Northwestern vs. Minnesota prediction and game preview. The Wildcats try to become bowl-eligible when they visit the Golden Gophers.
Northwestern vs. Minnesota Game Preview
When: Saturday, Nov. 19 – 3:30 p.m. ET
Where: TCF Bank Stadium, Minneapolis.
TV Broadcast: Big Ten Network
The thought of Northwestern playing in a bowl game seemed ridiculous after it lost its first two games to Western Michigan and FCS foe Illinois State. Coach Pat Fitzgerald has gotten his players to regroup, though, and they’re now within a game of hitting the six-win mark and becoming eligible for a bowl game. It won’t come easy, however.
Minnesota is 7-3 despite last week’s loss at Nebraska, when it led in the third quarter before giving up the game’s final two touchdowns. Rodney Smith is one of the Big Ten’s best running backs and will try to help the Gophers bounce back from last week’s loss. .
What To Know About Northwestern
The Wildcats suffered tough losses to Ohio State and Wisconsin the previous two weeks before handing Purdue easily, 45-17, on Saturday. The running game gets most of the credit for that win, as Justin Jackson ran for 127 yards and two scores while John Moten IV added 119. Clayton Thorson was good as well, and hit Austin Carr for two of his three touchdown passes. The Wildcats’ offense started the season very slowly, but with Carr emerging and the threat of Jackson in the backfield, they’re clicking pretty well.
What To Know About Minnesota
Minnesota’s four-game winning streak came to an end last week, as didn’t Smith’s run of 100-yard rushing games that coincided with that hot stretch. Smith did score a touchdown, though, giving a Big Ten-high 14 which place him tied for sixth in the nation. Jackson, Smith and Saquon Barkley are the three Big Ten backs to go over 1,000 yards this season, and Smith is going to carry most of the load against the Wildcats. Quarterback Mitch Leidner has thrown five interceptions without a touchdown pass over his last five games.
Offense: Even – Jackson and Smith are going have to match each other.
Defense: Even – Minnesota ranks fourth in the conference in total defense, but Northwestern’s Ifeadi Odenigbo is tied for the Big Ten lead with eight sacks.
Special Teams: Minnesota – Emmit Carpenter is 17 for 19 on field goals this year.
Coaching: Northwestern – Fitzgerald did a great job keeping his team focused following a rough start.
Intangibles: Northwestern – Jackson ran for 120 yards in last year’s 27-0 win over the Gophers.
Matchup To Watch
Jackson vs. Smith
They’ll never be on the field at the same time, but this contest really will come down to with back plays better. Both players are going to carry the bulk of the offensive load, although Jackson might have the edge with Northwestern’s better passing game opening things up for him.
Spread: Northwestern -1
Northwestern vs. Minnesota Prediction
Jackson and Smith both go over 100 yards and score twice, and it comes down to the final possession where Carpenter’s field goal gives Minnesota the win.
Northwestern vs. Minnesota final score prediction: Minnesota 30, Northwestern 28