Penn St.-Michigan, Northwestern-Minnesota Highlight Vegas Big Ten Predictions Week 7

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Saturday Blitz Vegas Big Ten Predictions Week 7

Game of the Week

Northwestern Wildcats at Minnesota Golden Gophers

Line: Minnesota by 4

Two weeks ago, it was laughable to consider this the game of the week for this week. But then Northwestern decided to start playing football, and things changed. Now, both teams are still undefeated in Big Ten Play, and the Big Ten West is wide open. So despite the fact that both teams are unranked, despite the fact that Michigan and Penn State play this week, and despite the fact that this is a noon game, it has earned the right to be our game of the week.

Pat Fitzgerald’s Northwestern Wildcats are finally playing some good football. After two losses to Cal and Northern Illinois, the defense finally decided to show up. It is particularly strong against the pass. But if you’re a running team, they’ll simply try to force you to pass. That’s exactly what they need to do Saturday. If the Wildcats can attempt to force Minnesota to throw the ball a lot, something that team is not comfortable doing, it gives them a significant advantage going forward. The offense, though, is going to have to find a way to put up points somewhere for insurance. It has struggled throughout the year, but Trevor Siemian is good enough to make the necessary plays to win the game at quarterback, as is Justin Jackson at running back. Both came through last week, particularly Jackson, and they need to come through again.

Minnesota, meanwhile, can’t deviate from its running game. If Jerry Kill’s team ends up falling into the trap of throwing the football the way Wisconsin did, it will be playing right into Northwestern’s hands. Kill needs to stick to the ground all 60 minutes, allowing David Cobb to possibly pick up 200 yards or more rushing. He needs to bury Northwestern on the ground. The Wildcats secondary is good against teams without a great passing game, a category that the Golden Gophers fall into. That makes the running game all the more crucial. On defense, Minnesota needs to focus on forcing turnovers and bringing pressure. Siemian is inconsistent, so pressure could affect him heavily, and stacking the line should neutralize Jackson, who had a field day with Wisconsin last week. If Minnesota can keep everything to within the trenches football, it should get the win.


Kill won’t fall into Wisconsin’s trap. Northwestern is a much better team than the one that started the season, but the Wildcats still can be beaten. It is their secondary that is strong, not the rush defense. Minnesota will stick to its strong running game and attempt to demoralize Northwestern, and it will work. The Wildcats offense won’t be able to get enough going to counter it, and with the home crowd behind the Golden Gophers, it will only carry the momentum forward in the second half. Minnesota wins and gets in great position in the Big Ten West.

Minnesota: 31 Northwestern: 23

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