Minnesota-Northwestern Preview Capsule
Minnesota (3-1, 0-0 Big Ten) at No. 16 Northwestern (4-0, 0-0), 12:01 p.m. (Big Ten Network)
Line: Northwestern by 4.
Series Record: Minnesota leads 52-33-5.
WHAT’S AT STAKE
At 4-0 for the second time in three years, Northwestern hopes to keep rolling in conference play. That did not happen in 2013, when the Wildcats blew a 10-point lead to Ohio State in the third quarter of the Big Ten opener and wound up dropping seven in a row. With a win, Northwestern would match its best start since 2012.
Northwestern’s receivers vs. Minnesota’s secondary. The Golden Gophers got some good news, injury-wise, when they found out CB Briean Boddy-Calhoun will not need surgery on the knee he injured last Saturday against Ohio. But it was not clear if he will play against Northwestern. Antonio Johnson (concussion) and KiAnte Hardin (ankle) were injured against the Bobcats. Safety Damarius Travis (hamstring) will not play.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Minnesota: QB Mitch Leidner. The junior answered calls for his benching by throwing for a career-high 264 yards in last week’s 27-24 victory over Ohio. That came on the heels for an ugly 10-7 win over Kent State.
Northwestern: QB Clayton Thorson. A redshirt freshman, he threw for a season-high three touchdowns in last week’s 24-19 win over Ball State and will be going against a banged up secondary on Saturday.
FACTS & FIGURES
Minnesota has won three straight since a season-opening 23-17 loss to then-No. 2 TCU. … Minnesota had 468 yards (204 rushing, 264 passing) in last week’s 27-24 win over Ohio. … The Golden Gophers are 9-5 in their last 14 Big Ten games, trailing Ohio State (14-0), Michigan State (13-1) and Wisconsin (12-2). Those records do not include Big Ten title games. … Northwestern had a season-high 546 yards of total offense against Ball State – 346 in the second half. … Wildcats’ Opponents have converted just 11 of 59 third downs. … The Wildcats rank 11th nationally in total defense (266 yards per game) and third in scoring defense (8.8 points).