Prediction Friday – Wisconsin

Can NU's stout run defense hold Melvin Gordon in check?

Can NU’s stout run defense hold Melvin Gordon in check?

The #B1GCats won a B1G game last week, in dominating fashion. Was that a product of NU being a good team or Penn State being a bad one? This weekend’s game should certainly provide some more insight on this. A lot of love for Melvin Gordon and the Badgers in this week’s edition of Prediction Friday. Can the ‘Cats D stay hot after last week’s performance? (pause)

Andy Trent Roger Roche Paul Hack ZVon

Roche:

Game Summary: Northwestern is coming into the matchup against the Badgers with a newfound identity as a defensive team. Your reward for figuring out who you are? A matchup with Melvin Gordon and Wisconsin’s corn-fed boys on the O-Line. Gordon is averaging 7.8 yards per carry this year despite the fact that Tanner McEvoy is no world beater with his arm.

I think Gordon will have a moderately successful game against the ‘Cats, which will almost certainly be enough to win against Northwestern’s anemic offense and wet, chilly weather.

This will be one of those games where NU and WISC are tied at half before the Badgers open up a multiple score lead. The defense will make some big stops and force some errant passes. But at the end of the Badgers will prevail and we’ll be left scratching our heads on what to make of the offense.

Game Score: Wisconsin 24 – NU 13

Game Highlight: Two recovered fumbles by the #B1GCats.

Player to Watch: Colin Ellis – Anthony Walker looked like he was ready to Wally Pipp Mr. Ellis last week. With Ellis back in the starting lineup and Walker on the bench to start, all eyes will be on the senior to step up his game.

Tailgater to Watch: Mike Roche – Can I nominate myself? I’m going to nominate myself. It’ll be cold and rainy. I love this weather, and I’ll be ready to celebrate the beginnings of fall in the west lot all day. (Ed. Note: Yes. Yes he can.)

Roger:

Game Summary: It’s hard to tell whether the ‘Cats are doing a Jekyll and Hyde thing (like Fitz in his last press conference) or if Penn State is just really bad.

Penn State was probably given too much credit going into last week’s affair, but they’re still better than NIU and possibly even better than Cal (although I challenge you to rank the Pac12 teams in order and not lose your mind). As a result, the NU team that played Penn State last week never would have lost to NIU and probably wouldn’t have lost to Cal either. But, as we all know, the transitive property game in college football is a giant waste of everyone’s time. So, what do we have in store this week?!?!

Doc Hankwitz is now the most most important coordinator for the ‘Cats. He has to call a good game and his players have to keep their assignments for the ‘Cats to have any chance …. in any game moving forward. I’ve basically thrown in the towel with Mick. We’ll be lucky if he calls an average game, and Siemian has proven that he’s very mediocre at his best. So, it’s unrealistic to expect the offense to win us a game. It’s all about the D (when’s the last time we said that?).

I’m optimistic that Doc will actually call a solid game here and stack the box like he should. That, and my hunch that Wisconsin is one of the most wildly overrated teams in the country (I fall into the transitive property trap here, but LSU is just flat out not any good. Watch them get annihilated at Auburn tomorrow night for some Saturday evening amusement.), suggests that the ‘Cats may actually have a shot. Our game plan is only half the battle on defense. We absolutely must win the point of attack more often than not and not get totally blow off the line of scrimmage. That’s easier said than done against an offensive line that is bigger than almost every offensive line in the NFL.

Everyone’s shitting their pants in fear of Melvin Gordon running crazy on the ‘Cats. My level of concern with Melvin Gordon is zero. Melvin Gordon is a nice back. Sure. But take a look at the Badgers backs dating back to the mid 90’s. They’ve produced some seemingly fantastic pro-style bruising running backs….. who rarely make it in the pros. What does that suggest? To me it suggests that who they have in the backfield is irrelevant. It’s who they have on the offensive line. Justin Jackson would be just as dangerous if he were playing for Wisconsin in place of Melvin Gordon. That’s why we must not get totally blown off the line. We can keep Gordon in check if we have success on the line.

All of the aforementioned is dandy, but it’s more analysis than summary. So, what the hell is actually going to happen?

Note my prediction here. The ‘Cats WILL score on their opening drive of the first half and opening drive of the second half. Why? Because each drive is scripted and that’s something that Mick is capable of doing. We’ll mix it up nicely on each of these drives and keep the defense on their heels. I expect 10 points out of these two drives. Unfortunately, I have a hard time seeing us score too many more points throughout the course of the game. Wisconsin is going to plow and McEvoy will get to the edge on several plays… ultimately frustrating the hell out of all of us. I expect Wisconsin to be up 17-10 or so going into the half. We will have to get turnovers in the second half to have a chance. McEvoy probably won’t make any stupid errant throws (because they won’t be throwing much), so we’re going to have to strip (not like Yocom in ’08 vs. Illinois) the ball. Ultimately, the ‘Cats may get 1 or 2 turnovers, but it won’t be enough to overcome McEvoy’s running (not Gordon’s). Wisconsin will take this and we’ll still be wondering who the hell we really are.

Game Score: Wisconsin 31 – NU 17

Game Highlight: Anthony “Cakes” Walker with a forced fumble and fumble recovery (likely on the same play). ‘Cats fans will get even more angry with Fitz for not starting this guy outright.

Player to Watch: The entire D Line, particularly Odenigbo – Will they get blow off the line? Will Odenigbo play more than just third downs?

Tailgater to Watch: Big Sal – My sources tell me that @BigSalTalkin will be coming in from Detroit for the weekend. Word on the street is that he has tickets to the Randy Walker Terrace with Warrior @adaynu. Believe it or not, there’s an open bar on the Randy Walker Terrace until the 2nd half starts. Will @BigSalTalkin and @adaynu get kicked off the terrace before the booze runs out? Only time will tell……

ZVon:

Game Summary: The Wildcats have been Wisconsin’s doormat during the last two contests (combined score – Wisco: 105, ‘Cats: 29). The only upside to last year’s game is we scored first and you can’t not have fun in Madison ($2-3 fireball shots and Jager BOMBS). Wisconsin fans travel well – in fact in ’09, the last time they came here and NU beat them, over half the stadium was filled with red.

Wisconsin always has some big boys – their running game is consistently good for a reason. Their O line is solid and they usually don’t make too many mistakes. The scary thing about a school like Wisconsin is they usually play pretty well against all conferences and teams because they have their strong running formula, smart passes, and solid players. That’s a nice combination.

The ‘Cats have increasing confidence. They also know nobody is predicting them to win this game – how could you? That worked last week against Penn State. It won’t this week. Our offense needs to start hot if we want any chance (see the Penn State game). I don’t think we are capable against Wisco.

I think our defense focuses on the run stop and shows some early success but with Melvin Gordon and their O’line crushing double steak burgers with Sconny cheese on top for fuel throughout the game, they wear us down and he ends up with nearly 200 yards. They won’t have to pass very much and that is good, since their QB is an athlete (converted Safety) that happens to line up under center. If he goes down, they’ll bring in Stave, which would be unfortunate for Wisco fans as Stave has a nice record as a starter and experience but is dealing with confidence issues (Stave Confidence Issues) so who knows how that would go. Our offense will continue to be predictable and ineffective. Fitz won’t realize this needs to be fixed with more than game plan changes (and hell, even an attempt at those might be nice to see…) and the ‘Cats will lose.

Game Score: Wisconsin 28 – NU 10

Game Highlight: NU nearly runs a kick back for a touchdown, gets tackled near the 15 yard line (Prediction: 3 and out, missed FG).

Player to Watch: None.

Tailgater to Watch:  This woman (provided she shows up).   Not a big fan of her.

Andy:

Game Summary: Game Summary: No one is going to be saying this at the end of the game tomorrow. Wisconsin is not who you think they are. Wisconsin looked less than impressive in their win against South Florida, and is getting too much credit for a close loss to LSU. On the other side of the coin, Northwestern’s defense looks as good as ever, especially against the run. I think this matchup favors us better than most think. Previous years, Wisconsin has killed us through the air, but I don’t anticipate the Air and Water Show coming to Evanston tomorrow…just the water show. Look for the ‘Cats to win the field position battle as they did in the Penn State game and pull out a low scoring nail-bitter in more typical Cardiac ‘Cats fashion. A late strike to Dan Vitale seals it with time winding down. ‘Cats win baby.

Game Score: NU 20 – Wisconsin 17 (1 missed PAT)

Game Highlight: Melvin Gordon gets stuffed on a 4th-and-1 deep in NU territory.

Player to Watch: Northwestern’s O-Line – They gave Trevor solid protection last week against PSU and allowed for us to move the ball at times. Was that a fluke or has this unit finally started to gel?

Tailgater to Watch:  Nick Saleh – No question, the visitor lights up the West Lot and the Randy Walker Terrace in a Tyrone Sutton jersey.

Trent:

Game Summary: Well I hate to say I told you so, but I told you so. The ‘Cats beat Penn State. This whole week I’ve been trying to figure out if that says more about the ‘Cats or the Nittany Lions. I think Penn State is much worse than everyone thought, and NU is probably about on-par with where we thought they were at the beginning of the season. Great D, Bad O.

The biggest headline from last game was Anthony Walker’s performance – a debut for the ages. I’m not ready to anoint him the second coming of JC, but I think the fact that he made plays throughout the entire game demonstrates that wasn’t a fluke. I’m worried, however, that stubborn ol’ Fitz will keep him off the field too much on Saturday just to prove some point. We’re going to need depth at LB in this game, as we go up against Wisco’s huge offensive line – a whole different animal compared to the lackluster o-line we dominated at PSU. We controlled the line of scrimmage against the Nittany Lions, holding them to 2 ypc – that’s not going to happen in this game.

Wisco’s game plan is going to be run, run and run some more. Melvin Gordon is an absolute beast. He has bulked up from last year, and now has a lot more punch to add to his mix of speed and shiftiness. Northwestern should stack the box on every play, daring QB Tanner McEvoy to throw it. Having watched his performance in the LSU game, I can tell you he is simply not a good passer. If we can contain the Wisco running game by stacking the box, then I think we have a shot in this one. If we can limit Wisco’s running backs to short gains on first and second, I have faith we can win the battle on third down if McEvoy has to chuck it. On paper this actually seems like a decent matchup for us.

In terms of the actual game – I think this will be fairly tight throughout, and low scoring. We’re tied up 14-14 at the half, before Wisco puts together a long drive in the second half to take the lead. Turnovers will be key – I think if we win that battle we win the game. It will also be interesting to see how Fitz handles the kicking game after last week’s debacle. Every point is going to count in this one, so some FGs would be super helpful. However, I think Fitz will smartly go for it on 4th down quite a bit, as he (and I) have no faith in Jack Mitchell.

After Wisco goes up in the 4th, the ‘Cats storm back to tie it with a Dan Vitale TD catch. Alas, Trevor throws a late pick and Wisco has a few big gainers to get in FG range and kick a game winner.

Game Score: Wisconsin 24 – NU 21

Game Highlight: A long TD run for Warren Long.

Player to Watch: (I’m going to get a little funky here and go with an opposing player for once) Tanner McEvoy – if he has a good game through the air and on the ground, Wisco will likely win. If he sucks per usual and throws a pick or three, I think we have a good shot in this one.

Tailgater to Watch:  Amery Stafford – making her first West Lot appearance, will she make it into the actual game? Will she back out if the weather is shitty on Saturday?

Paul:

Game Summary: Northwestern is going to come out hot after a huge win in Happy Valley. Look for the defense to step up their game in the first half but the Cats’ offense won’t be able to get much done either. Expect a turnover a piece in first half along with minimal scoring. Cats give up a TD on bad field position but score 2 field goals of their own. 7-6 at half. Wisco will turn it up in the second half and NU will give up a bad interception early on the fourth leading to a TD. Down 10 with 10 minutes to go the cats miraculously stage a solid 75 yard drive and get the ball back but miss the 35 yard field goal to tie the game. Shades of Demos leave everyone at Ryan Field at a loss.

Game Score: Wisconsin 24 – NU 21

Game Highlight: Anthony “Foster” Walker (Ed. Note: I prefer “Plex”) gets a huge pick in the 1st half in the red zone to prevent a wisco TD.

Player to Watch: None

Tailgater to Watch:  Roger Rankin – After a run in with the law after allegedly kicking in a taxi cab door in Madison last year after an NU ass kicking, he is looking for revenge.

Grayhack:

Game Summary: First of all, let me apologize to the following people for my prediction last week, no one. This team still sucks, and I fully expect them to get their shit rocked by a good Wisconsin Badgers team. That being said, I expect our defense to show up and do so in a big way, yet the SS MickMcCall will continuing sinking and drag down the Wildcats. Trevor Simeon will throw at least two interceptions, one of which will be returned for a touchdown. Melvin Gordon rushes for 99 yards on 17 carries.

Game Score: Wisconsin 24 – NU 9

Game Highlight: Melvin Gordon is hit in the backfield by Anthony Walker, and fumbles. The ball is picked up by Matthew Harris and returned to the endzone. Cats miss the extrapoint.

Player to Watch: Dean Lowry – Is he actually any good or just another overrated try hard?

Tailgater to Watch:  Paul “Hitman” Huettner: Apparently, Paul will be inside at an open bar for half the game. Will he make the jumbotron while drinking?

This week, let’s all hope that yours truly makes everyone else look stupid. Andy, the eternal optimist, they call me. Go ‘Cats!

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