GOPHERS OFFENSE VS. WILDCATS DEFENSE

Northwestern blanked the Gophers 27-0 last year. All-Big Ten LB Anthony Walker had an undisclosed injury during fall camp and started slow but made 12 tackles last week at Purdue. DE Ifeadi Odenigbo had four sacks against Iowa. Safety Godwin Igwebuike is another playmaker. Advantage: Northwestern.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Emmit Carpenter gives the Gophers a slight kicking edge, but Solomon Vault has four career kickoff return touchdowns, including a 95-yarder last month. Advantage: Even.

Player to watch

Northwestern senior Austin Carr leads the Big Ten in receptions (75), receiving yards (1,102) and touchdown catches (12). The 6-1, 200-pound California native is a former walk-on who switched from running back to wide receiver in 2013.

THE OPPONENT

Northwestern went 10-3 last season and snapped out of a funk in September after its 9-7 home loss to Illinois State. The Wildcats are 2-4 at home but have road wins at Iowa, Michigan State and Purdue. Their other road trip was a 24-20 loss at Ohio State. Coach Pat Fitzgerald is in his 11th season.

GOPHERS DEFENSE VS WILDCATS OFFENSE

The key is stopping RB Justin Jackson, coach Tracy Claeys said. This is Jackson’s third consecutive 1,000-yard rushing season. But Minnesota ranks fourth in the Big Ten in rushing defense. Illinois State, Nebraska, Ohio State and Wisconsin all held Jackson under 80 yards and won. Advantage: Gophers.

 

INTANGIBLES

The Gophers have fared well in cold, windy home games in recent years. They gave Ohio State fits in 2014 and beat up on Illinois last Nov. 21. Advantage: Gophers.

JOE’S PREDICTION

GOPHERS: 24

NORTHWESTERN: 23

Mitch Leidner and Co. make it a Senior Day to remember.