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Minnesota Game Preview: The Wildcats Go Gopher Hunting

Going For Boxcar - The Sixth Win

Northwestern is facing a critical game against Minnesota.

The Gophers’ season has been very tough for them. They are already out of bowl contention. Minnesota is playing for pride. And one can imagine that knocking Northwestern off would make Minnie feel a bit better.

The Wildcats are ten games into the season and still haven’t secured a bowl. They are close...so close at five games won. A win against the Gophers would get them to the six win plateau. More importantly, it would set up next week’s game as a potential seventh win - which if won, would assure NU of a bowl game. A loss would mean that next week’s game becomes sudden death for the postseason.

I expect both teams to play hard.

So let’s look at the scenarios...


The Good:

The Golden Gophers pop up in Evanston, hoping to surprise the Wildcats. For their part, the Wildcats realize that this is the last game of the season in which they will be favored. (The spread is 15+ points.) One team wants to play the spoiler. The other wants to achieve bowl eligibility a record fifth straight year.

Minnesota is playing for pride. Northwestern is playing for a bowl.

Northwestern comes out of the gates hot. The Wildcats put up a quick six points (plus the conversion). The Gophers struggle to get the offense out of the blocks. Before the end of the first half the Wildcats are mauling the Gophers by three scores.

The second half begins much the same way that the first half did - the Wildcats in total control of the game. Coach Fitz pulls the first team early and starts to give the substitutes valuable game time. Somewhere between the Wildcat second and third teams, the Gophers start gaining some traction. The game seems more evenly matched. However, the Gophers cannot overcome a four score lead. But they make the end of the fourth quarter more competitive.

Final Score: Wildcats 42 - Gophers 20. It could have been much worse, but once again Coach Fitz shows class and allows the Gophers an honorable defeat. Northwestern finally makes it to bowl eligibility. Some of the partisan Wildcat fans grumble that Northwestern should have really run up the score to make the team more attractive to the bowls, especially if they drop the final game of the season. But that final game (against Michigan State) is looking more manageable.


The Bad:

The Golden Gophers pop up in Evanston, hoping to surprise the Wildcats. For their part, the Wildcats realize that this is the last game of the season in which they will be favored. (The spread is 15+ points.) One team wants to play the spoiler. The other wants to achieve bowl eligibility a record fifth straight year.

Minnesota is playing for pride. Northwestern is playing for a bowl.

Northwestern comes out of the gates sluggish. Meanwhile, the Gophers scamper up and down the field. The Gophers put up a quick six points (plus the conversion). Northwestern struggles to get the offense out of the blocks. It is an ugly first half for the Wildcats as they go into the locker-room down by 14. Coach Fitz is visibly upset.

The second half begins much the same way that the first half did - the Wildcats in slow motion. Coach Fitz pulls parts of the first team early and sees if the substitutes can do better. Meanwhile, the Gophers continue to play above their heads. It looks like the Gophers will win one for the Killer. (Jerry Kill. You know, the Minnesota head coach? Anyway…) Northwestern struggles to catch up and win, but ultimately fall short in a game that will cause anguish for months to come. As multiple sports writers have noted, the great teams don’t let easy games get away.

Final Score: NU 22 - UM 28. Northwestern doesn’t make it to bowl eligibility today, and there are huge fears that they will not make it next week. The final game of the season looms as sudden death for the post season. Beating Michigan State will not be easy.


The Probable:

The Golden Gophers pop up in Evanston, hoping to surprise the Wildcats. For their part, the Wildcats realize that this is the last game of the season in which they will be favored. (The spread is 15+ points.) One team wants to play the spoiler. The other wants to achieve bowl eligibility a record fifth straight year.

Minnesota is playing for pride. Northwestern is playing for a bowl.

Northwestern comes out of the gates somewhat slowly. They eventually put up a touchdown (plus the conversion). The Gophers struggle to get the offense out of the blocks. The first half score leaves the Wildcats with a one score lead. Looking at the scoreboard one might think that it is a titanic defensive battle. But the truth is that neither team’s offense is looking very good.

The second half begins much the same way that the first half did - the Wildcat and Gopher offenses trying to find their rhythm. Coach Fitz pulls the first team early and sees if the second teamer can show more poise. They do, led by Siemian at quarterback and Colter as every other position on the field. Northwestern slowly, painfully starts to pull away from Minnesota. The Wildcats slowly crush the life out of the Gophers; the defense saves the game for NU. In the end, Northwestern wins, but Minnesota covers.

Final Score: Northwestern 32 - Gophers 24. It isn’t pretty, but Northwestern finally makes it to bowl eligibility. Some of the partisan Wildcat fans grumble that Northwestern should have done much better to make the team more attractive to the bowls, especially if they drop the final game of the season. With Michigan State looming, everyone holds their breath regarding a post season for the Wildcats.


Go Cats!

BJ Mitchell (Former NUMB Spirit Leader)
NUMBSpiritLeader@gmail.com
Twitter: @nuspiritleader.

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