This is the best week of the year. The start of the football season is something that brings the Warriors a lot of joy. Summer brings along a high with the beautiful weather, but a low in terms of sports watchability. Fall is our last gasp at warmth outside but our intro into the meat of the sports calendar. I’ve been thinking about the start of NU’s season since early Spring, dreaming of the day when it would be appropriate for me to write this post. So, here goes.
Northwestern football has experienced a golden era in the past 10 years. Golden for us is a few 10 win seasons and mid level bowl victories, sprinkled in with some 5-7 down years. But, with amazing new facilities there is forward momentum and a palpable excitement around the program. The 2018 schedule is fantastic, especially at home. It’s also brutally difficult. We may be better than last year but still end up with a much worse record. The ‘Cats will be underdogs in at least half of our games, but we do typically perform better in that role.
I could see this season going one of two ways, and it all comes down to our early season games to set the tone:
Path one: We lose to Purdue and Duke early, implode against Wisco and Michigan and miss out on a bowl at 4-8 or 5-7.
Path two: We come up clutch against Purdue and Duke, get into a groove and compete with the big dogs at home throughout the season, stealing one or two games and finishing at 7-5 or 8-4.
I’m leaning towards the latter because I’m a glass-half-full kind of guy. I also think our team will be better than last year…if Clayton Thorson is healthy and able to play. Early signs from training camp are pointing to him being ready for Purdue, but we still don’t have the full picture.
I have my doubts. When Persa had been injured in the offseason we heard a similar hype train leading into September (#PersaStrong) but he wasn’t able to play for the first few games of the year. We’ll wait and see – if we do want to compete with the Badgers and Wolverines of the world we’ll need Thorson to be healthy.
Thorson aside, the pieces are there for the rest of the offense to be decent. I actually think our O line will be pretty good. I weirdly feel great about our running backs, even with the loss of Justin Jackson The Ball Carrier. Jeremy Larkin seems ready to take the reins, and watch out for true freshman Isaiah Bowser. He has a great name and is already one of my favorites. I mean, just check out this photo.
WR will be a wildcard position – I think Skowronek will have a nice year and look out for slot receiver Riley Lees who played sneaky well last year in limited action. Flynn Nagel could also take a step forward.
On the other side of the ball, our defense should be very good. Paddy Fisher is an absolute beast – he broke onto the scene last year and will improve with a year under his belt. Fisher plus a very solid D line has gotten me optimistic about our run defense. That’s going to be critical to our success this year, since none of the QBs we will face are too intimidating (supposedly Michigan’s Shea Patterson is fantastic but I’ll believe it when I see it). If our D line can get to the QB, we may also be able to cover up some holes in the secondary.
All in all, I feel great about our team this year and about the health of this program. I’d much rather have the schedule we do than be playing a cupcake laden lineup. We’re playing 11 Power Five opponents this year when most SEC schools are only playing nine. I’d rather go down fighting in a blaze of glory against Michigan than beat up on Bowling Green. Ryan Field will be hyped up in 2018, and the West Lot will be bumping. Come join us.
Regardless of everything I’ve outlined above, the beauty of this season is that it will be a resounding success if just one thing happens. Beat Notre Dame!