Tomorrow’s game is at 6:15pm and night games are always tough ones for the Cats, including this season. Five Warriors think the Cats will win this one.
Andy has maintained a perfect record, but avoided making official predictions for Akron and Wisco. and Wisco. Roger & Hack have have been the best records for predictions made on all published games.
Onto the predictions….
Game Summary: Apathy is at an 18 year low. As I noted last week, the ‘Cats had a chance to take control of the West. Well, they did that and a lot more. We got some help with both Purdue and Iowa losing. Indianapolis is still a long ways out (it could become closer with an Iowa loss at Purdue this weekend), but it’s now officially there on the horizon.
This week’s game won’t have any impact on our beloved Rose’s pursuit to reach her final resting place in Pasadena at season’s end (side note: when NU next plays in the Rose Bowl the van is being towed out West for her last hurrah on the Rose Bowl grounds), but it is VERY significant for many reasons.
First, the Cats are playing a top 5 team at home under the lights with a lot of momentum and very little to lose. Truly, this game has no impact on NU’s ability to achieve their season’s goal(s) of getting to Indy and winning the B1G. My good friend Bags has informed me that ESPN still gives us a 39% chance of reaching the College Football Playoff if we win out (that includes wins against top 5 Notre Dame and Michigan as well as a conference title), but that seems like complete rubbish because this is still a team with 3 losses…. one of which was to Akron. So, there’s nothing to lose. That’s one hell of an opportunity that is not bestowed on every team.
Beyond that, this game is historically significant for the Northwestern football program. For those who follow the program (even from a distance), you know that Northwestern football has a metaphorical BC and AD.
Northwestern football BC was ugly. NU still holds the longest losing streak in FBS history at 34 games. Thankfully, few people acknowledge that because it was BC.
AD began on the afternoon of September 2, 1995 in South Bend when the ‘Cats walked right out of that shit hole in Northern Indiana with a victory over the #8 Irish despite the 27 point line. As the saying goes, the rest is history. Rose was born that Fall (literally… she’s a 95), the ‘Cats won at #7 Michigan, skunked Wisconsin 35-0, beat #12 Penn State in front of Keith Jackson and College Gameday and played in the Rose Bowl for the first time in half a century. Yours truly witnessed the last game firsthand that New Year’s Day. I was 8 years old. To this day, it’s still one of the most vivid memories I have.
Fast forward two decades and you have a Northwestern football program that is perennially competitive. In this time frame, NU has won 3 B1G championships, played in 13 bowl games (winning 3 of its last 4), posted 10 win seasons twice in the past 3 years and beat ND…. again…. in South Bend. In fact, Northwestern football AD has never lost to Notre Dame. All of that would have been absolutely unfathomable for Northwestern football BC. But none of that would have ever been possible without September 2, 1995.
So, when NU takes the field on Saturday night all bets are off.
To Notre Dame, this game is another one against a mediocre foe in their quest for the College Football Playoff.
To Fitz, and those who remember Northwestern football BC, this game is the culmination of everything that has changed in the last 23 years.
The Irish are coming to Ryan Field for the first time since 1976…. and they’re going to lose.
How’s it gonna happen?…….
ND is good, but I’m not really going out on a limb when I say they are probably the worst team to reach one of the top 4 spots in the College Football Playoff era. Their front 7 is better than their secondary. Their QB is good but not particularly mobile and prone to youthful mistakes. And, they have quality skill position players, but they aren’t track stars.
Does all that ring a bell? Well…. it should. Because it sounds a whole hell of a lot like Michigan State and Michigan put together. And if you haven’t been following along closely, let me give you an excerpt from my prediction for the MSU game…..
If we rewind to last Saturday for a second, there’s a very clear reason why NU was competitive in the game and had a chance to win in the 4th quarter – Michigan runs a conservative, pro-style offense with little regard for exploiting the opponent’s deficiencies (side bar: this is a large reason why I think Harbaugh is a fraud). Funny enough, Michigan State has been VERY similar for the past decade with this approach…. despite the fact that they’ve churned out reputable NFL QB’s left and right. I don’t expect them to be quite as conservative offensively as Michigan (see Lewerke torching NU’s defense last year in a losing effort), but they’ll be boring enough to keep this game close for no reason.
Well, if Jim Harbaugh is a fraud, then Brian Kelly is Hue Jackson. ND should win this game, but they don’t match up particularly well with Northwestern and they won’t find out how to exploit NU’s deficiencies until it’s too late.
Hartage Island is going to be a key to this one as the ‘Cats will get A LOT of pressure on Ian Book and stuff ND’s run game thanks to some isolated corners playing well.
Bad Thorson has played 2 weeks in a row now. Thankfully, it hasn’t mattered. I expect good Thorson to appear in this one and I’m looking for big games from the usual suspects (i.e. Nagel) as well as a Rondale Moore-like performance from Kyric McGowan.
The West Lot is going to be bumpin’ like it’s 1995.
Game Score: NU 34 ND 24
Play of the Game: Mick runs a speed option for the first time all season. This time, Riley Lees is playing QB. He hits the second level and pitches to Kyric McGowan for a 50+ yard TD.
Player to Watch: Kyric McGowan – just got a feeling here… this kid can run.
Warrior to Watch: The whole crew…. it’s gonna be one merry afternoon in the West Lot.
Other Game to Watch: Iowa @ Purdue. It cannot be anything else (I don’t care about Alabama vs LSU). If Purdue wins, NU can go 2 for 3 down the stretch and still reach the B1G Championship Game.
Game Summary: The ‘Cats are all of a sudden in the driver’s seat in the B1G West. It’s hard to believe that after a 1-3 start which included a loss to Akron, we’re now 5-3 and in control of our own destiny. Northwestern smothered Wisconsin last weekend, amazingly rushing for more yards than the Badgers.
Now, it’s on to Notre Dame. We’ve had this game circled on our calendars for years. I remember when they announced a four game home and home (and home and home) series between the ‘Cats and the Domers, and Notre Dame backed out to shorten it to two…after we’d played the first game of the series and beaten them in South Bend. In 2014 many of the Warriors made the trek to Indiana and witnessed one of the greatest games of our lives.
After the ‘Cats trailed by 11 late in the fourth quarter, I remember walking to the exit with my head held high, knowing the ‘Cats had played hard and avoided embarrassment at the hands of the Irish. But, as I started down the tunnel out of the stadium, a strange sort of hushed cry rang out from the stands – something big had happened and it didn’t sound like it was good for Notre Dame. Turning around, I approached a security guard on the side to ask what had occurred. Before he could finish his sentence, I’d started sprinting back towards my spot in the stands where most of the Warriors still drunkenly stood strong. Notre Dame had fumbled, the Wildcats had recovered, and all of a sudden we were back from the dead.
Trevor Siemian, yes Trevor Siemian, got himself drafted to the NFL that freezing afternoon in South Bend as he led the ‘Cats down the field, hit Kyle Prater with some clutch passes and set us up in field goal range. Jack Mitchell, yes Jack Mitchell, made a clutch kick to take the game to OT. Notre Dame missed a FG in OT, Mitchell drained another kick, and all of a sudden we had a wildly improbably 43-40 victory on our hands.
I’ve always disliked Notre Dame, and the behavior of their fans at that game certainly didn’t help their case. It was one of the most satisfying feelings ever to walk out of there with a victory. Since then, they canceled two of the other planned games in our series, but…they weren’t able to cancel this one. We went to their house, now they have to come to ours this weekend.
The football gods did us a favor and made this a night game, meaning the West Lot will be out of control. This is our Super Bowl. But we have nothing to lose.
Typically Northwestern fans get severely outnumbered at Ryan Field by any large opposing fanbase. I expect the crowd to be in our favor for this game. For once, this will feel like a home game for us. Fitz will have the team fired up and ready to play – he hates Notre Dame.
The ‘Cats seem to have found a running game with freshman RB Isaiah Bowser, who adds balance to the offense and takes some of the pressure off of Thorson. If Thorson can avoid mistakes (he threw three picks last week and we still won pretty easily) the ‘Cats should be able to get enough done on offense. I expect the defense to show up in a big way and force a few turnovers off ND. Fitz will pull out a trick play at some point.
I’m seeing this as a tight game throughout, with the ‘Cats getting the ball back late with a chance to win. Thorson leads us down the field, and Luckenbaugh hits a short FG as the ‘Cats pull out the win and the crowd…goes….wild.
Game Score: ‘Cats 24 – ND 21
Play of the Game: Montre Hartage pick six.
Player to Watch: Isaiah Bowser. Against Wisconsin he was able to churn out 3-4 yards a pop, which helped set us up for third and short. That gave McCall the option to either run or pass or third down, and kept the defense guessing. Let’s hope Bowser can do the same against ND.
Warrior to Watch: Doc Roche is in town!
Other Game to Watch: While we play a meaningless non-conference game, Iowa heads to Purdue in an important B1G West matchup. Should Purdue pull that game out…the ‘Cats are in good shape. Go Boilermakers!
Game Summary: What kind of Kool-Aid you guys drinking? I love the ‘Cats as much as the next guy, but c’mon. Northwestern beat an injury-riddled Wisconsin team – a Badger squad that gifted the game with all those turnovers. Meanwhile, Northwestern played well enough to win. But they still have a lot of questions on offense (which Clayton is going to showup? How will Bowser do against a much better ND front?). They held Wisconsin to 17 points, but last time I checked Ian Book is much better than Jack Coan, and he’s got more options.
Northwestern is the favorite to win the B1G West. But they ain’t gonna beat the Fightin’ Irish.
(I also want to re-remind everyone how awful of a game they played against Rutgers two weeks back. I don’t trust the ‘Cats to put up the complete performance needed to beat Notre Dame)
Game Score: ND 31 – NU 20
Play of the Game: All the ridiculous kickoffs that’ll happen with our injured kickers.
Player to Watch: Which Thorson will show up?
Warrior to Watch: Really looking forward to being in the West Lot with you guys again.
Other Game to Watch: Iowa – Purdue.
Game Summary: Guys… I’m just excited. Night game. Top 5 opponent. Drivers seat in B1G West. This is gonna be a tailgate for the ages. I think the energy will be electric and the ‘Cats will feed off it. The defense is really humming right now. Clayton hasn’t looked good… but neither did TD Trev in 2014 and then he came out and threw a gem. I’m too excited for us to pick anything but a ‘Cats W. It’s a close one but ‘Cats pull away in the 4th.
Game Score: ‘Cats 31 – ND 28
Play of the Game: The Flyin’ Hawaiian, Chad Hanaoka scores his first career TD on a check-down in the red zone. 🤙🤙🤙
Player to Watch: Clayton, need a bug one here buddy.
Warrior to Watch: ROCHE NO DOUBT!
Other Game to Watch: Boiler Up baby.
Game Summary: Here we go the Notre Dame Fighting Irish come to Evanston to face the red-hot Cats under the lights. Notre Dame’s worst game of the year so far was against a mediocre to bad Pitt team that held them to 19 points. Pittsburgh is coached by a collection of Big Ten veterans led by former Michigan State D coordinator Pat “The Nard Dog” Narducci and his defensive coordinator of that team was none other than former Cats linebackers coach Randy Bates.
My takeaway is this team is beatable if you don’t turn the ball over and can get pressure on Ian Book who is prone to stupidity. I think the defense will show up because Notre Dame’s o line is not that great and their skill guys are good, but not speedsters. This game comes down to Clayton, who despite his inconsistencies is pretty good when Mick Mccall gives him the keys to the O. I think he can score 3 touchdowns against this Irish D, probably all in the first quarter(jk lol). Will it be enough to win? Signs point to yes
Game Score: NU 21 – ND 19
Play of the Game: Greg Newsome blocks an extra point in the second quarter
Player to Watch: Montre Hartage – Can he shut down Boykin
Warrior to Watch: Roger – He loves Notre Dame almost as much as he loves Donald Trump
Other Game to Watch: Iowa – Purdue – Boiler Up MOTHERF*CKERS
Game Summary: It doesn’t seem like four years ago when the warriors traveled out in style to South Bend to witness one of the greatest fourth quarter comebacks (complete coaching failures) in Northwestern history. Saturday is setting itself up for a déjà vu as the Cats are under the lights against #4 Notre Dame on ESPN. While all the nation’s eyes may start out on the Bama/LSU game, if my prediction is right, they’ll be flipping to the game in Evanston by halftime (Bama will be up 17 at that point).
NU will need to keep the pressure on the ND offense with perfection coverage and tackling this game. ND is not as good as their ranking (just look at their nail-biters against Vandy, Pitt, and BALL STATE), but they’ve got confidence and they want to avenge their home loss from four years ago. The first half will be a big defensive battle and both teams will get a TD with ND also gettting a FG for a halftime score of 10-7 Domers.
NU will come out of the gates in Q3 and get a touchdown on a nice 7 yard run by Bowser after a great 25 yard sideline catch from Nagel. ND will answer back with a TD in the 4th (17-14) and heartrates will be elevated at Ryan Field as the Cats have to line up for a 40 yard FG to tie the game with less than a minute remaining. Koobs (in for Luckenbaugh) drills it sending the Cats into OT where they force a fumble on a sack and leave it up to the offense to get a score. After genius Mick McCall runs the ball up the middle three straight times we only get 5 yards, leaving the 37 yard kick up to the injured kicker. He drills is. Pandemonium in Evanston.
Game Score: NU 20 – ND 17 (OT)
Play of the Game: 37 yard FG to win the game in OT by Koobs
Player to Watch: Bowser – we’re going to need to have a great ground assault for this one. The defensive secondary is close second.
Warrior to Watch: The Whole Squad This Week. MNUGA!!!
Other Game to Watch: Let’s be real – Bama / LSU is the pick here.
Game Summary: Wishing for a cats victory is certainly what we are all doing. Alas, I think we fall short – similar to how the OSU game from ‘13 went down. Looks like we could win but we don’t.
Game Score: ND 27 – NU 21
Play of the Game: Bowser runs over an ND LB on way to a big 3rd down conversion early in the game.
Warrior to Watch: Andy and Roche
Other Game to Watch: Purdue/Iowa