 119th in the nation averaging just 116.8 yards a game. They may be piling up 215 yards a game on the ground, but in big league conference matchups, it’s difficult to win playing a one dimensional style of offense.
Must Win for Both Teams
This will be a gut check game for both teams, who are looking to turn their seasons back around to the right direction. Both are in desperate need of a conference win, starting conference play off 0-2. However, Northwestern is the team dealing with expectations. Ranked as high as 15th in the nation earlier this year, Northwestern needs to find that magic they had in the first month of the year, and I think they will do just that.
Northwestern has played very well at home so far this year, going 3-1, with the lone loss being the aforementioned tough loss to Ohio State. A 12.5 spread for this game seems appropriate. I’m not expect an outright blowout in this game, as I don’t think Northwestern is solid enough to win this game by 3-4 touchdowns. However, I do expect the Wildcats to jump out to an early lead in front of a fired up crowd, and have little trouble hanging onto that lead as the game goes on. As we already mentioned, Minnesota is a terrible passing team, meaning that they are a terrible come from behind team. If Northwestern can score the first 10-14 points, the defense will be able to pin their ears back and constant attack Minnesota QB’s Phillip Nelson and Mitch Leidner.
I’m leaning towards the under on the 53.5 point spread. I don’t see Northwestern scoring more than 35 points, and I think Minnesota caps at 21. I think Northwestern jumps out to a lead, and hangs onto it throughout, winning the game 31-17.