Prediction Friday – UNLV

Sept18Blog1_NU2

The ‘Cats open at home tomorrow against the UNLV Runnin Rebels, and the Warriors are fired up to take the West Lot by storm and christen another season in Evanston. The weather is going to be beautiful and the beer will be flowing like wine. No surprise who the Warriors are picking in this one, though we’re split on how close the outcome will be.

Andy Trent Roger Roche Paul Hack ZVon
nulogo nulogo nulogo nulogo nulogo nulogo N/A

 

ROGER

Game Summary: We’ve all seen this shit before (Akron, Illinois State, Western Michigan…. sorry, that team was terrible even if they ran the table in the MAC). I’m not sure why we expect this to be any different. UNLV is obviously terrible, but that doesn’t mean a damn thing.

NU’s offense is 129th out of 130 in adjusted efficiency. Hunter Johnson has the worst passer in FBS. Simply put, our offense was terrible against a VERY average Stanford team who got smoked by a VERY average USC team during our off week. But, that’s par for the course with Mick.
There’s no reason to believe we will blow anyone out. Fitz and Mick aren’t up for that.
I do think we will find a way to win the game, but only because we will avoid giving up 3 defensive tds like we did against Akron last year.

 

Game Score: Cats 20 – UNLV 17

 

Play of the Game: Paddy Fisher annihilates UNLVs qb causing both his helmet and the ball to come loose.

 

Player to Watch: Hunter. He was atrocious 2 weeks ago. Will he be at least marginally better?

 

Warrior to Watch: Me. I’ll be back from my honeymoon on Friday night. Will we have any Supertuscans at the tailgate?

 

Other Game to Watch: None. The past few college football seasons have been painful outside of NU. The trend continues. There are 5 teams vying for 3 playoff spots (Bama, LSU, Oklahoma, UGA and Ohio State). Clemson is already in. Watch out for Syracuse though…. that’s Clemson’s toughest remaining game. They only lost by 43 to Maryland.

 

DOC ROCHE
 

We get it Roger. You’re being all cultured in Italy. I bet the fireball is gonna taste like battery acid when you get back.
 

 

Game Summary: Good lord that Stanford game was a bummer. I do think Northwestern’s run game will have a day against a pretty bad UNLV team. It’ll be an uninspired playbook for Hunter, who looked like a young Evan Watkins out there a few weeks ago.

 

Game Score: Cats 38 – UNLV 14

 

Play of the Game: Hunter Johnson throws a TD to someone.

 

Player to Watch: Ol’ HJ until he proves us otherwise.

 

Warrior to Watch: Rusty. He’s bringing the satellite and the TV.

 

Other Game to Watch: Pitt-Penn State is usually a fun game to watch.

 

TRENT
 
Game Summary: Well the ‘Cats lost game one and didn’t look great. While we held Stanford to 10 points (plus a bogus last second fumble TD), we only scored 7. The game was so bad I can barely remember any specific moments from the action. I do know TJ Green looked the better of the two QBs but got knocked out for the year. Hunter Johnson looked like a first time starter and definitely will be a work in progress.

Good news is we’ve got UNLV this week. They lost their last game to Arkansas State by 34 points and aren’t very good, especially on defense. Hopefully the ‘Cats O can get enough going to put some points on the board and pull this one out. I’m very proud to have coined the term Bowser Ball™ however Bowser isn’t playing in this one :(. However, think the ‘Cats will run a lot this week with HJ using his legs. Beware the ‘Cats at home as a double digit favorite – I can’t remember the last time we covered in this situation. However I think NU will be fired up and Fitz has too much bad Akron taste in his mouth to let the team slip up here.

 

Game Score: NU 38 – UNLV – 17

 

Play of the Game: Hunter throws his first TD pass, a deep post to Riley Lees.
 

 

Player to Watch: Hunter Johnson.

 

Warrior to Watch: Doc Roche. The doctor is back in Chicago and will be ready to roll in the West Lot.

 

Other Game to Watch: ASU @ MSU. Can Sparty stay undefeated before their trip to Evanston next week?

 

ANDY DAY
 

Game Summary: Our offense is bad until proven otherwise. I don’t care how bad UNLV’s defense is supposed to be, our offense is arguably worse (yes, we have the second worse offense in the FBS right now). We will struggle again to score, but so will UNLV. Our defense is still pretty darn good despite some tackling issues in Week 1, and we’ll manage to hold a high scoring offense to only a handful of scores.

 

Game Score: ‘Cats 20 – UNLV 19

 

Play of the Game: Hunter Johnson completes two consecutive passes.

 

Player to Watch: Mick McCall

 

Warrior to Watch: Dr. Michael Roche, MD. Will he lose his keys, only to find them later?

 

Other Game to Watch: LSU vs Northwestern….State.

 

HACK
 

Game Summary: UNLV lost to Arkansas State last week. They aren’t good. Too bad this isn’t a  home and home. I will be eating Paella and enjoying the nice day as the Cats roll.

 

Game Score: ‘Cats 35 – UNLV 3

 

Play of the Game: Hunter Johnson completes a 75-yard pass to Kyric McGowan on the first play from scrimmage

 

Player to Watch: Hunter till he proves otherwise.

 

Warrior to Watch: Dr. Michael Roche has returned praise be to Otto Graham!

 

Other Game to Watch: Stanford vs UCF: Can Stanford make our loss look good?

 

PAUL
 

Game Summary: With no Bowser, Hunter will have to really prove himself. Can he handle the pressure of his first home game in an ideal tailgate timeslot at 2:30?? I’m not convinced yet after that pitiful performance by the O-line and O-coordinator two weeks ago. I have a bad feeling this one is going to be tight with NU needing a late FG to win it.

 

Game Score: ‘Cats 19 – UNLV 17

 

Play of the Game: Winning FG kick with seconds remaining.

 

Player to Watch: Kicker. I sense we’re going to need a game winner in this one.

 

Warrior to Watch: Gotta be Roche. Welcome back to the West Lot!!

 

Other Game to Watch: Iowa v. Iowa State. Going to be as tough a battle as the one over the effectiveness of corn subsidies in Washington DC!
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Thursday Pump Up Jam – All That She Wants

All that she wants… is for the ‘Cats to not get embarrassed again early on in the season. I think all of us are scarred from games like Akron and Illinois State (or even to a certain extent games like Duke and Western Michigan).

UNLV should for all intents and purposes be an easy win, a chance for the offense to try and figure some things out, and an opportunity for the defense to remember how to tackle again. But us ‘Cats fans know better than to sleep on this game.

All that she wants is for a stress free blowout win. Let’s pray we get what we want.

Go ‘Cats!

Prediction Caturday – Stanford!

usa_today_8782493.0

Game day is here! The moment we’ve been waiting months for has finally arrived. Half the Warrior crew is out on the West Coast bringing those West Lot beats to Palo Alto. Special Happy Birthday shout out to Andy Day!!!

Let’s see who we’ve got in the game.

Andy Trent Roger Roche Paul Hack ZVon
nulogo nulogo nulogo stanford nulogo nulogo nulogo

 

TRENT

Game Summary:

Four years ago, the ‘Cats took on Stanford to open the season in Evanston. In many ways, the program was in a very different spot. Northwestern was coming off back to back 5-7 seasons, and deep within the fan base there was unrest and questions about Fitz. The Wildcats had questions at QB as Trevor Siemian entered the NFL draft and few people (aside from yours truly) were picking the ‘Cats to beat the Cardinal. I like to think this game was an inflection point for our program, as Northwestern smothered Stanford and only lost two games during the regular season to finish in the top 15 of the CFP rankings. Since then we’ve won three bowl games and a B1G West Title. What a difference a few years makes – Fitz’s Q score has never been higher as we enter the 2019 season.

Just as it was four years ago, the ‘Cats are dealing with a change at QB, and we really didn’t know what we are going to get at the position this weekend. Fitz has played his usual media games and has folks guessing about who will start on Saturday – is it the talented but unproven Hunter Johnson, or the veteran TJ Green? Or, will it be a combination of both?
I seriously hope it is not the latter – we saw last year against Purdue how quickly a team can burn its momentum by switching QBs throughout different series, not allowing either to get into a rhythm. I’d like to see Hunter in there – we saw what TJ Green could do last year and it wasn’t anything to write home about. Perhaps he’s made serious strides this offseason, but I have my doubts.
Stanford runs a pro style offense, similar to a lot of what the ‘Cats see in the B1G. They’re going to run the ball, run play action, and play smart football – grinding out games. The ‘Cats will try to do the same, especially with some of the questions at QB.
However, something tells me Fitz has been playing us all and we’ll see Hunter Johnson run out for the first NU offensive snap of the game. I think the ‘Cats will play conservatively to start out, and expect a lot of Bowser early on as we ease into the game and the season.
I believe the biggest weakpoint on our team is the secondary, and KJ Costello is the kind of QB that could pick us apart. However he doesn’t have the same weapons he’s had in years past, aside from a solid TE (from what I’ve read).
This is going to be a low scoring game – I love the under here. Fitz has a great record in tight one score games, and even though our team is young, they’ve been in some pressure situations over the past few years – the B1G championship experience will be valuable. Fitz has never had an issue getting the team up for big games – they will be fired up and ready for this one. I think we pull it out with a late FG.
Game Score: NU 20 – Stanford 17
Player to Watch: Hunter Johnson on offense, Greg Newsome on defense. I’ve said enough about HJ – for Greg, can he take over as the lead DB for Hartage and play lock-down D?
 
Warrior to Watch: Andy Day. Our West Coast Warrior reps the purple faithful out in the Bay Area and is going to do it up right for this season opener and his birthday.
Other Game to Watch: Illinois – Akron. A bettor threw down 55K on Illinois to cover -17, can they avoid a Northwestern-like performance against the Zips?
ANDY “B” DAY
Game Summary:

Solid defense. Painful to watch offense. Does that remind anyone of a team? Sounds a lot like the 2015 ‘Cats. I think this game looks very similar to 2015 Stanford @ NU. Go ‘Cats!

Game Score: NU 16 – Stanford 6
Player to Watch: Whoever ends up playing quarterback
 
Warrior to Watch: Grayhack. He’s out in the Bay and ready to play.
Other Game to Watch: Oregon – Auburn in Jerry World. Should be a fun one.
ROGER
Game Summary: I’m curious to see what the offense is all about this year. I assume it’s same old same old, but we don’t even know who the QB is at the moment…. which is concerning.
This is a non con game though. We have demonstrated that we don’t give much of a shit about those in recent years. So, I’m going to take the same attitude. I’m also going honeymooning on Sunday, so it’s a win either way.

Game Score: Cats 21 – Stansbury 16, Roger’s Honeymoon – 100

Player to Watch: Mick/TJ/Hunter
PAUL
Game Summary:  No Cats are getting caught in Trees tomorrow. Our defense plays lights out and gets critical turnovers in the red zone as our offense is a mess. McCall decides to use the Wildcat QB strategy which does not pan out.
Game Score: NU 12 – Stanford 9
Play of the Game: Pick in the end zone saving a TD
 
Player to Watch: Bowser
 
Warrior to Watch: DAY. It’s his 30th celebration. Got to love it.
Other Game to Watch: Duke Bama. Upset alert.
HACK
69-0 Cats win
DOC ROCHE
Game Summary:  A team led by two quarterbacks is most often led by none.
I don’t know anything about Stanford.
Game Score: Cardinal 24 – Cats 10
Play of the Game: First play of the game – when we find out who QB 1A is
 
Player to Watch: The QB Platoon!
 
Warrior to Watch: The birthday boy!
Other Game to Watch: all of em. Happy Labor Day.
Z VON
Cats 2 Stannis 0

Thursday Pump Up Jam – California Girls

The ‘Cats last win came in California, beating the Utah Utes in the Holiday Bowl. Will we get another Christmas present this weekend?

We will hopefully beat teams all over the US this season (ok, mostly in the Midwest), but don’t you wish all the wins could be California wins? Especially ones in Pasadena, California? Is this the year we get one of those? Only time will tell.

Go ‘Cats.

The Wild Wild B1G West

wills mith

 

It’s game week. I honestly can’t believe it’s really here. Northwestern has a game on Saturday. Life is good.

This time of year is rampant for wild speculation about who will be in the playoff, who will win their division, which teams are dark horses, how long Lovie Smith will continue to cash checks at Illinois, etc. What’s fun is that no one really knows for sure, so you can really say whatever you want and bet that somewhere out there, there is someone that will agree with you (and an army of people who will disagree).

Much has been written about the B1G West race this year – not in the context of the CFP title race or even really in the context of competing for the B1G title, but because the division seems so up for grabs.

We’ve made the joke many times about the B1G “Wild Wild” West, and I can think of a few instances where our Thursday Pump Up Jam featured the sweet sweet tenor of Will Smith from the late 90’s. Rarely has the B1G West seemed as wild and open as it does this year.

There is a clear basement on our side of the conference, with Illinois having won a total of four B1G games in the last three years. But, aside from Lovie’s crew, you can make a case (and people have) for every other team in the division to take the West. Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Purdue and the ‘Cats all have been talked about as a potential West champ.

A lot of the B1G West race will, as it does every year, come down to each team’s schedule and specifically who they face on the other side of the division. I’ve done a highly scientific analysis to look at how difficult each team’s schedule is based on two key factors: 1. who they play in the East, and 2. how many road games they have against their fellow B1G West competitors (I eliminated Illinois from this mix because, well it’s Illinois).

In the East, there is a pretty clear hierarchy of teams. You’ve got Ohio State and Michigan on the balcony popping some Veuve Cliquot, Penn State and Michigan a floor below sipping some Burgundy, Maryland and Indiana on the first floor drinking some Miller High Life and then Rutgers chilling in the basement with Natty Ice and a pack of Malboro Reds. For the purposes of our scientific schedule analysis, I’ve assigned games against Ohio State or Michigan a value of four, PSU or MSU three, Indiana or Maryland two and Rutgers one point.

Then, I’ve assigned one point to every road game the B1G West ‘contenders’ have against the other set of contenders in the division. The more points a team has, the more difficult their schedule – let’s see how it shakes out:

Iowa – 11 points

Rutgers (1), @Michigan (4), PSU(3), Purdue, @NU (1), @Wisconsin (1), Minnesota, Illinois, @Nebraska (1)

 

Nebraska – 10 points
@Illinois, OSU (4), NU, @Minnesota (1), Indiana (2), @Purdue (1), Wisco, @Maryland (2), Iowa

 

Purdue – 11 points
Minnesota, @PSU (3), Maryland (2), @Iowa (1), Illinois, @Nebraska (1), @Northwestern(1), @Wisconsin(1), Indiana (2)

 

Minnesota – 9 points
@Purdue (1), Illinois, Nebraska, @Rutgers (1), Maryland (2), PSU (3), @Iowa (1), @Northwestern (1), Wisconsin

 

Wisconsin – 13 points
Michigan (4), Northwestern, MSU (3), @Illinois, @OSU (4), Iowa, @Nebraska (1), Purdue, @Minnesota (1)

 

Northwestern – 11 points
MSU (3), @Wisco (1), @Nebraska (1), OSU (4), Iowa, @Indiana (2), Purdue, Minnesota, @Illinois

 

What does this mean? Based on this very subjective taxology, Minnesota has the easiest schedule, Nebraska second easiest, Purdue, NU and Iowa are fairly even, and then Wisconsin has the most difficult schedule. Wisconsin is the only team that has to face both Michigan and Ohio State…plus they also get a fun home game against Sparty. That is brutal. Meanwhile Minnesota gets Penn State at home, and then has very manageable crossover games at home against Maryland and on the road against Rutgers.

 

What does this really mean? I have no idea. The ratings could be way off – maybe Michigan State will have a down year while Indiana could take a step forward. We won’t know until the games are played.

 

We can only hope that, once the dust settles on the Wild Wild B1G West, our ‘Cats are riding off into the sunset with Will Smith.

California Dreamin’

Image result for pat fitzgerald dreaming

Football is almost back. The ‘Cats are almost back. The Warriors are back.

Specifically, Dr. Michael Roche has rejoined the gang in Chicago after a stint in Central Pennsylvania, deep in the heart of enemy Penn State territory. As a resident at PSU for the past few years, Doc Roche led the Nittany Lions to a B1G title and a Rose Bowl berth – we’re hoping he can bring that spark back to Evanston and our beloved Wildcats.

The ‘Cats are obviously focused on Pasadena as well, with our three featured players at B1G media days all rocking Rose Bowl pins. 2019/2020 is another year where the playoff/championship games will not be held in Pasadena so it’s another opportunity for the ‘Cats to smell the roses should we win the B1G Championship Game. The loss in last year’s Champ game has been a big talking point for Fitz and the squad this year, leveraging that as motivation to get back to Indy for another opportunity to win and take NU to another level.

It will not be an easy task, as Northwestern has lost a good number of key players going into 2019, starting with QB Clayton Thorson. Thorson has not been the most highly praised quarterback, even amongst the Warrior crew, however you can’t balk at his 36-17 record in college – winning the most ever games for an NU QB. No matter how pedestrian Clayton looked at times, his leadership and ability to win games will be missed and there will be a turnover in leadership to transfer Hunter Johnson.

Hunter comes in as a five star recruit out of Clemson, who transferred away from last year’s National Championship team after realizing he was not going to get playing time behind Trevor “Sunshine” Lawrence. Clemson’s loss is our gain as he is the highest rated recruit to EVER come to Northwestern. However, reports out of camp have been mixed about Hunter’s progress and play in practice…there are rumblings that he hasn’t looked great and hasn’t yet won the starting QB job from returnee TJ Green. I say phooey to these reports – Fitz is someone who notoriously keeps QB updates close to the vest and I don’t believe all that I’ve heard. Hunter very may well not look great but I’ll reserve my judgement until he steps on the field against the Cardinal on Aug 31 (and no doubt he will be named the starting QB). I do believe that we can’t expect Hunter will come in right away and look like the second coming of Dan Persa – it will take time for him to adjust and get used to playing in full speed games. The kid’s only played in one actual college game. Everyone’s thinking about Hunter’s arm but I’ve got a feeling he’s more of a runner than people think – he was a track star in high school and I’ll look for him to tuck it and run a good amount.

So what’s Hunter working with? Our offense under Mick McCall has been quite poor the past few years, to put it mildly. This year there is more depth at WR than we’ve had in recent memory, and our starting RB Bowser is quite simply my favorite player to ever don the NU purple. At WR, look out for freshmen Bryce Kirtz to make an immediate impact – Kirtz played with Hunter in high school and there’s got to be some familiarity that will help off the bat. We’ll get solid production from Skowronek, Lees and Bowman – in particular I think Lees will play a huge role in the offense this year and step into that Flynn Nagel / Austin Carr type role. We essentially have no superbacks to speak of so that is a huge question mark heading into this year – Cam Green’s retirement at the end of the last year was an enormous loss that can’t be understated. Cam was a security blanket for Thorson last year and our most reliable receiver – certainly happy that he made the decision that he did to preserve his health, but he will be sorely missed.

At running back, my boy Bowser is back after a stellar freshman effort. The ‘Cats lost Jeremy Larkin to retirement early in the year – a brutal setback for the kid given the career he’d had up until that point. Larkin looked on track to be the next Justin Jackson and was forced to retire after just three games last year. I can’t imagine how difficult that must have been to stomach – essentially overnight your college experience and potential career path is turned upside down. Larkin did not hang his head but instead became an assistant coach for the team and was there on the sideline for every game, pumping his teammates up and contributing however he could. From everything I’ve seen he seems just like a solid all-around guy, and we send him a Warrior salute.

Back to our running backs this year – Bowser stepped up big time once he got his opportunity in 2018, and injected life into our running game. This year I’m looking for him to take another step forward as he continues to mature and get fit for the college game. He’s spelled by senior John Moten, who is a pretty solid second back and took it 80 yards to the house against OSU last year. We’re going to need more balance between the running and passing game this year if we want to take a step forward.

On defense, we should be solid in most spots. Our linebackers are studs, our safeties our studs, our D ends are studs. Where I’m most nervous is at the cornerback position – without Montre Hartage we’ll need Greg Newsome to step up and serve as our lockdown corner. There were too many games last year (Purdue, Duke, Nebraska, OSU come to mind) where we simply could not stop the other team’s passing attack and they marched up and down the field at will. Our run defense will be great again this year but we certainly have our weaknesses through the air. The good news is we’re in the B1G, where not too many teams will exploit that weakness. We’re more a “ground and pound” conference then “air it out”.

So where will that leave us for this year – what can we expect? I like to say that the ‘Cats like to zig when we think they’ll zag – whatever we expect from them, they’ll do the opposite. It’s probably why they went 8-1 ATS last year when underdogs, and 2-4 when favored. Signs this year point to an upgrade from last year, but it all depends on Hunter “Gatherer” Johnson. If he steps in right away and takes command of the offense, the sky is the limit for this team. We could barely move the ball last year so any spark of life on offense would be a significant upgrade. Our team last year made the B1G championship with simply mediocre stats. We were really only good at three things – limiting penalties, getting off the field on third down, and turnover margin. That in my mind is all about coaching – no doubt that Fitz has entered the conversation for “Who is the B1G’s best coach?” With Fitz at the helm, and more talent than we’ve had in recent years, it feels like we’ve got a chance for great things. I think we’ll struggle against up-tempo, pass-first teams (e.g. Nebraska)  but we match up well against most of our B1G West opponents (as well as Stanford). The ultimate goal is Pasadena and the Rose Bowl, but we’ll need to get through a tough slate to do so and take our program to new heights.

We start the season in California, and let’s hope we can end it there too.

 

Prediction Friday – B1G Championship

The ‘Cats are taking their talents to Indy!

Andy Trent Roger Roche Paul Hack ZVon
nulogo nulogo nulogo nulogo nulogo

 

ROGER

Game Summary:

I’ll get into the significance of this game momentarily, but first I’d like to point out a few things about our opponent:

  1. This year’s version of Ohio State is NOT invincible. In fact, they are probably the most beatable Buckeyes squad in nearly a decade because they have an incredibly low floor relative to other OSU teams.
  2. Ohio State has a negative point differential in road games and a +5 point differential in road and neutral site games. That’s almost unfathomable for a top 10 team with 1 loss.
  3. Ohio State was losing in the 2nd half this season to 4-8 Nebraska, 5-7 TCU, 5-7 Maryland and, obviously, 6-6 Purdue.
  4. If Ohio State churns out a performance on par with point 3 above, they will not be one of the better teams we have played this year.
  5. Ohio State has churned out performances on par with point 3 above more often than not.

Usually I ponder which NU team will show up. This week, the more significant question is which Ohio State team will show up. I’ll be the first to tell you I have no idea. We absolutely cannot beat the Ohio State team that played last week in Columbus. That said, there are a few things here that suggest last week’s OSU team won’t be in attendance and there are a few more than could go our way earlier in the day on Saturday.

  1. This game isn’t in Columbus (see above)
  2. OSU isn’t playing their rival in the most heated rivalry in all of sports
  3. No matter what they say, every singly player on the OSU roster and every single coach on the OSU sideline thinks they are going to win this game comfortably
  4. OSU’s motivation could be almost non-existent – More on that below.

Per #4, we all know OSU’s football players don’t come to play school. But, I would also argue they don’t come to play for conference championships. They come to play for national championships. Thankfully, through positive circumstance here, Buckeye nation is going to bed Friday night thinking they still have a shot at the national title and that could be erased by 8pm EST pending the outcome of the Texas – Oklahoma game. The committee has indicated that they evaluate the entire body of work for each team in each week’s rankings. OU is ahead of OSU this week. If OU wins comfortably in the Big XII Championship Game, then the Buckeyes have effectively zero chance of jumping them. Even with a convincing win, OSU would have done absolutely nothing during the week to justify jumping an OU team that also had a convincing win, also won their conference championship game AND beat a higher ranked team and avenged their only loss of the season.

Given that motivation appears to have been a problem all year for Ohio State, the outcome of the OU Texas game is a GIGANTIC factor in this game.

Now, for the ‘Cats.

  1. This game isn’t in Evanston – that’s actually a positive for this bunch
  2. NU is playing what ‘Cats fans would consider the Evil Empire
  3. The entire world is counting NU out
  4. Motivation? Are you serious? More on that below.

Motivation is obviously not going to be an issue for NU in this one. I’ve heard a lot of the NU faithful say this is the biggest game since [INSERT GAME IN ’95 or ’96]. I’m not sure that’s true. I would argue this is the biggest game ever for this program. As I pointed out last week, NU has NEVER played a Rose Bowl play-in game. In ’95 they had to rely on help from Michigan after their season ended. In 1948, they backdoored their way into the game thanks to some weird conference rules and more help from Michigan. This is a Rose Bowl play-in game for the ‘Cats. That’s a first. Thus, I would argue this is the most important game in the history of this program.

So, what’s going to happen in the game?

If NU can slog their way to halftime well within striking range, then I like our odds. Not only will OSU be completely screwed in their attempt to win by 100, but the ‘Cats will also realize that they aren’t playing the OSU squad that showed up against Michigan. That’s quite appealing.

I’m actually most concerned about explosive plays on the special teams front early in this one. Our kickoff coverage has been a disaster for the better part of the year. That’s partially the result of not having an actual kicker for kickoff duties, but our guys have also exercised poor discipline in coverage (as LaVar Ball would say “stay in yo lane”). The Cats cannot get beat with special teams home runs and expect to stay close.

Offensively, the offensive line is nearly as critical as Clayton in this one. OSU’s defense isn’t anything to write home about, but they still have first round NFL talent on the defensive line. The ‘Cats have to avoid letting a few individuals dominate the game and dictate our offensive scheme. Our offense isn’t Purdue, but it’s also not that different schematically at the end of the day when Mick (rarely) gets creative. For that reason alone, I have some hope that the ‘Cats will be able to move the ball.

Defensively, we’re going to give up yards. There’s no way around that. We’re also going to give up points. But, it’s worth noting that OSU has the worst red zone offense in the B1G. Surprising? Maybe. But they rely a lot on the home run. We rely a lot on the bend-don’t-break. If we do a lot of bending and they hit a lot of singles and a few doubles, we’ve got a real shot here.

Thanks to some methodical offensive play, I think the ‘Cats will get this into halftime down something like 17-10 or 17-14.

At that point, the magic kicks in. Some backstory…..

Enter Rose – the van. Trent alluded to this, but Rose is a blessed van. She’s like an actual cat with nine lives… except she’s a 1990’s Chevy G20. Rose used life six, seven and eight this offseason. Her tires dry rotted, her battery died (yet again) and her brakes have essentially ceased functioning. Prior to paying our final respects to Rose, we thought it best to treat her with the utmost dignity in what could be her final season. So, she got a purple paint job. Unbeknownst to just about anyone (including Facilities Management at NU, Dr. Jim and the residents who live near Ashland and Isabella), Rose has a final resting place set aside: Lot 6, Rose Bowl Drive, Pasadena, CA 91103. She also has final transportation arrangements made. Simply put, this is destiny.

On to the 2nd half.

Look for the Buckeyes to get tense in the 3rd quarter if this game is close. The ‘Cats will benefit from that by way of some turnovers and some blown coverages and we just may take the lead into the 4th quarter.

If this plays out, it’s time for Mick and Clayton to put up or shut up once and for all. There’s no chance in hell the ‘Cats will be able to hang on against a team like Ohio State. As bizarre as it sounds, NU will have to go for the kill if they have the chance. Purdue proved that it’s possible. You better believe Fitz has reviewed that film multiple times.

It’s your time to shine, Fitz.

Game Score: NU 31 – OSU 20

Play of the Game: Up 24-20 with less than 5 minutes to play deep in our own territory, Thorson throws a backwards pass to Riley Lees who finds Jefferson wide open down the sideline for an 85 yard score.

 Player to Watch: Thorson and the Offensive Line. Ball control will be our best defense early in this game.

Warrior to Watch: Rose. It is written.

Other Game to Watch: The Big XII Championship. See above. We could really use a convincing OU win here.

 

TRENT

Game Summary: One game. One freaking game.

Six years ago the Warriors banded together, bought a dilapidated van off of Craigslist and named it Rose. The implication was that someday, someway, Northwestern would get back to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. Now, we are 60 minutes away from making that pipedream a reality.

The Warriors had been talking about painting the van purple for many years, but a lack of organization and effort delayed Rose’s purple coat until earlier this year. The honorable Patrick Grayhack braved the elements and likely some kind of lead poisoning as he went out and painted Rose purple on one hot summer day. Is it a coincidence that the year Rose finally turned purple also happens to be the year the ‘Cats win the West and get a shot at the Rose Bowl? I think not.

This is easily the biggest game for the program since I’ve been a ‘Cats fan. The boys are headed down to Indy this weekend to see One Republic rock out…and also see our beloved ‘Cats take on the Ohio State Buckeyes, I guess. OSU ‘upset’ Michigan in an outcome that shocked most…but shouldn’t have. Urban Meyer had never lost to Michigan, never lost as an underdog and was playing at home. The signs were there for an OSU win, but no one saw a total blowout coming as the Wolverines fell apart on defense and gave up 63 points. How about Pat Fitzgerald and NU making their first B1G title game appearance before Harbaugh and Michigan?

As I wrote a few weeks back, I wanted to face Michigan as opposed to OSU. OSU has the #3 passing offense in the country, and elite athletes at every skill position. When you factor in our beat up secondary, this is a bad matchup. The teams that have given OSU problems this year – Nebraska, Purdue and Maryland – all run an up-tempo spread offense and have speed at the skill positions. The ‘Cats do not play that style, and do not have a lot of speed. OSU’s defense has been much-maligned, but it’s really not that bad and doesn’t rank too far behind the ‘Cats D.

Basically this game feels like a college basketball matchup to me. Whenever you see a team like Virginia matching up with a team like UNC on the hardwood – two teams with competing styles of play – whoever wins the game will come down to who can impose their pace of play on the other. Virginia likes to grind it out, whereas UNC is up tempo – so a game where the teams are scoring in the 50’s caters more to Virginia, whereas a game where teams are scoring in the 80’s plays into UNC’s hands. In this analogy, the ‘Cats are Virginia and the Buckeyes are UNC. We want to slow the game down, play great D and turn this into a rock fight. OSU wants to speed the game up and turn it into a track meet. Whichever team can impose their pace of play on the other will have the advantage.

I have flashbacks to when OSU played Wisconsin back in 2014 in the B1G championship – they were on the outside looking up at the CFP at that point, and needed a statement victory to give themselves a chance to make the top four. They went out and whupped Wisconsin 59-0 in that game and just looked so much more athletic at every position. The Buckeyes are in a similar spot this year, needing a dominant performance in Indy to solidify their spot in the top four. They have better athletes than us at every position, and need to win big.

This could get ugly, and I wouldn’t be shocked in the slightest if OSU ran us out of the building. I’d like to think the ‘Cats have a chance here, as we haven’t gotten blown out in a game this year and have showed up each and every time we’ve been an underdog (winning five of those games outright). It’s moments like this, when nobody believes in us and everyone counts us out, that NU shows up in a big way and competes.

In my mind this game comes down to our offense. No what our defense does, Ohio State is going to put up points. They average more than 43 points per game. With their lethal deep passing game they could score on any one play. Meanwhile, the ‘Cats are only scoring 23 points per game. We need to turn this into a rock fight to win – in my mind the blueprint is what Michigan State did against OSU earlier this year. Though Sparty lost, they played a tight, low scoring field position game throughout. If this game is played in the 20s, we’ve got a shot. Once it gets to the 30s, we’re likely SOL.

Sadly I think OSU will be able to score more than 30 points on us. I see the ‘Cats keeping it tight for a while, but a few big plays in the second half puts the Buckeyes out in front and the ‘Cats won’t be able to catch up. Regardless, the Warriors and NU faithful will enjoy the Indy trip, and having our team in this kind of national primetime spotlight is fantastic publicity for our program. To make it to the B1G championship is no small feat, and the future looks even brighter.

Game Score: NU 23 – OSU 33

Play of the Game: Bowser with 2 TDs.

Player to Watch: Isaiah Bowser. The kid from working class Sidney, OH grew up in a town full of Buckeyes fans who have been converted over to NU fans ever since Bowser broke onto the scene earlier this year. Many of the folks from Sidney were planning to go to Indy for this game, and I’m sure that number has gone up since OSU beat Michigan.

How perfect would it be for the kid from Ohio to have a big game this weekend? To me, Bowser is the key to the game. If he has a successful day on the ground, the ‘Cats will be able to extend drives, slow the game down and burn clock. If Bowser can’t find room to run, the ‘Cats will go one dimensional and that’s not going to work against a team with so much talent like OSU. If Isaiah can run like he has the past five weeks, we’ll have a chance.

Warrior to Watch: Gotta be Rose.

Other Game to Watch: Really? Are there even other games happening? I guess you could say NU @ IU in basketball, which will be a nice appetizer for the Warriors during the day on Saturday.

 

ZVON

Game Summary: ‘Cats play okay in first half but I don’t think we’ve got the gusto to win. Another loss to An Ohio State University. We’ll get ’em someday.

Game Score: OSU 45 – ‘Cats 21

Play of the Game: Bowser scores a TD to tie it 7-7 in the first quarter

Player to Watch: OSU Marching Band

Warrior to Watch: This has ‘Paul’ written all over it. Does he switch allegiance once the game appears to be squarely in the hands of OSU? Does he wear an OSU shirt under his NU garb?

Other Game to Watch: This is the game

 

ROCHE

Game Summary: Roger’s verbose today, even for him. I am not.

Fetz turns 30 on game day, you guys. The ‘Cats deliver her a Rose Bowl birth for her big day.

I think the ‘Cats get a late score and snuff out a Buckeye final drive to seal the deal.

…Or this game is never close and Ohio State runs away and hides early.

Let’s go with the first one.

Game Score: NU 34 – OSU 30

Play of the Game: Bowser converts a Third and Goal to put the #B1GCats ahead for good.

Player to Watch: Thorson. He’s gonna need to show up for the biggest game of his career for the ‘Cats to have a chance.

Warrior to Watch: Rose is getting ready for her cross-country trip.

Other Game to Watch: I guess Roger makes a good point. Big 12 title game.

 

PAUL

Game Summary: This is certainly the biggest NU game I’ve ever been a part of and I’m pumped that we have five of the seven Warriors making their way down to the Circle City to watch this one in person. Sadly, Rose is taking this week off and resting up for New Years Day.

OSU was unreal last week, but I have to agree with Roger here that they are going to have an intense hangover and think they’ll be able to easily win. Add to the fact that they’ll be dejected after OU wins against Texas and this sets up the Cats well to pull this one off.

NU will keep this game close on the back of Bowser and some surprisingly clutch passes from Clayton – even one scrambling out of the pocket! We head into half time down 21-14.

The Cats D absolutely comes alive in the 2nd half and holds OSU to just 7 points. NU, without a reliable kicker makes a ridiculous 4th down conversion late in the game to tie this one up. WE ARE HEADING TO OVERTIME!!!

The D holds the Buckeyes to a field goal and Bowser gives the Cats their first ever B1G Championship with a 15 yard TD run. We are heading to Pasadena!

Game Score: Wildcats 35 – Buckeyes 31 (OT)

Play of the Game: Bowser’s winning TD run.

Player to Watch: Clayton Thorson – needs to have some key passes in this game and can’t turn the ball over.

Warrior to Watch: Rankin – how intense is he going to get during this game? Will the Warriors in 117 be able to hear him three sections over?

Other Game to Watch: There is no other game.

HACK

Game Summary: Michael Jordan years ago, the Cats took the purple to Pasadena. Tomorrow, on St. Chrispins Day, the Cats have an opportunity to do it again. Will they? Or won’t they? Only the Gods know.

 Game Score: CATS 33 – OSU 32

Play of the Game: Thorson completes a pass to Kyric McGowan for a 44 yard TD.

Player to Watch: Flynn Nagel. Need a big game.

Warrior to Watch: Andy Day – He brings it on big games and will be in attendance for this one.

Other Game to Watch: The North London Derby on Sunday. Arsenal 6 – Tottenam 0.

 

DAY

Game Summary: Cats Win!

Game Score:  CATS 30 – OSU 28

Play of the Game: Bowser on 4th and 1 to seal the game.

Player to Watch: Claydog

Warriors to Watch: HACK

Other Game to Watch: None.