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Can Northwestern's Offense Beat Minnesota's Defense?

Will the Wildcats offense be able to generate points against a Big Ten foe like the Golden Gophers?

The Northwestern University football team has had an inconsistent season on offense thus far in 2021. This is definitely not the worst situation to be in, as the Wildcats have put up at least 20 points in five of the seven games this season and have put up at least 30 points in two of those games. However, the offense has been completely inept in the other two contests and is also dealing with numerous injuries and roster turnover.

How will the Wildcats fare against its Week 9 opponent, the University of Minnesota.

Wildcats Offense

Northwestern currently possesses No. 100 ranking in total offense and the No. 117 ranking in scoring offense. The offense has accounted for 2481 total yards for 18 touchdowns and are averaging 354.4 yards per game.

Sophomore quarterback Ryan Hilinski has fully taken over the starting role and has overall limited mistakes, only tossing one interception in five games played. The young field general gives the Wildcats a chance in every single game, but has not yet elevated and won a game for Northwestern. If he can do this soon, that may be all the Wildcats need to steal a game from a team like Minnesota.

Sophomore running back Evan Hull is an x-factor for Northwestern, as his best games have coincided with the team's wins and vice versa. He has rushed for 643 yards and five touchdowns on 101 carries this season, but a tough Golden Gopher run defense could prove to be challenging. 

Graduate student wide receiver Stephon Robinson Jr. was been the Wildcats most dynamic receiver in 2021, making 30 catches for 425 yards and two touchdowns. Junior wide receiver Malik Washington has stepped up recently, catapulting towards the second most production on the team with 24 catches for 318 yards and two touchdowns.

Golden Gophers Defense

Minnesota possesses a strong defense, defined by a No. 17 ranking in total defense and a No. 26 ranking in scoring defense. The unit is allowing 5.26 yards per play and 17 touchdowns to go with an average of 312 yards against per game. 

Graduate student linebacker Jack Gibbens leads the defense in solo and total tackles, with 27 and 48 respectively. Junior defensive Tyler Nubin leads the team in interceptions with two, while freshman defensive back Justin Walley leads the team with four pass break ups. Redshirt senior defensive lineman Boye Mafe leads the team with five sacks while senior defensive lineman Thomas Rush follows shortly behind with four and a half.

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A Top 20 defense versus a 100 ranked offense is certainly not an ideal situation for the Wildcats, but the Wildcats have not dropped consecutive games yet this season. This will certainly be a test for Hilinski, Hull and the rest of the offense, but can also spearhead positive momentum for the rest of the season. 


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