Players to Watch: Northwestern

With the Gophers meet Northwestern on Saturday, both teams will be hungry for a win. The Gophers are coming of three straight losses and the Wildcats are looking to start 5-0. If either team wants to win, they will need big games from each of their stars.

One of the most consistent players for the Gophers this season has been quarterback turned wide receiver MarQueis Gray. The 6-foot-4, 230-pound sophomore has quickly become the Gophers' best offensive threat. In just four games, Gray has racked up 22 receptions for 328 yards and three touchdowns. Gray is currently third in the Big Ten in both receptions and receiving yards per game (82.0). He is a big-play threat on every play. Gray is fast and towers over smaller defenders which makes him a matchup nightmare for defenses.

These factors alone should be enough to give Northwestern fits, but coupled with the Wildcats' lack of pass defense, Gray is almost sure to have a big game. Northwestern ranks tenth in the Big Ten in pass defense and has given up an average of 262.2 yards per game through the air. Since Gray has emerged as a legitimate receiving threat, he has dominated defenses. Gray will play a central role for the Gophers and will most likely put up some big numbers.

In order to counter the Gophers' offense, the Wildcats will look to defense lineman Vince Browne. At 6-foot-5, 265 pounds, Browne is an imposing figure on the Northwestern defensive line. Browne has had a great start to the season, compiling four sacks and six solo tackles for a loss. He currently ranks second in sacks and third in tackles for a loss in the Big Ten. Browne will need to get pressure on Adam Weber as well as keep the Gopher run game under to control if the Wildcats want to stifle the Gophers.

Although Browne has had a great season thus far, he is going up against a tough offensive line that has been stingy this season in allowing sacks. If the Wildcats can get pressure on Weber to force a sack or a dump off to a running back or tight end, they will not only be able to control the play of Gray but also stop the Gophers' offense. Browne will be a huge part of leading the Wildcat defense on Saturday.

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