GOPHERS OFFENSE VS. WILDCATS DEFENSE

Melvin Gordon rushed for 259 yards against Northwestern, but the Badgers passed for just 138 yards with four interceptions. David Cobb should get his yards for the Gophers, and the key will be how well quarterback Mitch Leidner plays after a strong performance at Michigan. Advantage: Northwestern

 

SPECIAL TEAMS

Field position will be critical, and the Gophers are better here across the board. Northwestern’s All-America kicker, Jeff Budzien, has graduated. Advantage: Gophers

º player to watch

Justin Jackson, a four-star recruit from the Chicago area, had made an immediate impact as a true freshman. The long-striding, 5-11, 185-pound tailback had 33 carries for 162 yards last week against a Wisconsin team that had given up only 86.3 rushing yards per game.

 

THE OPPONENT

After going 1-7 in the Big Ten last year, Northwestern quickly fell behind Cal 14-0 in this year’s opener. Since that quarter ended, the Wildcats have outscored teams 112-67, including 49-20 in victories the past two weeks against Penn State and Wisconsin.

GOPHERS DEFENSE VS. WILDCATS OFFENSE

QB Trevor Siemian was awful in last year’s 20-17 loss to the Gophers. Later, he revealed he had a severely bruised heel and needed cortisone shots to play. Now, Siemian is healthy and confident, but Minnesota’s defense is flying high. Advantage: Gophers

 

INTANGIBLES

Jerry Kill said Thursday that the Gophers were 2,000 to 3,000 tickets away from a sellout, so it should be a good crowd. Minnesota was 5-1 last year in games that started at 11 a.m. Advantage: Gophers

 

JOE’S PREDICTION: 

 

27 20

MINN NW

These teams are tied for second in the Big Ten in turnover margin at plus-6. Briean Boddy-Calhoun (above) and Cedric Thompson make big interceptions, turning the tide.