California Dreamin’

Image result for pat fitzgerald dreaming

Football is almost back. The ‘Cats are almost back. The Warriors are back.

Specifically, Dr. Michael Roche has rejoined the gang in Chicago after a stint in Central Pennsylvania, deep in the heart of enemy Penn State territory. As a resident at PSU for the past few years, Doc Roche led the Nittany Lions to a B1G title and a Rose Bowl berth – we’re hoping he can bring that spark back to Evanston and our beloved Wildcats.

The ‘Cats are obviously focused on Pasadena as well, with our three featured players at B1G media days all rocking Rose Bowl pins. 2019/2020 is another year where the playoff/championship games will not be held in Pasadena so it’s another opportunity for the ‘Cats to smell the roses should we win the B1G Championship Game. The loss in last year’s Champ game has been a big talking point for Fitz and the squad this year, leveraging that as motivation to get back to Indy for another opportunity to win and take NU to another level.

It will not be an easy task, as Northwestern has lost a good number of key players going into 2019, starting with QB Clayton Thorson. Thorson has not been the most highly praised quarterback, even amongst the Warrior crew, however you can’t balk at his 36-17 record in college – winning the most ever games for an NU QB. No matter how pedestrian Clayton looked at times, his leadership and ability to win games will be missed and there will be a turnover in leadership to transfer Hunter Johnson.

Hunter comes in as a five star recruit out of Clemson, who transferred away from last year’s National Championship team after realizing he was not going to get playing time behind Trevor “Sunshine” Lawrence. Clemson’s loss is our gain as he is the highest rated recruit to EVER come to Northwestern. However, reports out of camp have been mixed about Hunter’s progress and play in practice…there are rumblings that he hasn’t looked great and hasn’t yet won the starting QB job from returnee TJ Green. I say phooey to these reports – Fitz is someone who notoriously keeps QB updates close to the vest and I don’t believe all that I’ve heard. Hunter very may well not look great but I’ll reserve my judgement until he steps on the field against the Cardinal on Aug 31 (and no doubt he will be named the starting QB). I do believe that we can’t expect Hunter will come in right away and look like the second coming of Dan Persa – it will take time for him to adjust and get used to playing in full speed games. The kid’s only played in one actual college game. Everyone’s thinking about Hunter’s arm but I’ve got a feeling he’s more of a runner than people think – he was a track star in high school and I’ll look for him to tuck it and run a good amount.

So what’s Hunter working with? Our offense under Mick McCall has been quite poor the past few years, to put it mildly. This year there is more depth at WR than we’ve had in recent memory, and our starting RB Bowser is quite simply my favorite player to ever don the NU purple. At WR, look out for freshmen Bryce Kirtz to make an immediate impact – Kirtz played with Hunter in high school and there’s got to be some familiarity that will help off the bat. We’ll get solid production from Skowronek, Lees and Bowman – in particular I think Lees will play a huge role in the offense this year and step into that Flynn Nagel / Austin Carr type role. We essentially have no superbacks to speak of so that is a huge question mark heading into this year – Cam Green’s retirement at the end of the last year was an enormous loss that can’t be understated. Cam was a security blanket for Thorson last year and our most reliable receiver – certainly happy that he made the decision that he did to preserve his health, but he will be sorely missed.

At running back, my boy Bowser is back after a stellar freshman effort. The ‘Cats lost Jeremy Larkin to retirement early in the year – a brutal setback for the kid given the career he’d had up until that point. Larkin looked on track to be the next Justin Jackson and was forced to retire after just three games last year. I can’t imagine how difficult that must have been to stomach – essentially overnight your college experience and potential career path is turned upside down. Larkin did not hang his head but instead became an assistant coach for the team and was there on the sideline for every game, pumping his teammates up and contributing however he could. From everything I’ve seen he seems just like a solid all-around guy, and we send him a Warrior salute.

Back to our running backs this year – Bowser stepped up big time once he got his opportunity in 2018, and injected life into our running game. This year I’m looking for him to take another step forward as he continues to mature and get fit for the college game. He’s spelled by senior John Moten, who is a pretty solid second back and took it 80 yards to the house against OSU last year. We’re going to need more balance between the running and passing game this year if we want to take a step forward.

On defense, we should be solid in most spots. Our linebackers are studs, our safeties our studs, our D ends are studs. Where I’m most nervous is at the cornerback position – without Montre Hartage we’ll need Greg Newsome to step up and serve as our lockdown corner. There were too many games last year (Purdue, Duke, Nebraska, OSU come to mind) where we simply could not stop the other team’s passing attack and they marched up and down the field at will. Our run defense will be great again this year but we certainly have our weaknesses through the air. The good news is we’re in the B1G, where not too many teams will exploit that weakness. We’re more a “ground and pound” conference then “air it out”.

So where will that leave us for this year – what can we expect? I like to say that the ‘Cats like to zig when we think they’ll zag – whatever we expect from them, they’ll do the opposite. It’s probably why they went 8-1 ATS last year when underdogs, and 2-4 when favored. Signs this year point to an upgrade from last year, but it all depends on Hunter “Gatherer” Johnson. If he steps in right away and takes command of the offense, the sky is the limit for this team. We could barely move the ball last year so any spark of life on offense would be a significant upgrade. Our team last year made the B1G championship with simply mediocre stats. We were really only good at three things – limiting penalties, getting off the field on third down, and turnover margin. That in my mind is all about coaching – no doubt that Fitz has entered the conversation for “Who is the B1G’s best coach?” With Fitz at the helm, and more talent than we’ve had in recent years, it feels like we’ve got a chance for great things. I think we’ll struggle against up-tempo, pass-first teams (e.g. Nebraska)  but we match up well against most of our B1G West opponents (as well as Stanford). The ultimate goal is Pasadena and the Rose Bowl, but we’ll need to get through a tough slate to do so and take our program to new heights.

We start the season in California, and let’s hope we can end it there too.

 

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Prediction Caturday – Minnesota

cakes

The ‘Cats have won the West! Here are the Warriors’ picks for our game today against Minnesota.

Andy Trent Roger Roche Paul Hack ZVon
nulogo nulogo nulogo nulogo nulogo nulogo nulogo

 

 

ROGER

Game Summary: Apathy might be at an all time low for the next few weeks. There are two other historic dates in contentions….

November 11, 2000 – Northwestern @ Iowa and Purdue @ Michigan State. 
Both NU and Purdue were 6-1 and leading the B1G. Purdue held the Rose Bowl tiebreaker over NU due to the head to head victory. They also held the Rose Bowl tiebreaker in a multi-team tie (hi, Michigan) atop the conference given that it had been the longest since they had gone to Pasadena (what a dumb rule in hindsight). Purdue got smoked that day in East Lansing. But, that game didn’t kickoff until 2pm EST. NU played at Iowa at 12pm EST. By the time we realized Purdue had a legitimate chance of losing (probably about 3:30pm EST), the ‘Cats had already blown their Rose Bowl chances by losing to a dreadful Iowa team on the road. NU never controlled their own Rose Bowl destiny in this situation.

November 25, 1995 – Ohio State @ Michigan
NU had the week off and had already clinched at least a share of the B1G Championship by going 8-0 in conference. Due to an early season 4th quarter disaster where the ‘Cats blew a 27-7 lead to a then Randy Walker-led out-of-conference opponent Miami (OH), there was still one team holding the ‘Cats back from the Rose Bowl here: Ohio State. The Buckeyes were 10-0 overall and 7-0 in conference. Their overall record would serve as the tiebreaker sending them to Pasadena if they beat Michigan. Thanks to John Cooper (2-10-1 all time as Ohio State head coach vs. Michigan) and an historic day from Michigan’s Tshimanga “Tim” Biakabutuka (313 yards rushing on 37 carries), Blue beat the #2 Buckeyes and sent the ‘Cats to Pasadena. NU never controlled their own Rose Bowl destiny in this situation either.

Enter 2018. As we all know, the ‘Cats lost to Duke and Akron in consecutive weeks. We were 1-3 at one point this season. Yet here we sit. We’ll enter December in uncharted territory: we will control our own Rose Bowl destiny. The ‘Cats have literally never been in this situation. We have played in the Rose Bowl exactly two times – one in 1949 when Big Ten rules prevented the conference champion (Michigan) from going to the Rose Bowl in back to back years and again in 1996 (as mentioned above). In neither situation did we find ourselves in a play-in game. What an opportunity.

We’ll all be there to watch in unfold on December 1 in Indianapolis.

In the meantime, in an hilariously unfortunate turn of events for the rest of the B1G West, there are still 2 more regular season games to be played. I really have no idea how Fitz and company are going to deal with these next 2 weeks. The team has to be riding such a ridiculous high after the festivities in Iowa City. Thankfully, it doesn’t really matter much.

The Citrus Bowl is probably in play if the ‘Cats go 8-4 and lose the B1G Championship. More than likely, Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State would get NY6 bowl bids in that scenario. It’s hard to see any other team getting the invite to Orlando in that case simply because a) the B1G pushes for its championship game loser to make the best bowl possible b) NU would have beaten all other contenders (Wisconsin, Purdue(?), Michigan State and Iowa) head to head (I realize bowl committees don’t give a shit about that, but the conference does) and c) none of the other team’s fan bases would be particularly interested in that game given their recent trips to Florida. However, if the ‘Cats lose one of these next 2 weeks then all bets are off for the Citrus Bowl and we’re probably headed to California one way or another (Rose Bowl, Holiday Bowl or Redbox Bowl).

The Citrus Bowl is a nice little bowl game (though a matchup against Kentucky… again… or Mississippi State… again…. sounds really boring), Minnesota absolutely throttled Purdue last week and this week’s game is on the road. Those three factors lead me to believe that Fitz will make sure the the team isn’t totally sleep walking. Though, some of that is going to be out of his control. If the ‘Cats stay woke, particularly on the defensive side of the ball, then I think they’ll walk away with another victory. It’s also important to point out that I think Fitz strongly dislike P.J. Fleck. How can you not? The irony of Fleck mandating that his players show solidarity by wearing a jersey with “Minnesota” written in place of their last name  – yet simultaneously don his bullshit oars on their shoulder pads and helmets – should not be lost on anyone. It’s all about the team….. and P.J.’s brand. This guy is the ultimate loser. Fitz’s dislike for the guy might be a factor in this one.

Look for way too much Isaiah Bowser here (in both a good and bad way…. don’t get hurt) and another pedestrian (but limited turnover) affair from Clayton. That, combined with another stout performance from the front 7 should get the job done.

Game Score: NU 27 – Minnesota 14

Play of the Game: Trying to pick on NU’s backup Sky Team (our DB’s), Alonzo Mayo pulls in a highlight reel sideline pick.

 Player to Watch: Thorson. He simply has to play better on December 1 for NU to have any chance. Will he start to right the ship this week against a suspect Minnesota defense that had some success last week? Or will he continue to look like as much of a pro prospect as Z Von (remember his halftime performance several years ago)?

Warrior to Watch: Doc Roche. Let’s not forget that Doc Roche was a key piece to NU’s clinching the B1G West last week. The ‘Cats needed Purdue to lose to clinch. Everyone knows that. I think some people forget – because it happened earlier in the day – that the ‘Cats also needed Wisconsin to lose at Penn State to clinch. That happened too. And I’m crediting Doc for that one as he made the pilgrimage to Happy Valley to cheer on the Nittany Lions. Let’s hope he never has to do that again (cheer on PSU, that is).

Other Game to Watch: Ohio State @ Maryland. Everyone assumes we’re going to be playing Michigan in Indianapolis. While they are the likely opponent at this point, that still requires Michigan to beat Ohio State next week. Having said that, if Ohio State slips up at Maryland this weekend and Michigan takes care of Indiana then it’s over (regardless of the outcome of the Michigan v. Ohio State game). Michigan it is.

 

TRENT

Game Summary: The ‘Cats have clinched the West with two games left to play. Hell hath frozen over.

Northwestern has gotten better as the season has gone on, and we’re now 5-1 in our last six games, with the one loss coming against a top three Notre Dame team. I’m going to go ahead and attribute a lot of our recent success to the emergence of true freshman stud RB Isaiah Bowser, a kid who I touted as far back as the preseason and who has singlehandedly given the Northwestern offense another dimension (not that we had much of a dimension before). Bowser gashed Iowa, a team that ranked top five in run defense, for 165 yards on the ground. He seems to gain a minimum 3-4 yards every play and always falls forward at the end of the run; he never takes negative plays and he’s got more speed than people realize. You could inject Bowser highlights directly into my veins, I’m addicted.

The defense has come on of late, limiting our last three B1G opponents to 17 points or less. Our secondary has been decimated with injuries, but young players like Ruiz and Whillock have stepped up in a huge way and limited big plays. What really has me excited is the playing time these young guys are getting – that’s going to pay dividends down the road and this team’s future is very bright…in addition to the present.

So let’s come back to the present and talk about this week, a matchup against Minnesota up in Minneapolis. Minnesota is better than people realize, and destroyed Purdue last week 41-10. They sit at 5-5 and need a victory to gain bowl eligibility; they’re going to come out swinging in this game. Coach PJ Fleck is a master motivator and a huge d bag.

I really don’t know where the team’s head is at right now – we are in uncharted waters. Typically when we play a meaningless game in November it means that we have been eliminated from bowl eligibility…but now this game means nothing for positive reasons. Fitz has stated that he’s not going to take his foot off the gas and will play all out, but I don’t fully buy it and I hope it’s not the case. I totally get not wanting to lose momentum and keeping the team fresh, but we desperately need to avoid injuries. This is a great time to let some young talent get playing time and see what they can do…again this will only help down the road as these kids gain more experience.

I see this as a complete toss up game. Northwestern opened as three point favorites but we’re now one point dogs…Minnesota needs this one more than we do. It’s going to be cold as hell for this one, with a high of 24 degrees and 12 mph winds. Expect a low scoring affair. I’ve been wrong about almost every ‘Cats outcome so far this year, so I might as well flip a coin for this one. Heads is Minny, tails is NU…and it’s tails. ‘Cats win.

Game Score: NU 21 – Minnesota 17

Play of the Game: Bowser bursts through the line for a 40 yard TD.

Player to Watch: Just no injuries plz.

Warrior to Watch: ZVon. He’s from Minnesota.

Other Game to Watch: Duke @ Clemson. I’m curious to see if Duke can hang around here; Clemson hasn’t played a close game since they almost lost to Cuse.

 

ZVON

Game Summary: Cats win. Don’t know much about MN except that Minnesota has a horrible person as its coach and that they are likely looking forward to Wisconsin, a team they have lost to 14 times in a row. In fact, last year, Minnesota played and lost to both Wisconsin and NU back to back, as they will this year. Last year, the combined scores of those games were 70-0 (NU 39, UMN 0 | Wisco 31- UMN 0). When the Gophers lose this one and the one next week, is PJ Fleck’s boat gonna be at risk of getting rowed outta town?

Game Score: NU 39 – Minnesota 0

Play of the Game: Thorson connects on a broken play to Flynn Nagel for a 60+ yard TD.

Player to Watch: Bowser, guy is a boss.

Warrior to Watch: Grayhack. This kid is big time stuff!

Other Game to Watch: Wisconsin vs. Minnesota next week. Prediction: Wisco 31, Minnesota 0

 

PAUL

Game Summary: CATS WIN THE WEST BABY!!! I haven’t been good at predictions lately, so let’s hope my streak doesn’t continue. Going to be a tough one out in the biting Minnesota cold, but the Cats are clearly the better team here (remember the UofI game?!). Thing is the Cats have a bad case of playing down to their opponent this year and this would be the perfect time to do so, especially with Fitz (hopefully) not looking to take too much physical risk with his players. This is a pray for no injuries game.

Game Score: NU 21 – Minnesota 10

Play of the Game: Moten 25 yard TD run on a reverse

Player to Watch: Alex Spanos! Getting jacked up with the schmedium with a low of 11 degrees projected.

Warrior to Watch: SOTA!!

Other Game to Watch: ND / CUSE

 

HACK

Game Summary: The Cats are heading to Indy but in the meantime its time to deal with our old Boat rowing foe PJ Fleck. The same PJ Fleck who beat them at Western Michigan two years ago. The Cats have long memories and Coach Fitz isn’t about to lose to a team that gave up 55 points to the team downstate. Expect a heavy dose of Bowser and for Clayton to play his best game of the year. Cats win big.

Game Score: Northwestern 35- Minnesota 3

Play of the Game: Bowser turns a 4th and one into a 54-yard touchdown run

Player to Watch: Clayton Thorson – Let’s get some momentum going towards the ship.

Warrior to Watch: Rankin – Sources say he’s going to begin a hunger strike until the Big Ten Championship game to inspire the team.

Other Game to Watch: The Fighting Irish of Notre Dame vs The Orangemen of Syracuse – A Modern Day Battle of Cullogen at Yankee Stadium

 

ADAY

Game Summary: This game just feels like a trap. Minny has won 3 of the last 5 dating back to 2013. They have shown signs of competence this year despite not being very good. We may come out soft given our current ticket which is already punched. All that said, I still think well pull out a close one in the end.

 Game Score: ‘Cats 28 – ‘Sota 24

Play of the Game: Bowser seals it again, picking up a first down in the waning minutes.

Player to Watch: Clayton Thorson, naturally.

Warrior to Watch: Let’s say Trent here. Seems wise.

Other Game to Watch: Cincy @ UCF – Go Bearcats!

 

DOC ROCHE

Game Score: ‘Cats 14 – Minny 13

The Great Debate

B1G-Championship-Logo

The ‘Cats have somehow clinched the West with two games left to play, and now will go to Indy on Dec 1st for a chance to make the Rose Bowl. A pipe dream that led the West Lot Warriors to name our beloved van Rose is now very much a real possibility – if we can win one game, we’ll make the trip to Pasadena (and so will Rose the van…somehow, someway).

Clinching with two games to go gives us the chance to scout our Indy opponent and debate about who we want to face out of the other side of the Big Ten. The B1G East is down to two teams who will play each other in the last game of the year – Ohio State and Michigan. So, who would we rather face?

Michigan:

The ‘Cats played Michigan very tough earlier in the season, taking a 17-0 lead on the Wolverines in Evanston before slowly but surely relenting to a methodical Michigan attack. The Wolverines ran in a TD in the fourth quarter to take a 20-17 lead that would end up as the final margin. Michigan, as they always have under Harbaugh, runs a pro-style offense that the ‘Cats have fared well against this year. The ‘Cats have given up less than 16 points per game to Iowa, Wisconsin and Michigan – the three teams we’ve faced that feature that grind it out pro-style offense.

After losing a tight game at Notre Dame to begin the year, the Wolverines have pretty much skated through the rest of their schedule. Other than the tight three point win in Evanston, the next closest Michigan win was by 14 points at Sparty. Does that mean the ‘Cats match up well against the Wolverines, or was our first matchup a fluke? I tend to think it’s the former, and you can certainly argue that Northwestern now is a better team than we were on 9/29 when we first matched up. At that point, we had just learned that our star RB Jeremy Larkin was retiring from football, and reeling after a loss at home to Akron. We rushed for 28 yards in that game, and with the way Isaiah Bowser’s playing right now, you’d have to imagine we’d do better on the ground.

Everyone counted the ‘Cats out, and we showed up in a big way for that next game. If we end up playing Michigan in Indy, we’ll still be widely counted out and large underdogs as Michigan would be playing for a spot in the Playoffs. Vegas would have Michigan as about a 17 point favorite over the ‘Cats in Indy.

Ohio State:

Now we come to Ohio State. You could say they’ve got a worse QB and a worse defense than Michigan. They also got blown out at Purdue, in a tough West Lafayette atmosphere where the ‘Cats prevailed earlier in the year. All in all, they seem like they’re trending downwards whereas Michigan is on the up and up. Should be a no-brainer we want to face OSU right?

Not so fast. I think OSU boasts more talent at the skill positions. They can chuck it deep to a slew of skilled receivers – they remind me of Notre Dame, at least on offense. They have the #3 passing offense in the nation, and would be going against a beat up Northwestern secondary.

Their defense is better than people think, coming in at #56 in total defense, just behind the ‘Cats at #50. I also think people are counting OSU out right now – if they were to get to Indy they’d be coming off a huge upset win over Michigan and have a lot of momentum going in their favor.

The Verdict:

I think we match up better with Michigan than Ohio State and have a better chance to slow down their offense than we would against the Buckeyes.

Even though this seems like it’s Harbaugh’s year, he’s never actually won a big time game at Michigan. The Wolverines have never been to the B1G Title game, just like the ‘Cats. You’d think there’d be no way that he could get all the way to Indy only to lose a play in game against Northwestern that would have placed his team in the College Football Playoff. But, the pressure would really all be on the Wolverines in that scenario. I’d rather face a team that is new to this situation and hasn’t overcome that type of pressure yet, than an OSU team that has been there many times and won the big games in convincing fashion. I have flashbacks to last year when Ohio State looked so much faster than Wisconsin in the B1G title game.

Feels like a game against Ohio State could turn into a track meet, whereas a game against Michigan would be a rock fight. The ‘Cats perform much better in rock fights than track meets.

For all of these reasons, I’d rather play Michigan. Either way it’s going to be an incredibly tough game, but either way we’re going to have a chance. This will be the biggest Northwestern football game in at least 18 years. Let’s hope it comes up roses.

 

Prediction Friday – Iowa

iowa-northwestern

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.

Andy Trent Roger Roche Paul Hack ZVon
Tigerhawk-Multi-colored-vinyl-car-decal Tigerhawk-Multi-colored-vinyl-car-decal nulogo Tigerhawk-Multi-colored-vinyl-car-decal Tigerhawk-Multi-colored-vinyl-car-decal nulogo nulogo

Here are our records on the season thus far:

Andy Trent Roger Roche Paul Hack ZVon
4-1
3-4
4-3
4-2
3-4
4-3
3-4

On to the picks…

 

TRENT

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.

 

ROGER

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.

 

A DAY

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

 

HACK

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

 

ZVON

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.

 

PAUL

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

 

DOC ROCHE

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.

 

Prediction Friday – Wisconsin

NCAA Football: Wisconsin at Northwestern

The ‘Cats take on Wisconsin in a huge game at Ryan Field for the B1G West. Starting Badgers QB Alex Hornibrook looks to be out with a concussion – note this happened after most of made our predictions, so take our thoughts with a grain of salt. Speaking of salt, the tequila shots will be flowing in the West Lot tomorrow in what’s shaping up to be a party atmosphere. Let’s see who the Warriors are picking in the game.

Only Andy Day abstained for this week, so his spot his dedicated to an old Evanston favorite, R.I.P TKOE.

Andy Trent Roger Roche Paul Hack ZVon
6649 nulogo nulogo wisconsinbadgerslogo wisconsinbadgerslogo nulogo wisconsinbadgerslogo

TRENT

Game Summary: The ‘Cats made it very interesting against a bad Rutgers team, trailing for most of the game before pulling it out in the fourth quarter with a late TD. The offense struggled all game, but in a reverse Mario narrative, our freshman running back Bowser came to the rescue and plowed through the Rutgers D to save the day. I’ve been touting Isaiah Bowser all year and he finally got a good deal of run on Saturday, racking up 110 rushing yards and two TDs. He’s a big, bruising back who can break tackles and drag defenders – granted he was doing this against a bad Rutgers run defense.

After surviving Rutgers, the ‘Cats face a much tougher test this week in Wisconsin. The winner of this game will be in first place in the B1G West – though Iowa and Purdue actually look like the two best teams in the West at the moment. After getting a ton of flak all offseason, the B1G West actually doesn’t seem to be as bad as people expected. Purdue whooped Ohio State last week in a game that was never really that close – the Boilermakers have athletes all over the field and WR Rondale Moore (who killed the ‘Cats) is a stud.
All that aside, this is a huge game. If the ‘Cats win, we’ll be at 5-1 in the B1G and have immediate tiebreakers over Purdue and Wisco. If the ‘Cats lose, we’ll be 4-2 and essentially need to win out and get help to have any chance at Indy. Wisconsin is a six point favorite in Evanston, but they are really banged up on defense. Their secondary has been decimated by injuries.
Believe it or not, I’m pretty optimistic about this game. Wisconsin is still carrying a lot of good will after starting the season ranked in the top 10, but they are not world-beaters. They had an impressive win in Iowa, but were losing in the last minute of that game before pulling it out late. They also lost to BYU at home and got shellacked by Michigan.
This feels like a good matchup for us. Wisconsin, as always, runs the ball well, but we defend the run pretty well. We can stack the box to make Hornibrook throw. If our D line can get to Hornibrook and force some mistakes, we’ll be in good shape. On offense, we can’t run the ball at all, but can exploit their banged up secondary through the air. Hopefully Mick McCall brings back his game plan from the Michigan State game, where we abandoned the run and let Thorson throw it. Need Thorson to have a bounceback game here, and hit open receivers. I think this will be tight throughout, with the ‘Cats taking the lead in the second half and holding on.
Game Score: ‘Cats 24 – Wisconsin 21
Play of the Game: Gaziano pressures Hornibrook and forces a tipped INT.
Player to Watch: Paddy Fisher and Blake Gallagher. We’re going to need them to come up with some big solo tackles to stop the run.
Warrior to Watch: ZVon
Other Game to Watch: Has to be Iowa @ Penn State.
RANKIN

Game Summary: Apathy almost took a hit last week. But, thankfully, NU found a way to pull the game out against an absolutely dreadful Rutgers team. So, apathy remains VERY low.

For the record, there was nothing redeeming about last week’s performance other than not losing. I’m not even going to say we won. We didn’t lose. Whatever…. good enough to make this week’s game monumental.
For as impressive as Fitz has been at NU (and he has…. like it or not), his teams haven’t played in very many meaningful games. To be clear, my definition of a meaningful game is one that has a rather substantial impact (% impact) on NU’s chances to win the division and/or conference. By that definition, an NU team 2 weeks into conference play or one flying under the radar and effectively eliminated from their own division cannot play a meaningful game. Stanford @ NU to start the 2015 season was not meaningful. NU @ MSU several weeks ago was not meaningful (too early). NU @ Wisconsin in 2015 was not meaningful (already effectively eliminated).
The last meaningful game we played was in late October 2012 when Nebraska came to town. The B1G Legends Division was still a toss up and NU was in the thick of things. That went….. not well. If you want to call 2015 NU @ Michigan meaningful because of our meteoric rise in the polls leading up to that game, then go ahead. The point still stands. Because that one went even worse.
If this game were more apparently meaningful to the outside world then I wouldn’t have high expectations. But, for whatever reason, nobody seems to recognize that NU is 4-1 in conference, leading the B1G West and has a VERY real chance of winning the division if they beat the odds on favorite on Saturday. By my definition, this game is incredibly meaningful. A loss would give us essentially a 0% chance of winning the division (2 game hole to Wisconsin), while I have to imagine a win would  give us greater than a 33% chance. That’s a pretty dramatic swing. I just hope nobody notices…. that’s when we play best.
On to the game….
This is the most stereotypical Wisconsin team we’ve seen in recent memory…. and we’ve seen a lot of stereotypical Wisconsin teams recently. Hornibrook is suspect at best, so Wisconsin will look to run the ball all game long. I doubt they’ll have any issues doing that. But, they didn’t have any issues doing that in 2014 when Melvin Gordon scampered for 259 yards and Wisconsin only scored 14 points. Let’s play bend but don’t break and hope like hell for some turnovers when we force Hornibrook into passing situations. That’s our best bet defensively. Wisconsin will get their fair share of yards on the ground. That’s inevitable.
Offensively, I have higher expectations from Mick in this one. I think we were ashamed that we couldn’t run last week or the week before. So, we forced it anyways. This week should be much like the MSU game. We can’t run, we won’t be ashamed of it, so we won’t try. If it’s anything other than that then….. Mick’s being Mick.
Ultimately, the game is going to come down to Clayton. He was absolutely horrid last week. I don’t expect the same this week. Wisconsin’s secondary is banged up so Leonhard will be a little more hesitant to dial up his exotic blitzes. You know what you’re going to see in this one, Clayton. You too, Mick.
Roll the pocket.
Game Score: ‘Cats 27 – Wisconsin 24
Play of the Game: Paddy Fisher shows up with a forced fumble and fumble recovery to seal the game.
Player to Watch: Clayton. The game rests squarely with him.
Warrior to Watch: Bag… he’s got a big group coming to this one.
Other Game(s) to Watch: Iowa at Penn State and Purdue at Sparty. If NU wins and both Iowa and Purdue lose, then….. my word.
HACK

Game Summary: Over the years, I’ve been to many Northwestern-Wisconsin games and they tend to be entertaining. These teams both have somewhat glaring flaws. One struggles to run the ball while the other struggles to do anything besides run the ball. I think this game will come down to whether Northwestern can rush for over 75 yards, if they do Wisconsin’s d will have to play honest and will get torched in the secondary. On the other side of the ball, the Northwestern D has been playing worse than the sum of its parts so far this season and I’m not sure why. Everybody not named Joe “The Italian Stallian” Gaziano could be playing better and they need to this game if they’re going to slow down Jonathan Taylor. This game will probably come down to the team that makes the fewest mistakes and when Brad Hornibrook’s the QB that has to worry you. Prediction time, well call me Billy Currington, because I’ve got a feelin.

Game Score: ‘Cats 35 – Wisconsin 31
Play of the Game: Brad Hornibrook hits an open Blake Gallagher on a screen pass for a 47-yard score.
Player to Watch: Kyric McGowan -This kid is electric with the ball in his hands. Time to unleash him.
Warrior to Watch: Bag – Will he be wearing a costume?
Other Game(s) to Watch: Notre Dame Navy – Notre Dame scheduling a bye before the Navy game, talk about respecting the troops.
DOC ROCHE
Game Summary: I don’t understand how we’re so confident that Northwestern will (a) muster any sort of offense or (b) stop Bucky’s run game. You guys watched last week’s game, right? I mean, Bowser had a nice day against Rutgers, but it was Rutgers. Sconnie’s one dimensional, but so is a Northwestern offense who struggled to put up 18 points against the Scarlet Knights.
Game Score: Wisconsin 30 – B1GCats 17
Play of the Game: Bowser drags a few guys into the endzone to give the ‘Cats an early lead.
Player to Watch: Bowser. How will he follow up last week’s breakout?
Warrior to Watch: Bag and his Badger buddies
Other Game(s) to Watch: Iowa – Penn State. Iowa’s first real test after falling to Wisconsin.
PAUL

Game Summary: Cats going to have a tough time against a hungry Wisconsin team who always seems to eat the Cats’ lunch in Evanston. I think the NU offense will struggle and the defense just won’t have enough gas in them to try and keep us in the game. Barring a huge pick 6 or lucky offensive play I don’t see the Cats pulling this one out.

Game Score: ‘Cats 13 – Wisconsin 24
Play of the Game: Bowser 30 yard touchdown
Player to Watch: Bigsby
Warrior to Watch: Hack. Will the pancakes work out? What will happen with the B1G tailgate??
Other Game to Watch: Iowa @ Penn State as well.
ZVON

Game Summary: ‘Cats most always play Wisco well in Evanston (sorry Paul. If you were on The Apprentice, you’d be fired for that commentary). I think that the Cats will regress to Kitties after a nice first half and Wisco wins even though we were right there most of the game. Reminiscent of the Michigan game, we look like we should and could win…but we don’t. Just remember folks – T Pain once rhymed Wisconsin and Mansion. That’s lyrical brilliance and their ground game overwhelms us in a similarly brilliant way, taking three running plays to the house….err – i mean, the Mansion.

Game Score: University of Wisconsin 31, Cats 27
Play of the Game: Thorson runs one for over 40+ after he rolls out and nobody is open. Big highlight. Straightaway speed – no jukes needed here.
Player to Watch: Bowser – can he bruise his way down the field on these big hosses from various Midwestern outposts.
Warrior to Watch: All of us there – will the BTN tailgate make us host in a different spot for the first time in years?
Other Game to Watch: Iowa @ Penn State (ditto).

 

‘Cats as Dogs

 

cats

We always talk about how the ‘Cats perform well as underdogs, and horribly as favorites. Looking back at our games thus far in 2018 and how we’ve performed against the spread, this has born itself out.

Game ‘Cats Underdogs? ‘Cats Cover? What Happened
@Purdue Yes

+1

Yes

NU 31 – PU 27

As a small underdog, the ‘Cats win outright
Duke No

-3

No

NU 7 – Duke 7

‘Cats lost outright 21-7
Akron No

-21.5

No

NU 34 – Akron 39

Ugh
Michigan Yes

+14

Yes

NU 17 – Mich 20

‘Cats lead 17-0, ultimately lose but cover
@Michigan State Yes

+11

Yes

NU 29 – MSU 19

‘Cats cover easily, winning outright
Nebraska No

-3.5

No

NU 31 – UNL 31

‘Cats barely win in OT but don’t cover
@Rutgers No

-21

No

NU 18 – RU 15

‘Cats barely win on the road, never close to covering

Every game we’ve been favored? We haven’t covered the spread.  And we’re 2-2 outright.

Every game we’ve been an underdog? We’ve covered the spread. And we’re 2-1 outright.

Crazy enough we have a better record overall when we’re an underdog versus when we’re a favorite. You have to think we’ll be underdogs in our next three games against Wisconsin, Notre Dame and Iowa. Let’s hope this trend continues.

 

Prediction Friday – Rutgers

wildcat - 01

The Warriors are fired up after a come from behind win against Nebraska and an all around successful Homecoming. With games against Wisconsin and Notre Dame on the horizon, the ‘Cats better not look too far ahead as they head to Piscataway, NJ to take on Rutgers. The WLW members are all expecting one result this week.

Andy Trent Roger Roche Paul Hack ZVon
nulogo nulogo nulogo nulogo nulogo nulogo nulogo

 

 

ROGER

Game Summary: Apathy is even lower…. it will be at an 18 year low if we win this week and next week. Why? We’ll be very well positioned in the B1G West with Notre Dame coming to town. That’s like every child’s Christmas rolled into one.

Let’s cross that bridge when we get to it. What’s on tap this week?…..

Rutgers. They suck. Truly. But guess what? So does Akron. Rutgers is only slightly worse (124 vs 119) in the S&P+ rankings. Because they are a college football team, we could lose to them.

This game is going to be brutally difficult to watch. Rutgers has one of the worst offenses imaginable. So, I don’t expect them to do much on that side of the ball unless we hand them repeated gifts. That said, their lack of offense will inevitably lead Fitz and Mick into a dreadful offensive shell given the lack of urgency needed.

We’ll try to establish a running game and it will fail… miserably. The Rutgers run D is better than Nebraska’s (it literally cannot be worse). We weren’t able to run on Nebraska. We won’t be able to run on Rutgers.

Once every 3 or 4 drives, Mick will realize that we still have to score to win the game so he’ll go pass heavy. That should work enough to get us into the 20’s. But, don’t expect this to be pretty.

Game Score: ‘Cats 27 – Rutgers 9

Play of the Game: Flynn Nagel with an absurd one handed sideline catch for a first down.

Player to Watch: Luckenbaugh. Does he make 3 EPs and 2 FGs? Or does he go 3/4 on EPs. There are multiple paths to 27 (Rutgers fans would tell you that we’re equally likely to force 12 safeties and get a FG).

Warrior to Watch: Roche. Why not? He’s the closest to Piscataway of the bunch.

Other Game to Watch: Maryland @ Iowa…. we’re nearing a point where we start cheering against Iowa and Wisconsin at all costs. Iowa could lose this if they aren’t careful.

 

TRENT

Game Summary: The ‘Cats are in the hunt for the B1G West after a miraculous victory last week against Nebraska. I knew it was going to be a tight game going in, and the Huskers proved my concerns valid as they held a 10 point lead with time ticking down in the 4th quarter. Clayton “Bigsby” Thorson led a furious comeback, aided with some very clutch kicks from our backup kicker Drew “Lucky” Luckenbaugh (my creativity is thriving today). Thorson’s 99 yard drive was the first time I’ve really seen our QB come up clutch in a big spot – it reminded me of Trevor Siemian’s game winning drive against Syracuse back in 2012.

This week, we face a really bad Rutgers team. Could we lose? Sure. Do I think we’ll lose? No. I think we’ll struggle at times and this won’t be a runaway victory, but the ‘Cats will pull it out in the end.

Game Score: NU 24 – Rutgers 13

Play of the Game: Thorson drops a dime to JJ “The Jet” Jefferson for a deep TD.

Player to Watch: I’m going to stop putting Isaiah Bowser here since he isn’t getting any playing time! I’ll put Thorson here – he’s got an opportunity here to improve his draft stock.

Warrior to Watch: Rankin – I believe his mom went to Rutgers?

Other Game to Watch: Patriots @ Bears. I do not currently hold tickets to this game, but there is a 57% chance I will attend.

 

HACK

Game Summary: The Cats should win this a win by a lot. Rutgers is the worst power 5 team and might just be the worst team in all of college football. We best win or there will be hell to pay. Also, Clayton should try and throw for 1000 yards in his hunt to be all-time Big Ten passing leader.

Game Score: ‘Cats 35 – Rutgers 0

Play of the Game: Samdup Miller scores on a pick-six with 7:50 to go in the first quarter.

Player to Watch: JR Pace – Signs point to him upping his interception total during this game.

Warrior to Watch: Paul: He’s in New York, will he journey to the Garden State for some football?

Other Game to Watch: WSU vs Oregon: Pullman finally gets a visit from gameday. I’m calling the upset Go Cougs!!!!!!

 

DOC ROCHE

Game Summary: The fuck did this team lose to Akron?

Game Score: B1GCats 30 – Rutgers 13

Play of the Game: Looking at Luckenbaugh to have a solid game to boost his confidence.

Player to Watch: Any running back? I don’t think Thorson is good/healthy enough to rely solely on him in games against Wisconsin, ND.

Warrior to Watch: Thanks for the shout-out, Rog! But Drew Day is gonna have an early morning out west. All eyes on him

Other Game to Watch: Michigan – Michigan State! I really don’t know what to make of either of these teams. Each is somehow both better and worse than their records indicate

 

PAUL

Game Summary: Blowout win. This will be a fun game to watch for the Cats.

Game Score: NU 32 – Rutgers 6

Play of the Game: Flynn Nagel diving catch out of the side of the endzone for a TD.

Player to Watch: Flynn Nagel. Came off his best game of his career last week and will look to keep the gravy train flowing.

Warrior to Watch: Roger. Will he go apple picking instead of watching the game?

Other Game to Watch: MSU/Michigan. Rooting hard for Sparty.

 

ZVON

Game Summary: What do I know anymore? I do feel like the ‘Cats have a totally dominant win each season (see Minnesota last year, NU 39, Tonka 0. and Purdue in 2016, NU 45, Purdon’t 17). I think this is that game for the ‘Cats.

Game Score: NU 38 – Rutgers 7

Play of the Game: Defensive TD by the ‘Cats.

Player to Watch: Mick McCall – how long is his script this week? Is it one series or is it a Song of Ice and Fire?

Warrior to Watch: Quoting Andy: “Trent. He’s really starting to think we’re gonna win the West. Forever the optimist (read: homer).” Couldn’t have said it better.

Other Game to Watch: Vikes – Jets. Are the Vikes back? Sources say probably not.

 

ANDY DAY

Game Summary: Fun fact – Rutgers is 3-0 all time against Northwestern per winsipedia.com (seems…credible?). This is our second trip to Piscataway, however, we also racked up a road L in Newark, NJ in 1919. Our other loss comes at home in Evanston a mere 33 days after my birth. This game will give us a scare. We won’t wallop them like we should because we always play down to our competition. When the dust settles, however, we will walk away with our first ever win against the Scarlet Knights. Go ‘Cats!

Game Score: NU 20 – Rutgers 14

Play of the Game: Sack on 4th and long for Rutgers during the final seconds of the game.

Player to Watch: Chad Hanaoka – got his first tick last week and picked up a huge first down. Will he continue rolling this week?  🤙🤙

Warrior to Watch: Trent. He’s really starting to think we’re gonna win the West. Forever the optimist (read: homer).

Other Game to Watch: Maryland @ Iowa… have to agree with Rog here.