3 Keys, 2 Players to Watch, 1 Prediction
Avoid Bad Turnovers - OK this one has been pretty significant for Minnesota this year. In the TCU game we committed a handful of turnovers that really put our defense in a tough position. The Michigan game we turned over the Wolverines, one in particular that really helped to open up the game. Northwestern has also been on the plus side of turnovers much of the year. I believe there are turnovers and there are really bad turnovers. We have to avoid the bad ones. The ones that give up really bad field position or directly lead to points.
Field Position - These two teams have a lot of similarities. Both have underrated athleticism on defense, both have struggling offense that are improving, both are well-coached and both are poised to make some noise in the Big Ten West. So a game like this may very well come down to field position as dictated by the special teams. This is an area of great strength for the Gophers and if they can continuously give NU longer fields to work with than we have; our chances for points become greater.
Run the Damn Ball - I want to see a dominating run game. I don't expect huge chunks of yards and explosive plays by David Cobb. But the kid has seemingly improved week by week and his toughness and determination is impressive. I want to see some punishing running by the Gophers to open up some play-action to Maxx.
OPPOSING PLAYERS TO WATCH
- #28 - RB - Justin Jackson - Freshman running back who is emerging into one of the Big Ten's best young backs. Jackson had his breakout game last week with 162 yards against Wisconsin.
- #7 - DE - Ifeadi Odenigbo - Three sacks and three forced fumbles, Odenigbo is a pretty talented defensive lineman. I'd like to see him not be a factor today if and when we decide to pass.
I know that Northwestern is trending and they are playing much different than they were the first two weeks of the season. But I just feel like there are a number of peripheral factors that play in the Gopher's favor here. It is home. The Gophers had a bye week giving them extra time to prepare and time for some key players (Leidner, Maxx, Cobb) to get healthier. The Gopher special teams is very good about having us win the field position battle each and every week (assuming no stupid turnovers). All of that to go along with an outstanding defense to go along with an outstanding rushing offense.
Minnesota - 24
Northwestern - 13