Week 5 Saturday Six-Pack: Conference Play Heats Up



Kickoff: 12 noon ET/9 a.m. PT


Las Vegas Line: Northwestern -4

Expect physicality and defense to define this Big Ten West matchup; one that, somewhat surprisingly, has serious divisional implications early in the season.

Minnesota and Northwestern both have the defensive chops to contend for the Big Ten West title. That’s not necessarily unexpected, but just how good both the Golden Gophers and Wildcats have been defensively is striking.

Minnesota has yet to yield more than 24 points, which Ohio managed last week. That’s one point more than the Golden Gophers gave up to TCU’s explosive offense. Northwestern is also coming off a Week 4 in which it surrendered the most points it has through four games, allowing 19 to Ball State.

The Cardinals actually scored a field goal’s worth more than Stanford and Duke notched on Northwestern combined. I’m only left to glean Pete Lembo > David Cutcliffe and David Shaw. That’s how it works, right?

OK, maybe not. But the point is Pat Fitzgerald’s Wildcats truly reflect his personality. As a star member of Northwestern’s improbable 1995 Rose Bowl run, fully taking on the coach’s identity could yield unprecedented success in Evanston. Minnesota is a very high hurdle to clear, however.

Jerry Kill’s steadily built the long-downtrodden program into a viable Big Ten contender. The Gopher offense hasn’t exactly caught fire this season, however. That doesn’t bode well for Saturday, facing a defense as dominating as Northwestern’s.