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October 18, 2013

Minnesota-Northwestern Preview

The storyline
Minnesota and Northwestern are both searching for their first Big Ten win in the 2013 football season. The Wildcats have owned the series in recent years winning five of the six previous matchups including a 21-13 victory in Minneapolis, a season ago. This game could be a trend-setter for the rest of the season for both programs.

The Offense
The Wildcat offense currently ranks 53rd in total offense (435 yards/game) and 44th in scoring (33.5 points/game) out of 123 FBS programs. Northwestern could be without quarterback Kain Colter and running back Venric Mark who are both listed as doubtful. Mark ran for 182 yards and a pair of scores against Minnesota in 2012. The Wildcat offense still figures to have plenty of weapons. The starting quarterback will be Trevor Siemian who is completing nearly 60 percent of his passes with six touchdowns while splitting time with Kain Colter. He will be handing the ball of to tailbacks Treyvon Green and Mike Trumpy. Green is off to a great start averaging 6.5 yards per carry with five touchdowns. Trumpy is more of a short yardage back, but is still averaging 4.8 yards per carry. Paving the way for Green and Trumpy is a rather inexperienced group led by center Brandon Vitabile. Vitabile will be making his 33rd straight start, and was also named to the preseason watch list for the Rimington Award and Outland Trophy. The offensive line also allows time for receivers Tony Jones and Christian Jones to get open as well as superback Dan Vitale. They rank one, two, and three in receptions while averaging more than ten yards per catch. The offense doesn't expect to be as explosive if Colter and Mark cannot play, but the Wildcats are still plenty experienced on the offensive side of the ball.

The Defense
The best word to describe the Wildcat defense is opportunistic. Northwestern is No. 1 in the Big Ten in takeaways with seventeen through six games. Safety Ibraheim Campbell already has four interceptions and one fumble recovery on the season to go along with six passes defensed. The linebackers are responsible for creating a majority of the turnovers. Chi Chi Ariguzo and Damien Proby were both Honorable Metion All Big Ten selections in 2012. They rank first and second in tackles for the Wildcat defense while combining for three interceptions and three forced fumbles. Defensive end Tyler Scott leads the Big Ten in sacks with four through the first six games. The other defensive end is Dean Lowry who is also off to a great start. Lowery has two sacks, two interceptions, and two forced fumbles. The defensive line will be missing its best defensive tackle in Sean McEvilly who will miss his third game in a row. The Northwestern defense will be looking to get back on track after allowing 40 points to Ohio State, and 35 to Wisconsin in back-to-back weeks. The Minnesota offense has struggled in much of the last three seasons in Big Ten play to move the ball so it should be an intriguing matchup.

The Prediction: Minnesota 24, Northwestern 21

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