The Minnesota Golden Gophers, fresh off a bye week, will play for their first Big Ten win of the season Saturday morning against Northwestern. The Gophers lost their first conference game of the season Sept. 29 at Iowa, but remain in strong position to attain bowl eligibility and return to postseason play for the first time since 2009. Minnesota enters the game as a three-point underdog, despite playing at home.
The Gophers will have to score points despite uncertainty at quarterback. Starter MarQueis Gray, who was injured against Western Michigan and did not play against Syracuse or Iowa, is questionable for the game. Backup quarterback Max Shortell will also be available. Despite the players' vastly different skill sets -- Shortell is a classic pocket passer, Gray a running threat -- head coach Jerry Kill told reporters that the Gopher game plan will be flexible enough to work with either quarterback. Minnesota also has injury problems on the offensive line, with three starting linemen questionable or doubtful for this weekend's game.
Northwestern lost their most recent contest, an 11-point defeat at Penn State last week. The Wildcats will also have to handle a quarterback rotation, though theirs is by design. Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian have been splitting reps all season, with Colter's role in the passing game diminishing with every game. If the Gophers are to win, they will have to stop the Northwestern ground game, as the Wildcats rank fifteenth in the nation in rushing offense at 232 yards per game.
Kickoff is scheduled for 11:00 a.m. CT at TCF Bank Stadium, with ESPN2 handling the television broadcast.