Even though Vegas doesn’t think so with the line at +7.5, the Warriors (mostly) believe. Cats all around with the exception of the Doctor!
After everyone picked the ‘Cats last week (and they won), here are the season pick standings to-date.
First week Northwestern hasn’t been unanimous since Duke. Let’s see if the ‘Cats are able to keep the streak going, and raise the W flag over the Big House.
The ‘Cats opened as 12 point underdogs in this game, which is one of the worst gambling lines I’ve seen in a long time. Northwestern and Michigan have the two best statistical defenses in the country right now – so it’s not a given that there will be 12 points scored in this game. Northwestern has the attention of the national sports media right now – this is a put up or shut up game.
Yup, it’s a big one – probably the toughest game left on our schedule (but not the most important, with Iowa coming to town next week). Michigan is a mirror image of the ‘Cats – a team with a lockdown defense led by their defensive line and secondary units. They have a strong running game and a game manager quarterback. In my mind there are two keys to this game. A. Which team will be able to run the ball most effectively? B. Which team will win the turnover battle? If we can do both, we can pull this one out.
Game Summary: Northwestern gets out to a slow start as the Wolverines get the ball first on offense, and are able to run the ball effectively and move methodically down the field. Jake Rudock pulls out a play action fake from the 15 yard line, and hits his TE for a score to take a 7-0 lead. The ‘Cats get the ball back, run Justin Jackson straight into the line three straight times and punt. From there, the defense picks up for the ‘Cats, and stops the Michigan attack. I’m not very scared of Jake Rudock, but I’m concerned about Michigan running the ball on us. We need Cakes Walker to step up big time in this game, to seal gaps and get in the backfield.
This game turns on the first play of the second quarter, as Pick VanHoose steps in front of a Rudock pass and takes the ball back to the 10 yard line. Bigsby Thorson throws a bullet to Vitale to tie the game at 7. Another FG late in the half after a Michigan fumble gives Northwestern a 10-7 lead. In the third – it’s more of the same and a lot of punting. The ‘Cats and Wolverines trade field goals, and we’re 13-10 entering the fourth. Michigan busts a huge 50 yard run for a TD to take the lead, and Fitz absolutely loses his mood on the sidelines, going full “Harbaugh.”
With the ball back in Thorson’s hands, and the Big House roaring, our freshman QB calmly leads a drive down the field. Quick throws, no huddle, a few first downs, and we’re within Wolverine territory. Thorson sets up a screen pass to JJ, who follows blockers down the sideline and into the end zone to take back the lead. Cakes Walker subsequently picks off a Rudock pass with two minutes to go, and ‘Cats win in a high scoring “Big Ten shootout” 20-17.
Game Score: 20-17 NU
Play of the Game: Cakes Walker with a pick to seal the victory.
Player to Watch: Anthony Walker. It’s games like these where our stars need to look like superstars. It’s time for the Padawan to become a Jedi Master.
Warrior to Watch: Doc Roche. He’s doing a shot for every point scored in this one. If the score goes as high as I’m predicting, patients better watch out.
Let’s do a quick world history lesson before we get into the details of the game.
In 1812, Napoleon got his ass waxed by the Russians. Why? Well, most historians attribute this to his invading Russia late in the summer and not being adequately prepared for the impending Russian winter.
Fast forward 130 years. Hitler and the Nazis neglected to use the aforementioned history lesson to their benefit. The Nazis subsequently froze their asses off on the Russian tundra. The result? An all too similar defeat (yay for the sake of the world!) at the Battle of Stalingrad.
History repeats itself.
So… Here we are. Heading into Week 6 and the ‘Cats are undefeated. We are nationally ranked, but the prognosticators are almost unanimous in taking Michigan this weekend. We’ve been here before. Let’s hop in the DeLorean and go back to 1995 (note: there’s something to this whole Back to the Future thing right now).
The ‘Cats had upset Notre Dame to open the season. After demolishing Indiana in week 5, the ‘Cats were nationally ranked and headed to the Big House for a week 6 showdown. All of the prognosticators took Michigan in this one. What transpired was a 19-13 ‘Cats win anchored by a defensive performance for the ages.
History repeats itself.
Game Summary: This is going to be a defensive slug fest. The question is which offense has more success in making incremental gains and avoiding turnovers. My eyes will be glued to both lines during the first quarter. Will the ‘Cats be able to get any push on the O Line? Will our interior D linemen be able to plug holes and win the point of attack? The answers to those questions will go a long way in determining the outcome.
I expect each team to play this one pretty conservatively through the first half. Each QB has had his fair share of struggles and neither Harbaugh or Fitz want to lose this game with early turnovers. Field position will be key as will the special teams units.
6-6 at the half.
Michigan will get a TD in the 3rd to go up 13-6. Eventually, the ‘Cats are going to have to open it up…. at least a bit. We’ll make our way down the field methodically after Michigan takes the lead, but we’ll be forced to settle for our third FG of the day – continuing our red zone struggles.
13-9 Michigan going into the 4th.Here’s where it gets fun and where fate takes over. The ‘Cats will be driving early in the 4th down 4. Nearing the goal line, we’re all thinking the same thing…. Not again. How are we going to finally punch it in? Well, Mick’s going to make a call for the ages here with a special someone looking down on us (RIP 46 – Forever a Wildcat). Matt Frazier is going line up on the end of the line and report as eligible on third and goal. He’ll delay a route off the line and catch a misdirection TD throw from Thorson.
‘Cats take the lead 16-13.
The defense takes over from there with Igwibuike, Lowry and Walker playing like they’re possessed. We’ll add a chip shot field goal late and hang on for the win.
Game Score: 19-13 Uh huh, you know what it is……… all we do is win.
Play of the Game: With the ‘Cats down 4 in the 4th quarter facing a third and goal, Mick calls one for the ages and Matt Frazier catches a TD pass.
Player to Watch: This is still reserved for F*cksaw Thorson (and Mick) until further notice…. especially this weekend. Mick needs to get creative here with the playbook, while still encouraging Clayton to play within himself. Michigan is going to stack the box and leave their DBs on islands, so this is your time to earn your salary Mick. On the other side of the ball, this is all about the interior linemen. Watch to see if they can stuff the run consistently.
Warrior to Watch: Paul. He’ll be there. The Warriors have attended every game this year (thanks for suffering through the heat in Durham, Grayhack). The streak continues, so the wins continue. Look for Paul to nae nae his way right out of the Big House with a W.
Other Game to Watch: Wisconsin @ Nebraska. Can Nebraska get a much needed win and put Wisconsin at 0-2 in conference? If so, next week’s showdown in Evanston between NU and Iowa will have serious implications. Also, don’t fall asleep before the USA v Mexico Confederations Cup Playoff Game (8:30 CST on FS1). The national team will be testing out the grounds at The Rose Bowl and reporting back to the ‘Cats.
Who’s ready for some fun? All of the analysts have jumped aboard the Michigan train. A quote I’ve heard at least five times is “in the last four games.” In 2015 everyone has become a statistician – and they have become really bad ones. Lets take a look at a few numbers shall we:
Rushing Defense (yards/game) rank of Utah: 41
Rushing Defense (yards/game) rank of Michigan’s last for opponents: 83, 95, 71, 103
People are blown away at how good Michigan’s run game has looked since the Utah game. Seems to make sense to me, the teams they’ve played have been below average to awful. Northwestern comes in at 25. This is going to be the best rush defense (and defense in general) that Michigan has faced. Let’s see if this “amazing” run game can handle a real defense.
Now let’s look at the other side of the ball, and compare the offenses NU and Michigan have played against:
Total Offense (yards/game) rank of NU’s opponents: 31, 63, 62, 112 (excluding EIU as they are FCS)
Total Offense rank (yards/game) of Michigan’s opponents: 76, 111, 87, 81, 114
Northwestern has played mostly average to above average offenses and managed the level of defense we’ve seen so far. Michigan on the other hand has ONLY played below average offensive opponents (Utah is 76?!) and so I find their defensive success only somewhat impressive. As an FYI, Michigan and Northwestern’s total offensive ranks are 77 and 79th respectively.
Last stat, turnover margin. I’ll just leave this here:
I think the defense will struggle at times but will bend and not break and hold Michigan to only one TD. I think our offense continues to progress slightly and marches down the field for a pair of TDs. A nail-biter, but the ‘Cats come out on top.
Score: NU 20 – Michigan 13
Play of the Game: A Matt Harris interception to seal it with 1:20 left in the game
Player to Watch: Still obviously Clayton Thorson. He was atrocious on the road at Duke in a much less hostile environment. Will he continue to look improved this week or will he take a step back?
Warrior to Watch: Not sure this has ever been done before, but I’m going to say me. I’m watching the game with a collection of NU and Michigan co-workers and I might kill myself if we embarrass ourselves. If we embarrass Michigan, I’ll also probably be drunker than I’ve been at 3pm in a long, long time.
Ahh – the B1G Matchup Of The Week at the Big House. No, not that Big House – though it does have a big, big, yard – where you can play football (and football they will play). The national media this week is heavily favoring Michigan. I heard a stat that gave them a 75% chance of winning (but as we know, stats are for LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOSERS!). I also agree with Andy, it’s annoying that people reference all Michigan triumphs and stats “in their last four games”. Well, when they’ve only played 5, you shouldn’t discount that first game (especially since they played a good team, it was a close game, there hasn’t been a big QB change – so nothing dramatic has happened). Let’s get down to the game summary. I will say this: I think the ‘Cats will use the lack of respect from the national media to come out swinging and fired up – which is huge because I’d like to see a lot of these from Harbaugh.
Game Summary:‘Cats come out with a vengeance. Big stop on Michigan’s first drive and the ‘Cats receive the punt. We are going to try and run – we are going to successfully run on the first drive. However, red zone struggles ensue and Mitchell gets us on the board 3-0. Michigan gets the ball and calms down a little bit but ‘Cats bend but don’t break, 3-3 end of first quarter. ‘Cats continue to establish the run and on a play action pass mid 2nd quarter, Thorson zings one for a TD. Michigan answers before half and we go in 10-10.
I don’t know what was said, and I don’t really care, but the ‘Cats come out strong AF in the second half. I’m talking some tenacious D. and some sweet offense. Michigan is stumped. Michigan fans are sad. ‘Cats take over and don’t look back. I want to be bold with this prediction – and finally maybe the ‘Cats get some love.
Game Score: NU 23, Michigan 10 — You can put it on the board, yes!
Play of the Game: Anthony ‘Cakes’ Walker with a big fumble recovery in the second half after the ‘Cats have taken the lead, giving us a short field en route to a scoring drive.
Player to Watch: Clayton ‘Bigsby’ Thorson – on the road in the large aforementioned dwelling, this guy will need to play within himself, not make mistakes, and make the smart play. Big day for his confidence – whether it helps or hurts it.
Warrior to Watch: Pauly ‘D’ Huettner – the kid is going into the game gunz blazin and hell, it may be a bold strategy, Cotton but ya know what, I think it will pay off for him. Go ‘Cats! We will all be eyes glued to the tube come 2:30 CST.
Other Game to Watch: I’ll be at Iowa so let’s say Iowa-Illinois. Time to get a little funky during their game and watch and cheer the ‘Cats from an Iowa watering hole.
Game Summary: Run game is going to dominate the first half as both teams seek to prevent turnovers. NU’s D is going to show right off the bat why they are considered one of the top squads in the country and U_’s D is going to leave people thinking “Why the hell were these guys ever considered one of the top squads in the country?!”. JJ puts together some good runs while the Fucksaw makes some decent short passes to keep NU moving down the field. NU comes away with a FG and TD in the first half while holding the boys in blue to just one FG (they miss a 2nd). Fitz leads the guys into the locker room at halftime up 10-3.
Spirits couldn’t be higher in Section 9 of the Big House.The third quarter is rather dull but ends on a high note for the Wolverines. After trading punts back-to-back-to-back-to-back the Cats give up a FG, but have linked together a strong drive down the field. With a 3rd and long in the redzone, Thorson throws a disastrous pick six which is returned for 96 yards to the house. The Big House is vibrating beneath our feet and the Cardiac Cats strike again….literally – an NU fan is stretchered out from the stands after suffering a mild heart attack. The fan refuses to get in an ambulance opting instead for a few hits from the defibrillator and returns to the stands. He makes a full recovery. With the Gatos down 13-10 the defenses are in lock down mode and the clock continues to wind down.
For those watching at home with the double TVs on watching the Cubs game too, it’s about to get good. The NU D finally makes a tremendous play with a pick with the Wolves threatening in NU territory. On the very next play Thorson lines up and hands off to JJ…NO WAIT…it’s a play action and he has Christian Jones down the sideline. They connect and it’s a TOUCHDOWN CATS for 65 yards!! At the same time over on TBS Kris Bryant has just gone yard putting the Cubbies up 4-2. The D locks down the rest of the game and the Cats win 17-13.
Game Score: NU 17, _ichigan 13
Play of the Game: Rookie Clayton “Bigsby” Thorson goes deep in the 4th quarter connecting with Christian Jones while fellow rookie Kris Bryant simultaneously tees off on his second at bat homering to deep center. Can you say YABOS all around?!?
Players to Watch: The O line. These guys are going to have to step it up if JJ is going to hit the holes and Bigsby is going to have time to throw. The trenches are going to be where this game is won or lost.
Warrior to Watch: Me. Gotta come out with a win for my own sanity/liver health.
Other Game to Watch: Cubs v. Cardinals NLDS Game 2 – Dexter Fowler will be seeing the first pitch at 5:37 ET down in St. Louis as the Cubs hopefully take 1 of 2. Yours truly is going to be in the bleachers on Monday for another Arietta gem. Plus it’s a banking holiday so no work for this guy.
Let me just get this out here. I love Jim Harbaugh. He is crazy, brash, controversial and a damn good football coach. He will turn Michigan into a powerhouse again soon, but he will not win this day. Everyone and their mother is rushing to jump on the Michigan bandwagon, and the pundits have followed with near unanimous selection of the Wolverines to win this game. In the words of the poet Taylor Swift, The haters are going to hate hate hate, but (the Cats) are going to shake shake shake. Shake it off.
Sidebar: I know the dancing sideline would normally not travel to an away game, but the energy that they’ve been bringing is tremendous, so lets hope they can kick a few boosters off the plane to make room for the best dancers in the country.
Game Summary: Michigan has not seen a defense like Northwestern’s yet this year and their introduction to the Cats brand of smash mouth defense will not go well. The Wolverines gain 17 total yards of offense in the fist half as Northwestern rides a Justin Jackson touchdown to a halftime lead. With the offense sputtering, Michigan makes a change at qb. The first drive of the second half appears to be a change in fortune for Blue until one of their 3 “co-backups” hits Matthew Harris in stride for a pick six. Game Over…
Game Score: NU 21, Michigan 6
Play of the Game: Matthew Harris picks off a slant and takes it to the house.
Player to Watch: Justin Jackson – Can he carry the Cats to victory over the fighting Jims?
Warrior to Watch: Paul Huettner: Paul is returning to the scene of possibly the worst defensive play that I’ve ever seen in Northwestern’s history. Can he reverse our fortunes?
Other Game to Watch: Cubs vs Cardinals, because this is the year. USA vs Mexico for the Confederations Cup. These arch rivals face off with a trip to Russia on the line(This is a prize trust me.) The prediction here is Dos a Cero.
Look – am I picking against the ‘Cats because I feel like I might reverse-jinx them somehow? Yeah. I am. But I’m a Northwestern fan. And I can’t have nice things. I think they’re a better team than Michigan. But the ‘Cats are playing in the Big House, with a freshman QB. I dunno. ‘Go ‘Cats?
Also I delivered 3 babies before lunch today I LITERALLY BROUGHT THREE LIVES INTO THE WORLD THIS MORNING WHAT DID YOU DO TODAY?
Game Summary: SO MANY PUNTS. PUNTS EVERYWHERE. SHIELD YOUR EYES LADIES AND GENTLEMEN.3-3 at halftime. ‘Cats take a 3rd quarter lead with a Miles Shuler punt return TD. Offenses continue to stall until early in the 4th quarter, where Michigan breaks off a long run for a TD. Michigan seals the win with a FG as time expires. We all have a sad.
Game Score: Michigan 13- ‘Cats 10
Play of the Game: Miles Shuler with a punt return TD
Player to Watch: I want to say ‘Bigsby’ Thorson, because obvi. But I also want to say ‘Cakes Walker. I want to see him control the middle and force Rudock to make some mistakes.
Warrior to Watch: Huettner. He’s gonna be there. I look forward to his live-tweet of the Big House.
Other Game to Watch: Again, Penn State game. Who are they playing this week? Indiana. Every week I hate watch Penn State games. Everyone in Central PA hates James Franklin more and more each day