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Tale of the Tape: Minnesota Golden Gophers vs. Northwestern Wildcats

Brandon Erickson@derkipstaCorrespondent ISeptember 25, 2009

After 2-1 performances in their non-conference schedules, the Gophers and Wildcats are hungry to start their Big Ten schedules off well. Here's a quick look at the matchup taking place in Evanston this weekend.

Offensive Rush

Northwestern Wildcats152.7 Yards/Game
Minnesota Golden Gophers—85.7 Yards/Game

Minnesota is still struggling to get the ball moving on the ground this year. They have yet to have a 100-yard day and worse yet, they are struggling to move the offense period without the support of Eric Decker. Northwestern isn't much better, but has found much more success.

As far as the best runner on each team, it's pretty much a wash. DeLeon Eskridge has proven to be just as big a threat as Bennett, maybe more so. Overall, Northwestern's offensive line is better meshed for the run game and working with Simmons. Gophers bulky line still needs to work on run-blocking and working with the two young running backs.

(Min) RB Duane Bennett—121 Rush Yards, 1 Rushing TD
(NU) RB Stephen Simmons—150 Rush Yards, 2 Rushing TDs

ADVANTAGENorthwestern

Offensive Pass

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Northwestern Wildcats278.3 Yards/Game, Five TDs
Minnesota Golden Gophers
233.3 Yards/Game, Four TDs

On paper, it would appear that the Wildcats are a deeper passing threat then the Gophers when in reality it will be very close. The Wildcats are going to find Minnesota's defense against the pass a little bit more physical and difficult then before.

Minnesota's pass defense will make the Northwestern passing attack slightly less effective...as a result, the Gophers should be a stalemate in the passing game.

Last week, however, Northwestern quarterback Mike Kafka had a career day passing for 390 yards, three touchdowns, a three-yard rushing score and a 24-yard receiving score...becoming the first Big Ten player to do so...however, it was all in vain as Syracuse would pick off Kafka late in the game and it would cost the Wildcats the game.

Gophers wideout Eric Decker also just came off a big game against No. 6 Cal with 119 receiving yards, two receiving touchdowns and a seven-yard strike to freshman Marqueis Gray.

Overall, "Deck" as Northwestern Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald calls him should keep Minnesota in just as much as Kafka should Northwestern. The game will be decided ultimately by defense.

(Min) WR Eric Decker—27 Receptions, 415 Yards, 2 TDs (138.3 Yards/Game)
(NU) WR Andrew Brewer—12 Receptions, 236 Yards (78.7 Yards/Game)

(Min) QB Adam Weber—60-for-103 (58.3%), 693 Pass Yards, 3 TDs, 4 INT
(NU) QB Mike Kafka—64-for-86 (74.4%), 740 Pass Yards, 3 TDs, 2 INT

ADVANTAGE—TIE

 

Defensive Rush

Northwestern Wildcats—120.7 Yards/Game
Minnesota Golden Gophers—171.3 Yards/Game

Although Minnesota's defense is more physical, Northwestern will be better against the run simply because the Gophers are poor at their running game. Overall, both are probably about the same, but in this game overall, the Wildcats will look better.

Numbers wise though, Minnesota did hold Jahvid Best to under 20 yards in the second half of their game against Cal last week. With that said, it's hard to argue one over the other.

ADVANTAGENorthwestern

Defensive Pass

Northwestern Wildcats—211.3 Yards/Game
Minnesota Golden Gophers—181.3 Yards/Game

The numbers tell a pretty good picture of what to expect, however the Wildcats have gotten more picks and put more pressure on offenses. Overall though, Minnesota plays tighter defense keeping the ball in front of them.

Key Stat: Northwestern has five interceptions with five different players.

Minnesota has only allowed two passing touchdowns to Northwestern's four.

ADVANTAGEMinnesota 

Momentum

Northwestern Wildcats—Despite close game with Syracuse, NU should be 3-0
Minnesota Golden GophersClose Game with No. 8

  • Minnesota has two come-from-behind victories, almost three barring the Cal breakdown.
  • Minnesota has defeated Syracuse where as Northwestern didn't.
  • Northwestern's Mike Kafka had a career game doing what no player in the Big Ten has ever done scoring a passing, rushing and receiving touchdown in the same game.
  • Northwestern has defeated the Gophers the last three years in shootout fashion in the final seconds of each game.

ADVANTAGE—Minnesota

Overall Advantage

Minnesota should defeat the Wildcats in front of a hostile crowd, but it should be a high scoring affair.

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