The undefeated Cats and Badgers meet at Ryan Field this afternoon in a contest that will basically decide the B1G West. This game was supposed to be played at Wrigley Field, with two whole viable end zones. Damn you, 2020.
Let’s see the picks…
I cannot overstate the importance of this week’s game against Wisconsin. This is the biggest clash we’ve had since 2018 Ohio State, which offered us a chance to make the Rose Bowl. This is the most important regular season game since…maybe 2015 Michigan? 2013 Ohio State? The 2000 season? To put it simply, this is a big one.
Wisconsin’s defense has allowed 18 points in two games, while their offense has scored 90+. They’ve looked absolutely dominant against Michigan – showing no rust from two weeks off due to COVID. It’s terrible to say but the best thing for the ‘Cats here is for Roche’s prediction of ‘no contest’ to occur, allowing us to skip this one and knocking Wisconsin out of B1G West contention. Let’s assume and hope that will not happen.
Wisconsin has pummeled their opponents in all phases of the game to-date – there is a reason that ESPN had them listed as the fourth most likely team to make the playoff this year at the beginning of 2020. But, this is not Ohio State or Alabama. Those two teams that they pummeled? They are 2-6 on the year (and easily could have been 1-7 as IL kicked a late FG to beat Rutgers). The Badgers have beat up on two bad teams. They have a freshman QB, who has looked great to-date, but was also sitting behind Jack Coan to start the year.
Maybe you see where I’m going – I love this spot for the ‘Cats. Heavy underdogs at home. No fans in the stands, so that we won’t see a 75% red stadium on Saturday. Cold rain in the forecast (maybe that’s a wash). In really sad news, one of our former weight training coaches passed away this week. Fitz will have the guys playing hard in honor of his memory.
Forecast for Saturday is temps in the 40s, 10-15 mph winds and a 60% chance of rain. This for two teams that will play great D. Here’s some free advice: take the under.
I anticipate a slog fest and both teams trying to run the ball – Wisconsin with more success. We could not run at all against Purdue, and it made the game much closer than it needed to be at the end. Purdue’s rushing defense is ranked #54 – Wisconsin’s is #6. It’s going to be tough going on the ground – and while we can’t go completely one dimensional, I honestly hope we will abandon it if it’s not working.
This game is all about Peyton Ramsey. He came up clutch against Purdue and we need him to play lights out this week in the rain. Notorious RCB stepped up in a big way and looked like Austin Carr out there with three TDs. Our offense is not great, but we’ve made plays when it counts. If we can do that again, and win the turnover battle, we can win this game.
Game Score: NU 17 – WI 16
Play of the Game: Eku Leota sack forces a fumble, which Bergin scoops up and scores. Aren’t we due for a defensive score??
Player to Watch: Peyton Ramsey
Warrior to Watch: Paul
Other Game to Watch: Purdue – Minnesota. If Purdue loses this game, we’d basically have to lose out not to finish in the top two in the West.
This game is important. I agree with Bag. It’s also a COVID season and everything is completely out of whack. So, unfortunately, that does take away from some of the luster here. I fear it could also take away from the legitimacy of a significant NU accomplishment – winning the B1G or making an NY6 game.
But, whatever. It’s still entertaining and the ‘Cats are clearly still good. They would be good if this was a normal season. They also probably would have lost to a MAC team for no reason in non-con play.
Wisconsin appears to be very good. Forget their results to date because it’s hard to judge from one week to the next let alone with a 3 week gap between playing shitty opponents. That said, they look fast. That’s very un-Wisconsin like. They also have their best QB since Rus Wilson. He’s young though…. so maybe he’ll make a few mistakes in a hostile environment like Ryan Field with no fans.
As far as NU goes, their offense needs to be better. The general lack of a run game for several weeks now has been very disheartening. While the ‘Cats amassed yards on the ground against Nebraska and Iowa, they did it in random chunks. There wasn’t any consistency there. NU’s ground game was horrid this past week against a below average Purdue defense. Some reasonable play calling and Peyton’s knack for converting third downs have kept the offense out of McCall territory. But, they aren’t far off statistically. Don’t believe me? The ‘Cats are currently 75th in offensive efficiency. The execution has to be better this week or this game could get ugly.
Look for Wisconsin to try to start fast in this one. In their first 2 games, they seem more inclined to do that than in years past. Hopefully this results in an early pick from Mertz. He’s going up against a far better secondary than the trash Illinois and Michigan put out there. This might get him off his game as he hasn’t faced one bit of adversity as a college quarterback thus far.
NU’s defense should be stout again. Wisconsin will get their yards on the ground, but the ‘Cats will stop drives when they need to. That’s what this defense does best.
The outcome of this game is going to come down to Peyton Ramsey’s ability to throw the ball downfield. NU is more likely to need chunk plays in this game as Wisconsin’s defense is not going to allow the ‘Cats to methodically drive down the field. So, somebody needs to get open and Peyton needs to deliver.
Look for a nail biter going into the 4th with some unexpected heroics from a receiver or two way down on the depth chart.
Game Score: NU 27 – WI 23
play of the Game: Bryce Kirtz gets open behind an ambitious Wisconsin DB and scores on a 55 yard TD catch late in the 4th.
Player to Watch: Ramsey
Warrior to Watch: Z Von… his significant other went to Wisconsin. Will they still talk to each other after the game?
Other Game to Watch: Meh… Not sure much else matters here. The winner of this game is going to win the West barring Wisconsin winning and then having another COVID cancellation. I’m curious to see Indiana play Ohio State. Indiana is a 20 point dog…. seems disrespectful.
DOC ROCHE (0-0)
No contest due to COVID.
his week the following things have happened to my teams: The Bears sucked, Theo left, and the Bulls announced they were tanking again. 2020 keeps telling us to get on the line and blowing the whistle. It’s time for a team to be our Mike Eruzione and save us from more pain. Are the Cats that team? I hope so.
Game Summary: We know this game is going to be ugly. Every Cat’s fan knows that this game will take years off their life.
Whether or not the Cats are able to win will depend on the following factors:
An ability to run the ball
Not turning the ball over.
Turning turnovers into Touchdowns
Breaking off chunk plays
A consistent pass rush
Making Wisconsin work for every yard
A lucky bounce or two
Game Score: NU 14 – WI 13
Play of the Game: Northwestern blocks a 45-yard game-winning field goal attempt.
Player to Watch: Defensive Ends – Need to pressure Mertz in a big way.
Warrior to Watch: Z Von, people are saying he might join Twitter if the Cats win.
Other Game to Watch: Arsenal vs Leeds United: The game got feisty last year in the FA cup.
ANDY DAY (4-0)
I had a dream about this game last night, and unfortunately I already bet on ‘Cats +7.5 prior to this vision. It goes as follows (yes, this actually happened in my dreams last night):
The Warriors were all together at an outdoor sports bar, drinking waiting for the game to come on. Somehow, we manage to not realize the game has kicked off an hour ago, and get the establishment to change our TV to the ‘Cats. As the game turns on, we get a big interception that leads to a touchdown one play later. ‘Cats now lead 13-6! I leave for the restroom, and take my time getting back to our table. By the time I return the ‘Cats are down 40-13. I don’t know how it happened, and it happened fast. The game ends with the same final score
Game Score: UW 40 – NU 13
Play of the Game: Clearly the INT that sets us up for a TD.
Player to Watch: Whomever allowed UW to score 34 points during my trip to the restroom.
Warrior to Watch: Gonna go with Z here. Will a mid-game tweet from Paul send him off the deep end?
Other Game to Watch: COVID.
Game Summary: The Cats always play Wisco tough and this is going to be the only year for NU to ever have a shot at the College Football Playoffs. They’ll need to beat Wisco today and then beat OSU in the B1G Championship and they’ll likely punch their ticket. A man can dream.
Game Score: Wisco 25 – NU 26
Play of the Game: Scoop and Score by #77 – I have no idea who this is. Just have a feeling.
Player to Watch: #77
Warrior to Watch: Hack. How will his Wisco lake house neighbors react if NU dashes their hopes for the season. I hope he’s flying the NCat flag up there!
Other Game to Watch: OSU / INDY. Visiting my sister and BIL this weekend and they’re both Buckeyes. Could NU win and OSU lose?!?!