Scouting report: Gophers vs. No. 24 Northwestern

11 a.m. Saturday, TCF Bank Stadium (BTN, 100.3-FM)

A look at the Wildcats

With its season hanging by a thread after three September losses, Northwestern (6-4, 6-1 Big Ten) turned things around by winning five consecutive Big Ten games, interrupted by a loss to Notre Dame. On Saturday, the Wildcats beat Iowa 14-10 in Iowa City for their seventh consecutive road win, going back to last season, and clinched a berth in the Big Ten Championship Game. Northwestern is two games ahead of both Wisconsin and Purdue and has the tiebreaker over both because of head-to-head victories. “They don’t beat themselves, period,’’ said Gophers coach P.J. Fleck, whose 2017 team lost 39-0 at Northwestern. “They are a team when you watch them, they are so consistent in what they do.’’

Who to watch:  Isaiah Bowser, RB

When running back Jeremy Larkin had to retire after three games this season because of a spinal condition, Bowser, a true freshman, stepped in and has filled the void capably. He has rushed for 485 yards and four touchdowns in the past four games, including a 165-yard effort in the title-clinching win at Iowa. “He’s taken his game up a notch and he’s just gotten more confident with each rep and each game,’’ Wildcats coach Pat Fitzgerald said. “You could see him turn the corner in the Rutgers game [108 yards, two TDs], and I think that was a big catalyst for confidence and he’s played really well since.’’

From the coach: Pat Fitzgerald

Fitzgerald, who as an All-America linebacker helped lead the Wildcats to the Big Ten title and Rose Bowl berth in 1995, has Northwestern one step from the conference title. Picked to finish third in the West, the Wildcats clinched the division title with two weeks left in the regular season. “The guys stayed the course in their preparation and the staff didn’t flinch,’’ Fitzgerald said. “We had to identify some new pieces to the puzzle because of personnel issues that we had that were unforeseen. We would have liked to have been more consistent. Now, we put ourselves in position to have a great finish.’’ He doesn’t plan on holding any players out for precautionary reasons over the next two weeks. “No, all hands on deck and the pedal’s down,’’ he said. “We’ll prepare for this game like we always do.’’

Randy Johnson