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October 18, 2013

WR staff predictions: Minnesota

Can the Cats grab their first Big Ten win, or will the slump continue?

Will Ra'Shede Hageman cause all sorts of problems for Northwestern, or will Trevor Siemian find his stride again?

Is the dream of playing in Indianapolis about to slip through the cracks?

The WildcatReport staff has all the answers in this week's installment of our fearless predictions.

Aric "Hey There" DiLalla

Northwestern wins if... the passing attack gets back in sync. It was simply horrid against Wisconsin and hasn't looked that much better in practice.

Northwestern loses if... the offensive line can't stop Ra'Shede Hageman and the rest of the Minnesota defensive line from getting to the quarterback.

The bottom line: Northwestern will bounce back and get a win, but it won't be pretty. The Gophers will hang around for far too long before NU puts it away in the fourth

Prediction: Northwestern 27 Minnesota 17

Danny "Portlandia" Moran

Northwestern wins if... it avoids giving up big special teams plays. Minnesota's Marcus Jones has both a kickoff and punt return for a touchdown this season and could burn the Cats if they're not careful.

Northwestern loses if... Trevor Siemian goes down. NU is all of a sudden very thin at the quarterback position and with Colter questionable, their room for error at that position is even thinner.

The bottom line: Aside from Purdue, this is one of the better games NU could have asked for coming off Ohio State and Wisconsin. They are back home against a team playing without their head coach (best wishes to Jerry Kill). Not a blowout but a good win in which the Wildcats will hope to get healthier.

Prediction: Northwestern 27 Minnesota 17

"Cool Hand" Luke Srodulski

Northwestern wins if... the defense slows down Minnesota's run game. Without Sean McEvilly, it might be an issue.

Northwestern loses if... Trevor Siemian plays like he did last Saturday. The Cats might be without Kain Colter, so Siemian cannot have the same accuracy problems he had against Wisconsin.

The bottom line: If the Cats are going to get back on track, this gives them the perfect opportunity. A home game against a struggling team without its head coach makes it hard to pick against NU.

Prediction: Northwestern 33 Minnesota 14

Louie "C.K." Vaccher

Northwestern wins if… The defense can just slow down the Minnesota running game. The Gophers' anemic passing attack isn't good enough to outscore anyone.

Northwestern loses if… We find out that last week's horror show of a performance by the Northwestern offense was a trend and not an aberration. Trevor Siemian, especially, has to bounce back from the worst performance of his career.

The bottom line: The Gophers are just what the doctor ordered for an ailing NU team recovering from two straight losses. Expect Minnesota to hang around for a while and play the Wildcats tough on the line of scrimmage. But in the end, Northwestern will just have too much firepower.

Prediction: Northwestern 33 Minnesota 21

Larry "Slick" Watts

Northwestern wins if... the defense can stop the run and Wildcatoffensecan keep a very athletic defense off balance.

Northwestern loses if... the Cats can't eliminate the breakdowns on defense and Siemian again becomes a sack magnet.

The bottom line: Look for the Cats to come out slow while still trying to shake the cobwebs from past two losses, but they should prevail with a strong second half.

Prediction: Northwestern 34 Minnesota 31

Alex "Li'l" Wayne

Northwestern wins if… it can retain the mindset that it has the depth to not miss a step even if Colter and/or Venric Mark are a little dented and stay on the sidelines, even if it's just precautionary rather than unavoidable. Also, the defense will definitely have to keep winning the turnover battle.

Northwestern loses if… it tackles poorly at the line of scrimmage. Minnesota doesn't seem to have an offense that will keep you guessing. I expect a steady diet of rushing, rushing, and more rushing. That said, an inability to wrap up by the front seven would allow Minnesota to be successful. Also, a few pass plays where Ibraheim Campbell forgets to stay between the deepest receiver and the goal line would be an unfortunate reminder of the learning curve he was on as a true freshman two years ago.

The bottom line: Before the season began, I expected a win against Ohio State, that Wisconsin would be the trap game, and Minnesota would be the game where the would Wildcats play down to the level of a lesser team after rising to the challenge against the Buckeyes. The only difference now is that they lost the Ohio State game, which will make them hungrier for the win against Minnesota. Siemien's rhythm and decision-making are probably still a little wobbly after last week's unaccountably poor performance, but I can't think of a reason why Treyvon Green wouldn't be as solid as he was in the non-conference games. I'm going to guess that it's Jeff Budzien's day to play the hero.

Prediction: Northwestern 23 Minnesota 20

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