The ‘Cats enter this weekend at 5-1 in the Big Ten, needing two victories out of the next three games to win the West. First up this weekend is a matchup with Iowa at Kinnick Stadium, and the Warriors are split on the outcome.
Here are our records on the season thus far:
On to the picks…
Game Summary: I visited Kinnick Stadium back in 2014 and watched the ‘Cats get obliterated 48-7 the day after Halloween. It’s a very tough place to play, and the Hawkeyes are planning a ‘blackout’ game for our matchup on Saturday.
The Hawkeyes are coming off the wrong end of two incredibly close losses that could have gone either way. They need this game to keep any hope alive for a B1G West championship. The ‘Cats don’t necessarily need this game, as we could still beat Minnesota and Illinois in our last two games to make it to Indy.
As well as the ‘Cats have played on the road this year (3-0!), I don’t see this game going well. When we played on the road at MSU, Vegas had us as 11 point dogs. That line made sense as we were coming off back to back losses against Duke and Akron at home. Now, as the ‘Cats sit at 5-1 in the B1G, it makes a lot less sense to have us as 10 point dogs against an Iowa team that is 3-3 and has struggled of late. Setting a double digit line here means that Vegas is trying to push the uneducated public to bet on Northwestern, knowing that the sharp money will be all over Iowa. That’s a bad sign that we’re going to get destroyed, and the sharps in Vegas know it.
Now the ‘Cats have a habit of performing well as underdogs, and zigging when people think we’re going to zag, but I don’t think that happens on Saturday. I think our offense will struggle mightily against the Iowa D, and they’ll build a lead that will turn us one-dimensional. Thorson will throw a few picks, and the ‘Cats can’t ever climb out of the hole.
Game Score: NU 10 – Iowa 30
Play of the Game: In what has become an awesome tradition, Fitz and the Northwestern student-athletes will participate in the ‘Iowa wave’ to sick kids at the children’s hospital next to Kinnick Stadium at the end of the first quarter.
Player to Watch: Our secondary took a beating last week with some key injuries. Need some of our young-uns to step up. Is Greg Newsome healthy?
Warrior to Watch: Andy Day. He’s got the rewards points geared up and ready to go for a potential trip in Q4 2018. And maybe another in Q1 2019!?
Other Game to Watch: Wisconsin @ Penn State. This 11am game will be a nice appetizer for the Warriors on Saturday. If Wisco goes down in Beaver Stadium, the ‘Cats odds for Indy will look even brighter.
Game Summary: Apathy is still very low. And it will be next week even if we lose on Saturday. That said, Clayton may give us reason for apathy to reach an all time high against Illinois in our final game of the year (and not because we’ve clinched the West… because Purdue or Wisconsin has essentially clinched the West). Simply put, Clayton has been awful for that vast majority of the year. You’re kidding yourself if you think otherwise. In fact, he was awful his entire freshman year as well. Last year, he was a middling B1G QB at best. While he was above average during the back half of his sophomore year, we shouldn’t forget that he was atrocious (see a 9-7 loss to Illinois State) for the first part of that season. Sounds like quite the NFL prospect.
Thankfully, NU has found a way to win division games this year in spite of Clayton. We have a good defense.
I watched some of our offensive film from the ND game. It was eerily similar to the Michigan game. Essentially, ND’s ends would pin their ears back and force Clayton to run for his life even with 7 in coverage. The result isn’t pretty when that happens. Clayton is about as mobile as Tom Brady (which doesn’t help), but our receivers struggle to get separation with 7 in coverage so they aren’t doing him any favors. While Clayton made some horrific throws (I see you Cam Green), he also didn’t have many opportunities to advance the ball even with good throws. Nobody was open.
I think Iowa’s D line will have similar success in this one. If the Cats can’t stop the 4 man rush then I don’t see how NU will have any sustained offensive success.
One might say that our defense can win this game even without sustained offensive success. Maybe. But, we’d be banking on either a) Our depleted secondary to play well b) Kirk Ferentz to not take advantage of our depleted secondary or c) Nate Stanley to suck.
Hmmm….. all of those are actually quite possible independently. I’d say in order of likelihood, it goes B, C, A. Ferentz is Iowa’s version of Fitz. You think Fitz would adjust his offense to attack the other team’s defensive deficiency? Me neither.
Cats win a close one because it’s that kind of year.
Game Score: NU 21 – Iowa 19
Play of the Game: Iowa scores a TD to cut NU’s lead to 2 with less than 2 minutes remaining. Going for 2 to attempt to tie the game, Nate Stanley is sacked by Joe Gaziano.
Player to Watch: Thorson and the O Line. If the O Line forces Iowa to rush more than 4 to get to Clayton and if Clayton actually gets his act together then I’m very optimistic about this.
Warrior to Watch: AdayNU. The game is at 12:30 PST. That’s a lot better than the 9:00 am affairs he has had to suffer through on our recent road trips.
Other Game to Watch: Wisconsin @ Penn State. Brad (as Rus likes to call Alex Hornibrook) won’t be playing this week. A Wisconsin loss here and a win against Purdue next week really sets up NU to fall flat on their face and still make the B1G Championship Game.
Game Summary: This seems like a typical Northwestern loss for me. Hopes are high, confidence is up, perfect time to get blown out. I’m not falling for it ‘Cats… I wasn’t born yesterday. ‘Cats come out flat, Iowa does not. We lose. I’d love to be wrong. Please prove me wrong. PLEASE.
Game Score: Iowa 35 – NU 17
Play of the Game: Garbage time points baby.
Player to Watch: Clayton. Clayton. Clayton.
Warrior to Watch: Gonna go with Paul. Why not.
Other Game to Watch: OSU vs MSU, should be fun
Game Summary: Always fun to travel to Iowa City where the crowd is loud and regularly proves they have the ability to spell 4 letter words. Its been an exciting week for Iowa as the state prepared to welcome home its prodigal son, Mr. Blake Yocom, and earlier this week a former Iowa football player was appointed acting Attorney General. as most of our eighteen readers know Pat Fitzgerald hates Iowa because they broke his ankle on a cheap play and prevented him from playing the Rose Bowl and most likely breaking Keyshawn Johnson’s jaw. Northwestern always gets up for Iowa and this game tens to be a good one. Iowa and its fans are continually shocked by this despite the fact that the Cats have won 7 of twelve games under Fitz against them. Enough color time for the game, as we saw last week, Northwestern struggles against mobile quarterbacks, who are accurate passers, but fortunately for the Cats Nate Stanley has the mobility of Rose, our beloved Van with a completion percentage below 60 percent. As for Iowa’s rushing attack, they rotate a steady dose of three mediocre backs, who the Cats linebackers should take care of. The worrying matchup is Iowa’s tight ends and wide receivers against a banged-up secondary. Can the Cats bounce back against the best group Iowa’s ever had including likely first-rounder Noah Fant. On the other side of the ball, Iowa is strong against the run, which may limit the reptilian runner, Mr. Bowser. Their linebackers are described as quite mediocre by their own fans, so maybe he can find some running room, but I wouldn’t count on it. Once again it looks like this game may come down to Mr. Thorson. Clayton needs to have a good game if the Cats are to emerge as victors. Luckily for him, Iowa is starting a couple of Freshman at cornerback. These fellows spent most of the last game chasing Purdue wide receivers as the caught deep balls. Clayton has some issues with the deep ball, so I doubt that will happen this week but if he hits underneath targets, and doesn’t turn the ball over, Iowa should struggle to score. I think the Cats win this one in a tight one because I think Clayton will make more plays and or fewer mistakes than Nate Stanley.
Game Score: Cats-17 Iowa -14
Play of the Game: Jake Collins lips the field position battle with a 84-yard punt downed at the Iowa 2 yard line
Player to Watch: Travis Willock-Iowa’s tight ends are the best players on the team. Can the other Katy kid shut them down?
Warrior to Watch: Paul- He’ll be at Lindey’s in New York City. What does he want? Purple shots!!!
Other Game to Watch: Bears vs Lions – Tim Grayhack is a Lions fan, so this one matters in the Hack household
Game Summary: I actually think the ‘Cats come out and play well. I mean I think we are going to find some way to lose the Wild Wild West because well, we’re the CATS. However, I think we play well here. I think this game is one that we could actually win in OT, so I’ll guess that. Iowa City will have fun win or lose.
Game Score: NU 30 – IOWA 27
Play of the Game: Whoever is able to kick for the Cats kicks a game winner in OT
Player to Watch: Kicker guy.
Warrior to Watch: Let’s throw one Roger’s way.
Other Game to Watch: OSU vs MSU, cool.
Game Summary: Cats can’t pull this one out as the Hawkeyes go wire to wire and are never down this game. Will make Minny next week nerve-racking in order to get to the B1G Championship.
Game Score: Iowa 31 – NU 24
Play of the Game: Punt return for a TD for the Cats
Player to Watch: Thorson
Warrior to Watch: ZVon. Dude loves Iowa City.
Other Game to Watch: Auburn @ Georgia
Game Summary:I think Iowa’s a decent team. I think Northwestern is also decent. But Iowa is at home. Analysis.
Game Score: Iowa 24 – NU 20
Play of the Game: Late touchdown to cover
Player to Watch: Clayton.
Warrior to Watch: Z.
Other Game to Watch: Penn State – Wisco.