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Gophers Hit the Road to Face Northwestern in Big Ten Opener - OPEN THREAD

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NORTHWESTERN WILDCATS Game 5 MINNESOTA GOPHERS

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Date: October 3, 2015 Location: Evanston, IL
Time: 11:00 AM Central Stadium: Ryan Field
TV: Big Ten Network Radio: KFAN 100.3
Gophers Radio Network

Internet Stream: BTN2Go Know Thy Foe: Inside NU
Weather: 55, windy and rainy
Line: Northwestern by -4.5

3 Keys, 2 Players to Watch, 1 Prediction

Maroon_key_medium Now Put it All Together - The defense and special teams were outstanding against Kent State while the offense really struggled. Then the following week the offense was on track while the special teams nearly cost us the game and the defense was battered & bruised. Time to put all three phases together. This is a key Big Ten West game for both of these teams. The Gophers need to play well in all three phases to make the trip home a happy one.

Maroon_key_medium Run the Ball, Stop the Run - Today is supposed to be wet and windy, going to need a solid ground game today. Last week was a pretty nice improvement from the OL, especially run blocking. Need more of that and then the freshmen backs need to make some noise with their legs. On the flip side, Justin Jackson is second in the Big Ten in rushing, we need to stop their run game cause their pass game might be worse than ours.

Maroon_key_medium Turnovers - Always an important factor but when both teams have offensive struggles, a bad turnover or two is likely to be all the difference. Fumbles when deep in your own territory or interceptions that result in a big field-position flip (or worse)...cannot have those. So far Leidner's two interceptions were deep balls, one-on-one coverage on third and long, essentially an equivalent to a punt. Cannot have a bad one today, and time for the Gopher D to make a huge play or two when Clayton Thorson gives them that opportunity.

OPPOSING PLAYERS TO WATCH

  • #18 - QB - Clayton Thorson - Hey, maybe a worse Big Ten quarterback then Leidner (they do exist). Thorson has 3 picks on the year while throwing only roughly 95 passes. The box will be stacked to stop Justin Jackson and hopefully Thorson has a bad day.
  • #18 - LB - Anthony Walker - Active linebacker for the Cats, Walker has 7 tackles for loss, 2 pass breakups and leads his team in tackles.

PREDICTION

I think that Northwestern is a good team, much better than I anticipated they would be. But they have some issues on offense as well. If the Gophers play well (not elite, but just play well) in all three phases I think we pull out a close win. Likely a low-scoring affair that really could come down to a defensive or special teams touchdown, much like last year. I'm not terribly confident that we come up happy with this one but I think now that we have hit Big Ten play the playbook may be opened up a little, the offense is coming in with confidence and special teams will be on point today. The biggest question is health on defense.

There are two Big Ten teams that the Gophers have a .600 or better win percentage against. Both are from Chicago but one no longer fields a D1 football team (U of Chicago). Ultimately I think Thorson throws a couple picks today and the Gophers come away with a win, making it three in a row over Pat Fitzgerald and the Wildcats.

Minnesota - 20
Northwestern - 13