[Editor’s Note: Roche was unable to send in a game prediction last week, but in a last minute text to the Warriors predicted the ‘Cats to win 100-0. Sneakily the most accurate prediction of the week. ADay has not submitted a prediction.]
No crazy moves to the season rankings as everyone took NU last week.
And now this week’s predictions…
I’m working labor and delivery all day Saturday. I won’t be watching the game.
Thanks, and have a great day
Game Summary: JJ with two TDs, Mikey catching three babies. [Editor’s Note: The rest of the Warriors are taking the over.]
Final Score: NU 24 – Duke 21
Player to Watch: JJ. He’ll need to do some heavy lifting to help out ol’ Bigsby Thorson.
Play of the Game: Late 4th down stand by the defense to seal the deal.
Warrior to Watch: Rusty. I hope his game updates from the stadium are consistent and coherent, even as the game goes on and the alcohol accumulates.
Other Game to Watch: PSU – Rutgers. I live in Nittany Lion Land. Will Penn State be able to walk past the dumpster fire that is Rutgers? Will my friends and neighbors continue to call for Franklin’s head? (Both answers are almost certainly ‘YES.’)
The ‘Cats are ranked and headed South. So, that means this game is going to come down to one thing……. David Shaw.
David Shaw?!?! Yea…. him.
We still really don’t know how good we are. A lot of our prognostications here are dependent on our win against Stanford. I have no idea how good/bad Stanford is. Stanford was pretty good last year and very good the year before, but it’s entirely possible they are regressing annually. I think the verdict is still out to a degree on David Shaw. Has he been riding the coattails of Harbaugh for a few years now? He’s certainly still making a living off of Jim’s recruiting classes.
Anyways, I actually happen to think Shaw is a pretty good coach who will continue to maintain a level of success at Stanford. He may not be Harbaugh, but I’m cautiously optimistic that our Stanford win will look pretty impressive by season’s end.
So, with that….. my game summary.
Game Summary: This game will be won or lost in 3 areas – the ‘Cats ability/inability to pressure Sirk, the ‘Cats ability/inability to run the ball consistently and Thorson’s ability to play within himself and not get flustered. Special teams may also prove to be a factor. We’re notorious for having issues there and Duke can sure as hell capitalize on that with one of the better units in the country. Hopefully, Doc and Fitzy have a quality gameplan there. Hint: Don’t have Niswander kick a line drive when you call a rugby punt to the right side of the field a la the 2008 Alamo Bowl and Jeremy Maclin.
Let’s start with area #1 – the ‘Cats ability to pressure Sirk. Sirk is presumably going to get his yards through the air, but if the ‘Cats can pressure him enough to force some dumb throws (he still hasn’t thrown a pick in his career), then that will be huge in determining the outcome of this game. Pay attention to Lowry and Odenigbo here. Duke’s O Line may want to do the same. I think the advantage goes to the ‘Cats here. This D line doesn’t appear to be a joke.
Area #2 – the ‘Cats ability to run the ball consistently. This is a bit of a wild card simply because I don’t have the slightest idea what kind of looks Duke is going to give us defensively. They play a base 4-2-5, but I expect Jeremy Cash to play a bit of a hybrid DB/LB (read: Brad Phillips) role in this game to help stuff the box and force Thorson to throw. As has been well documented, our offensive line has been playing musical chairs. Despite that and their inability to consistently pass protect, I was pleasantly surprised (unlike Fitz) at how they seemed to win at the point of attack on running plays against Stanford. The Duke D line is undersized and not likely to be as good as a Stanford D line, so I’m cautiously optimistic about this one. I give the advantage to the ‘Cats here as well, but I’m less sure than I am on area #1.
Area #3 – Thorson’s ability to play within himself. This is a complete wild card. The dude had some really rocky throws against Stanford and even, to a degree, last week against EIU. That’s not going to work against a very good secondary with NFL talent. On top of that, Thorson has never played on the road (albeit this isn’t the most hostile place). I don’t think Duke’s D will end up being as good as Stanford’s, but Duke will certainly give Thorson more looks and try to confuse him more often than Stanford. Clayton “Bigsby F*cksaw” Thorson’s success is largely dependent on area #2. No advantage here. Huge determining factor.
So, how’s this going to play out? My hope and mildly optimistic prediction is that NU has some success controlling the lines of scrimmage. A lot of people talk about skill positions (and for good reason), but the deciding factor in damn near every game is the line of scrimmage. We should know early what we’re working with here.
Duke will receive the opening kick and……… BAM! DeVon Edwards gets absolutely rocked setting the tone for the rest of the game. Early pressure on Sirk and an early turnover leads Duke to question their physicality. The ‘Cats pound the ball and Thorson keeps it in check through the air when needed. Despite the relatively close score, by the second half it becomes apparent what’s going down. The ‘Cats D is legit. NU controls the ball for 12 minutes in the 4th quarter and runs out the clock up by two scores.
Later that evening, Stanford goes into the Coliseum and knocks off USC. Back in Evanston, Gangsta’s Paradise is blaring and locals are wondering if they’ve gone back in time 20 years.
Nope. We didn’t go back in time. But the schedule looks favorable and this is starting to feel like ’95.
Next up….. NIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIGHT GAME! Rest assured, the West Lot will be bumpin.
Final Score: NU 23 – Duke 12
Player(s) to Watch: Ifeadi Odenigbo and Dean Lowry. Look for them to tee off on passing downs against inexperienced tackles.
Play of the Game: The opening one. DeVon Edwards returns the kick into a brick wall and the tone is set from the beginning. #ACCSpeed….. meet the B1G. Buckle up. It’s the law.
Warrior to Watch: Uh…. Grayhack. This is about as obvious as it gets. Hack heads south (from his current residence in Richmond) for his first game of the year. He’ll be joining a rather raucous group of regular tailgaters to ensure that the Warriors make their presence felt at every NU game this year. God speed, Hack. If only you had a purple vuvuzela too.
Other Game to Watch: (Stanford @ USC is obvious here, but that was already mentioned below) Cal (-6.5) @ Texas. If Goff torches this Texas D like I think he’s going to, then there’s a very real possibility that Texas goes 1-5 to start the season. Having just fired their athletic director, Texas is a hot mess. Charlie Strong might want to start looking for another gig himself. I hope like hell the tv crew pans the crowd late in the 2nd half, so we can see what oil money looks like when it’s pissed off.
First road game of the year!! The ‘Cats are coming out of the gates ranked, but as Andy noted that ain’t always a good thing. Will Duke’s high octane offense burn the Wildcats down or will our defense go all EPA on them and limit their emissions?!
Game Summary: The Cats are going to have to step it up on defense this week in order to limit the offensive flow of the Blue Devils. I see the ‘Cats giving up two TDs in the first half while the offense struggles to get into the endzone even after making it into the red zone 3 times. Mitchell nails all three FGs, however, all from within 35 yards. 14-9 Duke at the half. NU gets their only offensive TD of the game on their first 2nd half drive while Duke answers with their own TD after picking off Clayton “Fucksaw” Thorson on NUs own 30 while also tacking on another FG. Heading into the fourth the ‘Cats nail another FG from 45 yards out to go down two points and Duke shifts to the run game to eat up the clock. In a Jamal Charles-esq sequence, Anthony “Texas Ranger” Walker creates a fumble which NU returns to the Duke end-zone. CATS WIN!!
Final Score: NU 26 – Duke 24
Player to Watch: Jack Mitchell – NU is going to have 5 FG attempts in this game. Look to baby-faced Jack to make 4.
Play of the Game: Anthony “Texas Ranger” Walker causes a fumble which is returned by Odenigbo for a TD
Warrior to Watch: Also have to go with the old Rusty here. Let’s just hope he makes it into the game and gets his primetime tailgating footage for his future-Sundance Film Festival winning documentary.
Other Game to Watch: Nebraska v. Miami (FL) Two old-school powerhouses going at it in afternoon primetime on ABC. I’ll be rooting for my childhood team. Go Huskers!
As the sun rises in the East, a caravan of Grayhack men will mount up to travel two long hours to Durham, North Carolina. Upon arrival, we will be meeting up with Blake Yocom and his band of merry men. Our exploits will be legendary and no doubt recorded by Master Yocom on the snapchat. They may not be appropriate for all ages, so hide yo kids hide yo wife, and then tune in.
Game Summary: This game is going to come down to how well Northwestern tackles on the outside, which means the Cats need big games out of the two linebackers not named Walker and their nickel back. I believe that they’ll get them. From what I’ve seen thus far, the Cats should be able to boss the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball and Justin Jackson should have a field day. Clayton just has to play turnover free football and be a threat in the run game. I think he will probably throw a pick or two and that could spell disaster for the Cats, however they have too much talent not to win this game.
Final score: NU 24 – Duke 12
Player to watch: Justin Jackson – He’s going to rush for 150 plus in this game and a score.
Play of the game: The F*cksaw trucks a Duke corner on his way into the endzone for Northwestern’s second score of the game.
Warrior to Watch: Warrior by Blood Timmy Grayhack will be attending his first college tailgate as a college student. I will be watching him so he is not arrested by the police.
Other Game to Watch: Jayceon Terrell Taylor aka The Game: What has Compton’s other rapper been up to lately?
The ‘Cats always do this to us. They always get hopes up only to squash them. They build us up, only to inevitably break us down. They prop us up, only to blow us over. They make us say the beer is half full but then it’s just a few suds. It’s their M.O., and it seemingly always has been. However, this is a typical ‘Cats fan’s thinking: this time (save for this game), the ‘Cats do something great. I’m excited for it. I’ll also probably bet on it so I’m hoping for something nice. Let’s get to the summary.
Game Summary: I don’t know how great we will start but I do think our first half will be a success. I know Duke’s QB is an elusive fella but we’ve got Anthony “Cakes” Walker to spy this cat and just disrupt the field. Look for him to have a huge game (one turnover for sure) and double digit tackles. When we win, he gets B1G D player of the week for the second time this year, #WalkerStrong. ‘Cats lead half, 14-10. That includes one of JJ’s TDs in ya face and a Thorson-orchestrated TD (throwing or running – this guy will take what he gets). Second half the ‘Cats get down early, 17-14 off a Duke TD from their QB Sirk (7 yard scramble). Mitchell splits the uprights two more times, once in the last 2 minutes and the ‘Cats prevail.
Final Score: NU 20 – Duke 17
Player to Watch: Dan “Dick” Vitale – can this guy catch anymore?
Play of the Game: ‘Cats secondary with a tip-drill interception early fourth quarter to stop the Duke drive.
Warrior to Watch: It’s gotta be Rusty Grayhack. First game attendance of the year IN enemy territory? This kid is gonna show them us Nerds of Northwestern can outsmart ’em, outplay ’em, and outdrink ’em (and out vampire ’em).
Other Game to Watch: I’m going to go VT – Purdue. I might put a C note on VT to cover the spread – that would be nice. Going to take the games in from Vegas – so I’ll have to see which ones tickle my fancy.
I’ve been saying since the beginning of the year that I thought Duke was a worse matchup for us than Stanford, which many thought was a crazy statement. Well, I stand by that and don’t feel good about this game. The ‘Cats are ranked and now have some pressure on them (although they are underdogs in this game), and this is Clayton “Bigsby” Thorson’s first game on the road. Stanford was a slow, plodding, methodical team – and our defense shut that puppy down. Duke is the opposite – high tempo, high octane, speedy – I’m talking some Vin Diesel and Paul Walker (RIP) shit. I think our defense has gotten some experience against this up-tempo style of play in practice, since our offense does tend to run the hurry-up, but this will be a different animal. Although our D has given up only a handful of yards and six total points on the year – we haven’t faced an offense of this caliber to this point. The Blue Devils have athletes at every position, and an experienced, dual threat quarterback. We can’t expect the same level of defensive dominance against Duke that we’ve seen through our first two games.
So that’s the D – how about the O? This is flat out a bad matchup for us. From what I’ve read, Duke’s biggest strength is their secondary. That doesn’t bode well for a freshman quarterback in his first road game. If Duke is smart, they will stack the box and challenge our wide receivers to beat them one on one on the outside. Guess what – we have 1.5 competent D1 wide receivers on the team, and they have issues getting separation. Our best chance of winning this game is to run, run and run some more – but if Duke plays this right they will take that away and make us beat them through the air. Clayton “Bigsby” Thorson hasn’t really had to play from behind yet, but I’m anticipating he’ll need to in this game. We’ll see how he holds up once the pressure is on against the Blue Devils. Overall, the ‘Cats have already exceeded expectations for the year, and it’s moments like this where the team likes to punch us in the gut.
Game Summary: I see a bad start for the ‘Cats, and a quick one for the Devils. Clayton “Bigsby” Thorson tosses his first career INT on the first drive, which the Blue Devils take back to the barn for a 7-0 lead. A three and out stall by the offense, a shanked punt, and a solid Duke drive later, we’re down 14-0. Now Thorson is down two touchdowns, on the road (although I’ve been in the Duke football stadium and it’s a joke) and will need to get away from our run-first game plan to bring us back. Fitz didn’t even let Thorson open it up against an FCS opponent, which tells me he doesn’t have faith in the kid gunning the ball. In the second, Clayton does complete a few passes, gets us within field goal range, and Mitchell drains one to take us into the half down 14-3. In the third, the ‘Cats come out of the gate pounding the ball, and Jackson breaks off a big one to get us back within four, 14-10. A turnover by the D gets us the ball in Duke territory, and Mitchell hits another to get us within one point. Then, the wheels fall off as Duke hits a huge pass play to increase their lead to 21-13. A botched snap leads to another turnover by the ‘Cats offense, and Duke cashes in to seal the game in the fourth. The Warriors drink. Fin.
Final Score: NU 13 – Duke 28
Player to Watch: Clayton “Bigsby” Thorson. Obviously my prediction above spells the whole story. First road game, freshman QB – how will he handle adversity? If he gets down on the road like I’m predicting, how will he respond?
Play of the Game: Justin “Action” Jackson breaks off a big 30 yard run for the TD. He’s due.
Warrior to Watch: Zak Bergman (WLW by proxy this weekend). Zak and I will be watching the Cubs of Chicago face the Cardinals of St. Louis at historic Wrigley field during the Duke game. We may or may not be able to watch the game on Watch ESPN within Wrigley – TBD. Regardless, we’ll be partying like med school is out for the summer. The ‘Cats tend to do well in games that I miss (a rare occasion, I might add), so hoping that mojo continues for this one.
Other Game to Watch: A new category add for this week – this space is meant for another important game that we’ll be keeping our eye on this weekend. This weekend it’s USC -Stanford. My sister, a USC student, and dad will be at this game. So, in summary, the Staffords will be watching two Stanford games this year. I’m torn on this one – USC’s got a legit chance at the playoff and I like my sister, but a Stanford win on Saturday would help the Cats tremendously. If Stanford and the ‘Cats both win on Saturday, the Warriors will be refreshing ESPN.com every secondSunday morning until the rankings come out. In that scenario, I can’t even predict where we’d be ranked, but it’d be pretty darn high.