Football season is here! And so too is a new beautiful, healthy baby, born into the world this morning. That’s right, one of the beloved founding fathers of the West Lot Warriors, Roger, is now an actual dad. Given father and mother have somewhat split allegiances between two B1G teams taking the field this evening…will the winner determine the fandom of said child? Let’s hope her birthday will also be marked by a Northwestern win.
The Warriors certainly believe it will…let’s see the picks for our opening game.
Wildcat football is back at Ryan Field on Friday night. The ‘Cats only regular season loss last year came to MSU, and it seems like the NU players are holding a grudge and out for revenge against Sparty in 2021. For some reason this betting line opened up at NU -7 but quickly was bet down to -3, which seems much more like it.
Hunter Johnson will start at QB, and no one knows what to expect. The last glimpse we had of HJ he frankly looked scared out on the field, and while he showed great arm strength he did not demonstrate any kind of accuracy or pocket presence. Reports out of camp are that he’s looked much more confident, and Fitz surprisingly named him both a starter and captain far in advance of our first game.
Our defense should be quite good again this year, but I have serious doubts about our offense. It’s on HJ to assuage those concerns. We have very little returning production at WR and RB – instead relying on transfers to help carry the day.
I have no idea if MSU is good or not. The extent of my analysis is that they have two good returning WRs who killed us last year, one of whom has a great name – Jalen Nailor. They also have enough of a Chicago fanbase whereby Ryan Field will probably be more green than purple. Let’s see how it goes.
Game Summary: This should be a very low scoring game. Take the under. Our offense features wide receivers who likely won’t be able to get any separation, along with RBs who are unproven at the B1G level. Andrew Clair is a transfer from Bowling Green who was an all-MAC player…three years ago. Our O line should be pretty solid, but I think we’ll have a difficult time moving the ball.
Our defense should likewise shutdown Sparty’s offense. We have two unproven LBs starting in place of Gallagher and Fisher…I’m worried about a drop-off there, but our D line and secondary will be strong.
All this to say – I see a low scoring, tight game, and that’s where Fitz and the Wildcats tend to excel. It won’t be pretty, but my crystal ball predicts a win.
Game Score: 17 – 13 NU wins
Play of the Game: Sack by Samdup Miller leads to an opportune takeaway by the ‘Cats D.
Player to Watch: Hunter Johnson
Warrior to Watch: Grayhack. Big night for him and new venture Tailgreetr.
Other Game to Watch: I’m most excited to watch US Soccer begin its qualifying journey for the World Cup. By the time this is posted, we’ll have (hopefully) beaten El Salvador and will be taking on Canada in a huge matchup on Sunday [editor’s note: welp]. This is not your father’s Canada – it’s a pretty solid squad and they’ve got Bayern Munich star Alphonso Davies back on the roster after he missed the Gold Cup with an injury. With Pulisic out because of COVID, look for Brenden Aaronson to step up and bag a goal or two.
What we do know: There are certainly some individual studs on the defensive side of the ball. The Warriors somehow got a West Lot pass from the ticket office this season.What we don’t know: Just about everything else.
- Has Hunter “Gatherer” Johnson improved since his vastly disappointing 2019 campaign?
- Will the defense transition smoothly to a new coordinator and a slew of first-time starters?
- Can Stephon Robinson Jr. return to the form of his 2019 campaign at Kansas?
- Can Genson Hooper Price have a breakout year?
- Will the RB room be able to fill in for Cam Porter?
Most of our season relies on the answer to the first question being yes (or our coaching staff being horrible evaluators – someone else coming in and being competent works too). We should have a much better sense of the answers to these questions when the final whistle blows tomorrow night (though we probably won’t really know for sure for a few more weeks). I’ll try and play the optimist below (at least Mick McCall is gone – Iowa State said farewell to him too).
Game Summary: Don’t expect a lot of scoring in the first half. Both teams will have inexperienced QBs (or at least QBs who haven’t started in quite a while) at the reins, and I expect our defense to be stout. Charlie Kuhbander overtakes Damien Anderson and becomes the 4th highest point scorer in NU history with a FG in the 2nd quarter. We head to the locker room with a score of NU 10 – MSU 3. Gonna take a gander that the ‘Cats manage one big play with a short field to muster the lone TD of the half.
The offenses will heat up (relatively) in the 2nd half, trading a few scores, until both sides adjust. ‘Cats muster just enough offense to take the lead, and just enough defense to hold on for the W.
Game Score: NU 23 – MSU – 17
Play of the Game: Pick late to seal the game by Brandon Joseph
Player to Watch: Who else could it be besides Hunter Johnson
Warrior to Watch: Grayhack. Will he trust his DJ?
Other Game to Watch: Very solid slate for week 1, but I’ll have to go with Iowa/Indiana. Both teams come into the season ranked with high hopes. Can Indiana do us a solid and give Io_a an early B1G loss? I certainly like them +4.5.
You guys. Big week for the warriors. I became an uncle again (x2!). Kathleen Roche got engaged. Jenna’s in labor as I write this. There’s a new episode of Ted Lasso on Friday. Also, there’s an American college football game this week.
I’m not going to pretend I know anything about this team. Or about Michigan State.
Game Summary: Ugly early drives. Defensive TD’s. Last-minute FG gives ‘Cats the win. Is Charlie Kuhbander still on the squad? [editor’s note: yes he is]
Game Score: NU 20 – MSU -19
Play of the Game: Opening kickoff. So much potential. It’s like the first day of school.
Player to Watch: Gotta be HJ
Warrior to Watch: Roger! He’s gonna be a dad!
Other Game to Watch: All of them. Excited for football and the cooler temps, you guys.
Game Summary: NU is going to surprise everyone and come out with the best HJ you’ve ever seen. Lot of people’s hopes are going to be “get up” after this one.
Game Score: NU 29 – MSU 10
Play of the Game: 60 Yard TD Pass as we go into halftime.
Player to Watch: HJ all around
Warrior to Watch: Hack & Crew. How will the 1st Rose-less tailgate go off?
Other Game to Watch: Wisco Penn State – loving the East/West matchups to start the season.
Game Score: Cats win 20 – 16
Play of the Game: Blocked punt
Player to Watch: The freshman running back who isn’t even on the depth chart [editor’s note: Anthony Tyus, aka the A Train]
Game Score: ‘Cats 54 – MSU 3