Prediction Friday is back, and we start with a preseason outlook for 2014. There is certainly a wide variety of opinions here in the Warrior camp, but the general consensus is that we will at the very least be bowl bound again this season. Behold, our preseason predictions (presented in order of most optimistic to least):
Season Summary: There certainly isn’t an outpouring of optimism surrounding a program who finished 5-7 last season (1-7 in the B1G) and loses 3 of its most dynamic offensive players (Kain Colter, Venric “Ricky” Mark, and Christian Jones) from last years’ roster. However, I seem to remember a team who had no hype whatsoever who ended up winning the B1G (then Big Ten) and headed to the Rose Bowl. That team was a 28 point underdog in their season opener. If you haven’t guessed it yet, I’m referring to the 1995 Northwestern Wildcats squad, who despite being remembered for the excellent offensive output of stars Darnell Autry, Steve Schnur, and D’Wayne Bates, was able to be as successful as they were because of an outstanding defense (lead by some guy who still has something to do with the program, I think).
NU’s defense is going to be the best it has been in years, maybe since 1995. If we can get solid production from our D-Line and avoid too many injuries, our defense will allow us to win games with crucial stops and key takeaways. The B1G West is wide open this year, and its time for Northwestern to finally play for a championship.
TrevDog is going to step into his own this year, and will make people look stupid for doubting him (kinda like Persa did in 2010 and Kafka did in 2009). You heard it here first.
Record: 11-1 (1st in B1G West)
Season Highlight: Beating Notre Dame. Also seeing Rankin get arrested soon after the final whistle blows.
Player to Watch: Miles Shuler – With the loss of Christian Jones, the speedster from Rutgers will play an even bigger role in the new and improved #B1GCats offense.
Season Summary: The #B1GCats come into 2014 with an air of uncertainty. Can we play without a running QB? Who will carry the offense since Ricky Football is gone and C. Jones is hurt? Will we ever have more NU fans than opposing team fans in our stands? The ‘Cats are coming off a down year – which could prove to be the best thing they’ve got going for them as expectations have not been very high for this squad. The offense has some returning experience and I think the ‘Cats will have to lean on those guys while the defense, anchored by Chi Chi Ariguzo, will need to prove they can stop the run. The first three games are huge for our psyche and we need to come to play. The first game is a must win. My Cal prediction:
NU 30, Cal 14 (come back next week for that).
Record: 8-4 – I’m optimistic the Cats are going to surprise a few people.
Season Highlight: Playing in South Bend (Ed. Note: Lame bro, gotta call a win here)
Player to Watch: Trevor Siemian – If he has made progress, the ‘Cats may have a chance to move the ball.
Season Summary: Let’s look at the past couple years for the ‘Cats. 2011 – We enter the year with high expectations (and #PersaStrong) and go a lackluster 6-7. 2012 – We enter the year with understandably low expectations, we ball like Wall and come about four minutes from going undefeated. We finish 10-3 with our first bowl win in 64 years. 2013 – We enter the year highly ranked, start out 4-0 and then proceed to lose seven straight games. See a pattern here?
The ‘Cats always seem to zig when we expect them to zag, and vice versa. That’s why I’m predicting a strong year in 2014, when all the odds seem to be against us. Ricky Football transferring was a big blow. Losing Christian Jones for the year was heartbreaking. Our offensive and defensive lines are largely unproven. And, we’re coming off a brutal 5-7 year. But that record last year is a bit deceiving – the ‘Cats lost at Iowa in OT, then on a last-second Hail Mary at Nebraska, then in 3OT at home to Michigan in three consecutive weeks. Our Cardiac ‘Cats known for pulling out the close games failed to do so last year – I think this year we turn that around.
Our secondary is stacked, and our linebackers are experienced. Our senior starting quarterback has been getting reps for two straight years. A lot of folks are down on Trevor, but I’m expecting a big year from him. Gaining full control of the offense, being able to create some rhythm in the game as opposed to switching in and out constantly with Kain – these factors will certainly help Trev’s game. Siemian has always been a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde character – throwing some ridiculously good balls followed up by boneheaded mistakes and interceptions. I think his sole possession of the position this year is going to allow him to settle down and gain some more consistency – always a good thing.
Season Highlight: Like everyone else, I’m going to say playing Notre Dame. We could go 1-11 next year and I wouldn’t care whatsoever so long as that one win is against the Fighting Irish. We last played this team nearly 20 years ago, and it may be another 30 years before we play again. Enjoy it – I know I will. (Ed. Note: We are currently scheduled to play Notre Dame in 2018, but it is rumored that this game could get the boot from ND’s schedule)
Player to Watch: Treyvon Green – With Venric Mark leaving the team, Treyvon needs to step up as he did last year. If he plays up to snuff, our offense is going to move the football.
Season Summary: Well, last season wasn’t fun.
Will it get worse? Hopefully not.
Will it get better? Perhaps, but it’s hard to see where.
Even with the injury to Christian Jones, we still have a good bit of talent for Trevor. I expect big things from Dan “Dick” Vitale along with a productive season from Kyle Prater.
I also think our secondary will be as good as we’ve seen since the 2008 season.
Siemian is a huge wildcard. He has the ability, but will he stop telegraphing passes?
Unfortunately, that’s where I see the positives ending. Both lines are gigantic question marks, and if you’re wondering that is usually an indication that they aren’t any good. Additionally, our special teams could go back to being a thorough mess with the departure of Mark and Budzien.
I see the beginning of the season going much the way of the beginning of last season. I think we’ll start 3-0 and expectations will be fairly high. Granted, I think a lot of this will be the result of inferior competition.
After that, I worry that we’ll head south in a hurry much the way we did last year. I think we may snag a victory against Minnesota, but I don’t see us beating a single team other than Minnesota in the 6 game opening stretch of the B1G calendar.
Unlike last year, I think we salvage the season with a big win at ND and 2 more wins against Purdue and Illannoy to get to either 6-6 or 7-5. I’ll say 7-5 to be optimistic.
Season Highlight: Up 7 late in the game in South Bend, NU sacks ND in the endzone to take a 9 point lead and seal the victory.
Player to Watch: Whoever is returning kicks/punts. We need something big out of this position with Venric’s departure and I’m curious to see how this plays out.
C’est tout. Go ‘Cats. IT’S ALMOST GAME WEEK!