TV Schedule: Saturday, October 3, 12 p.m. ET, BTN
Location: Ryan Field, Evanston, Ill.
Line: Northwestern (-5)
The No. 16 Northwestern Wildcats have enjoyed a surprising start to the 2015 season, upsetting powerhouse Stanford and then getting an impressive win over a very consistent Duke team last Saturday. The two wins have brought the Wildcats from unranked at the start of the season to the national spotlight heading into October. Northwestern closed out September undefeated for the fifth time in the Pat Fitzgerald era, an impressive feat that not many programs have been able to achieve.
Quarterback Clayton Thorson has been inconsistent at times, but has made enough plays to walk away unblemished. The Wildcats play smart football; they have yet to give up the big play, and the 4-0 start has been a complete team effort.
The Minnesota Golden Gophers hope to upset the Wildcats in Evanston on Saturday night. Like Northwestern, the Gophers have also greatly improved in recent years under Head coach Jerry Kill. After finishing four consecutive seasons with losing records, Minnesota has closed out the last two seasons with eight wins each. The Golden Gophers fell to No. 2 TCU in the first week of the season, but hung on until the end, ultimately losing by less than a touchdown. Starting quarterback Mitch Leidner, who has great athletic ability, can make plays with his arm and with his legs. Minnesota’s success in 2015 will rest on Leidner’s shoulders.
Northwestern finished the month of September with one of the most impressive performances in the country, upsetting Stanford and Duke. After losing to TCU in Week 1, the Gophers have escaped close games against three non-Power 5 teams. The Golden Gophers will keep this game close with Mitch Leidner having a big game. Look for the Gophers to beat the spread, but the Wildcats will escape an upset.
Prediction: Northwestern 27, Minnesota 24