Prediction Friday – Ohio State

usatsi_11773093-2

The ‘Cats take on Ohio State in Evanston on a … FRIDAY NIGHT? Too bad the Keg of Evanston is closed, RIP. Luckily, it did not go gentle into that good night.

The Warriors’ contingent may be small for this game, but boy is it mighty. We’re going to need it as the Buckeyes come to town in what should be an overwhelming contingent of red. Let’s check out our predictions for the game.

Andy Trent Roger Roche Paul Hack ZVon
2000px-Ohio_State_Buckeyes_logo.svg nulogo 2000px-Ohio_State_Buckeyes_logo.svg 2000px-Ohio_State_Buckeyes_logo.svg 2000px-Ohio_State_Buckeyes_logo.svg nulogo 2000px-Ohio_State_Buckeyes_logo.svg

 

TRENT

Game Summary: I got a feeling. Just got a feeling. The ‘Cats are 1-4, morale is quite bad, and the fan base is calling for McCall’s head. We are 25+ point underdogs on Friday at home against a top three Ohio State team, who you could argue has looked the best of any team in the country to-date. It’s the largest spread against us since Notre Dame in ’95. We all know what happened then.

No one thinks we will be remotely competitive in this game. Our defense is great, our offense is atrocious. How will we score any points against OSU? Even if we can hold their offense in check, we still need to outscore them (that’s typically how you win a football game). How in the world will that happen?

The past two years, OSU has had a weird conference loss on the road. Two years ago, they lost 55-24 at Iowa. Last year, they got blown out 49-20 at Purdue. The ‘Cats ain’t putting up 50 points in this one, I can tell you that. But, this has a similar feel in that it’s a weird conference game on the road.

It’s a Friday night game coming after a bye – I haven’t done any research but not sure we’ve ever played a game on a Friday before. It’s a weird situation. Ohio State will be looking ahead as they play a top 10 Wisconsin team next week.

Nothing against Ryan Day, who seems so far like he’s a great coach, but he simply isn’t Urban Meyer. He hasn’t been in a close game yet – neither has Justin Fields at OSU. It’s not the easiest thing for a team that’s been on cruise control the whole year to all of a sudden be thrown into a pressure packed situation in what should be a raucous Ryan Field atmosphere. Raucous for which team, I know not (if I had to guess it’ll be 60-70% OSU fans), but raucous nonetheless. If this game is somehow close after three quarters those Buckeyes’ butt cheeks will tighten. You bet that Fitz has had this game circled since last year – not just because it’s Ohio State, but also because they beat us in the B1G title game. He wants revenge (we’ve never beaten OSU with Fitz as head coach).

I subscribe to the George Costanza theory that if nothing is working for you, try doing the opposite. The best thing for those who care about the long term health of the ‘Cats this year is for us to get our doors blown off and then have a poor rest of the year, which should then lead to some coaching changes (cough McCall cough). If you look at it that way, it’s not necessarily a great thing for us to beat OSU, as that will give more reason for Fitz to not make any changes. As ‘Cats fans we can never have nice things, and it feels like we’ll be unsatisfied after this year – one way or another. We’re engrained as a fanbase to expect the ‘Cats to do something stupid and screw it up – the short term gain from beating OSU here would actually likely work against us in the long run.

Continuing down the opposite track – the ‘Cats are just a weird team and tend to do the opposite of what we expect. Every year it seems like we have a very bad loss – whether it’s Illinois State or Akron (I wonder if this is something in our DNA dating back to the loss against Miami of Ohio in ’95). Then we’ll typically beat a ranked team we shouldn’t. We zig when people think we’re going to zag.

Well this feels like a zig-zag game to me. There is no rational reason for this pick other than the fact that there’s no rational reason for this pick. Does that make any sense?

I got a feeling. Go ‘Cats.

Game Score: NU 24 – OSU 21

Play of the Game: ‘Cats get a defensive TD as Travis Whillock scoops and scores a fumble. Northwestern must score either on defense or special teams to be competitive in this game.

Player to Watch: I’ve got a feeling…that Hunter will start.

Warrior to Watch: Paul is in town for his first tailgate of the season.

Other Game to Watch: During the course of our tailgate on Friday, we’ll have a few appetizer games – Marshall @ FAU on CBSSN (5:30pm kick) and Pitt @ Cuse on ESPN (6:00pm kick). I’m not 100% sure we get CBSSN but we will find out. These will quite literally be the other games we’ll watch as we drink beer amongst a sea of red.

I’ll also go to the NFL, where it’ll be Pats @ Jets on Monday night. Fellow Patriots fans…beware…

 

ROGER

The Cats didn’t win last week, but they didn’t lose.

Unfortunately, the team actually has to play this week. Against Ohio State no less.

The Buckeyes have looked like one of the best teams in the country thus far. For whatever reason, they seem to have cleaned up the mental lapses that were all too common under Urban Meyer. So, I don’t expect them to not show up this week or any week down the stretch.

Game Summary: I think NU’s defense will put up a respectable fight. We’re going to get burned on the perimeter and we’re probably going to have issues setting the edge, but pretty much everyone does against Ohio State.

Sadly, a “respectable fight” for NU’s defense is going to look a lot worse in the box score. Why? Well, Ohio State is probably going to have an average starting field position somewhere around midfield. The Chicago Bears defense would struggle in that situation.

I don’t expect the offense to get 10 first downs in this game. We’ll score a garbage touchdown late to avoid getting shutout.

Move on to next week. Then, move on to next year.

Game Score: Ohio State 45 – NU 7

Play of the Game: Gaziano blindsides Smith and forces a fumble. This provides the Cats with their best field position of the game (Aidan throws a pick 2 plays later).

Player to Watch: Aidan… I assume Hunter won’t play because there’s no point in killing his confidence even more. If it’s Aidan, he should just go out there and sling it.

Warrior to Watch: Paul. Welcome back to Evanston, Paul. Too bad most of the crew is MIA this weekend.

Other Game to Watch: Not sure… is there anything good this weekend?

 

A DAY

Game Summary: It will look respectable in the first quarter. Maybe 7-0 OSU. But then things are gonna get out of hand. Fast. The defense will basically spend the entire game on the field, and eventually are going to get beat. Should be safe to turn off at half.

Game Score: OSU 45 – NU 3

Play of the Game: The lone field goal. Huzzah!

Player to Watch: Fire Mick McCall (dot) com

Warrior to Watch: Paul. Hands down. He’s from Ohio. He’s at the game. He’s gonna have a few cold ones. Let the boys play.

Other Game to Watch: Let’s say Michigan vs Penn State, because I love watching Michigan lose.

 

DOC ROCHE

Game Summary: Lolololololol

Game Score: OSU 40 – NU 6

Play of the Game: The Van starts!

Player to Watch: Aidan Smith. F*ck it, I’m going deep.

Warrior to Watch: Paul. I hear he’s gonna try to set the West Lot record for White Claw consumption.

Other Game to Watch: Let’s say Michigan vs Penn State, because I love watching Penn State lose.

 

PAUL

Game Summary: Hopefully some stellar D from the Cats. Hopefully improving to below average for the offense and Mick McCall. Cats keep it close, but can’t pull it off.

Game Score: OSU 23 – NU 13

Play of the Game: Strip sack in the first half in OSU territory by Paddy Fisher.

Player to Watch: Paddy Fisher

Warrior to Watch: Am I allowed to say me? Because I’m gonna say me. You can find me with the White Claw wizard staff.

Other Game to Watch: It’s Friday night, so I guess the Yankees Astros??

 

Z VON

Cats lose 42-8

 

HACK

Cats win 6-4

Prediction Caturday – Bye Week

tenor

A close loss last Saturday against Nebraska sets up a tough game this week as the ‘Cats take on a Bye. While not known to put up points, Bye has a very stout defense, giving up zero touchdowns on the year. Let’s see how some of the Warriors see this one playing out.

 

ROGER

Last week was one of the ugliest displays of offensive football that you’ll ever see. Both teams were responsible for that. Nebraska is as far from “back” as NU is from the Rose Bowl.

Frankly, as dependent as Nebraska’s entire team is on Adrian Martinez, there was absolutely no excuse for the Cats to lose the game once Martinez got knocked with the score tied.

But….. Mick.

That brings us to this week’s matchup. Bye.

If history means anything, then the Cats should take care of business this week. Bye has never defeated the ‘Cats. It’s usually the week after Bye where Fitz’s boys struggle. One can only surmise that Bye’s physicality wears us down for the following week.

Unfortunately, I have a sneaking suspicion that Bye isn’t going down so easily this week. Defensively, we should be stout as always. It’s hard to see Bye scoring on us. But, I’m not sure where we’re going to find any points either. This game could go on for days…

Game Summary: RRPP. That’s run, run, pass, punt for those unfamiliar with the abbreviation. Mick loves the RRPP. Sources say that the ‘Cats offense has even mastered the RRPP against air. Knowing that, I don’t expect any movement on offense here because Bye’s defense is basically air.

Game Score: Bye 0 – NU 0

Play of the Game: After the ‘Cats complete their 27th series of RRPP against air, the officials decide to call this game the first tie since 1996. They can’t watch anymore. Neither can we.

Player to Watch: The QB… all 3 (including TJ) have been effective with the RRPP this year. Who is it going to be for this one?

Warrior to Watch: Z Von – put him in at QB. He tried it at halftime a few years ago.

Other Game to Watch: Florida at LSU…. Florida has looked absolutely terrible at times this year. Yet, they are undefeated with a recent win over Auburn. They still have a daunting stretch here with LSU and UGA, but I’m starting to worry about the Gators contending.

 

PAUL

Game Summary: Smoke meats. Drink beer. Be glad NU isn’t playing.

Game Score: N – 0 – 0 – N

Play of the Game: The brisket is perfect

Player to Watch: Pfeffer. The smokemaster.

Warrior to Watch: Day. He has some new art to enjoy this week.

Other Game to Watch: Penn State @ Iowa. Go Hawkeyes!!

 

TRENT

The ‘Cats are off this week – will be good to rest up before what should be a lovely home visit from Ohio State next week. I find a bye week as a nice time for reflection, soul searching and grumbling about McCall. It’s time to get nice and drunk and forget about our hapless offense. Enjoy the time off until the Buckeyes beat our brains in next Friday.

Game Summary: The ‘Cats get into some good clean American fun this weekend. So much fun, that the bye sneaks up on us and wins a close one. While our defense holds tough and holds Bye to just 1 point somehow, McCall McCall McCall and we score 0 points. It’s a cold and windy weekend, causing Kuhbander to miss a chip shot and do us in.

Game Score: NU 0 – Bye 1

Play of the Game: Bye finds a way to score 1 point.

Player to Watch: Bowser. He’s got the weekend off and will be gallivanting with Princess Peach to another castle.

Warrior to Watch: Hack. Big weekend in store.

Other Game to Watch: USC – Notre Dame. Fight on!

Prediction Friday – Nebraska

usa_today_10391462.0

The ‘Cats lost a closer-than-expected battle in Wisconsin last week, but looked better…at least on defense. The offense, not so much.

Next up is a trip to Lincoln to take on Nebraska in another road B1G West matchup. The Huskers are sitting at 3-2, fresh off a beating at the hands of Ohio State. The Warriors are a bit split on who will take this contest, as well as which QB we’ll see in the game for the ‘Cats. On to the picks…

 

Andy Trent Roger Roche Paul Hack ZVon
nebraska-logo nebraska-logo nebraska-logo nebraska-logo nulogo nebraska-logo nulogo

 

ROGER:

I said something last week about NU’s speed option on 4th and goal at the 1 being one of Mickey’s finest hours.

Then Saturday occurred. He and Fitz likely had more “finest hours” in that game than we’ll ever see again.

Our offense is historically bad. You think that’s an overstatement? What if I told you we were on pace to have the third worst passing efficiency in the 21st century…. and 2017 Army was one of the two teams that were worse? What if I told you that our total offensive efficiency is 129th out of 130 FBS teams? What if I told you that Hunter Johnson has the worst QBR in FBS? Sadly, I can tell you all of that. Because it’s all true at the moment.

Game Summary: Thankfully we aren’t playing either the Wisconsin or Michigan State defense this week. That said, Nebraska’s defense is actually much improved despite getting mauled by Ohio State last week (don’t worry… we get to do the same thing in a few weeks). Their offense has, surprisingly, been a bit of an issue. The Corn people are chalking this up to a young offensive line that can’t get out of its own way. Sound familiar?

Given all of that, I expect NU’s defense to keep the Cats in this one despite the complete lack of offense we’ll see. Unfortunately, Nebraska’s offense is likely to be more dangerous against our defense than Wisconsin’s. At the end of the day, they have a dynamic QB and that generally hurts us.

This one will be a slug fest until Nebraska finds a rhythm. Then, it’s over because we can’t score.

Game Score: Nebraska 24 – NU 13

Play of the Game: I’m going to go with Aidan “Atkinson” Smith taking the first offensive snap and completing a pass for positive yards (Mick threw it on first down?!?!?!).

Player to Watch: Paddy Fisher. He needs to contain Martinez.

Warrior to Watch: Paul. Why not?

Other Game to Watch: Oklahoma State at Texas Tech. Has anyone seen OK State’s running back, Chuba Hubbard? He has 900 yards in 4 games against FBS competition (that’s not counting OK State’s game against McNeese State). He ran for a smooth 296 last week against a ranked K State team. Big12 defenses or not… this kid deserves some attention. Look for him to tack on 250+ in this one.

 

TRENT

The ‘Cats played a better game last week against Wisconsin in Madison, but still came away with a L. It’s becoming abundantly clear that our defense is good and our offense is bad. Our defense only gave up 10 points to the Badgers, whereas our offense gave up 14 and only scored 15.

Fitz and McCall made some very strange two point conversion calls which had me going apoplectic during the game, and even upon further explanation really just don’t make sense. I think it’s funny that Fitz is always touting that ‘stats are for losers’ but then said after the game that he could ‘teach a class on analytics’. Can’t have it both ways, bro.

Our offense is putrid, bad, stinky, horrible. Aidan “Atkinson” Smith came in and looked better than Hunter Johnson. The fan base has about had it with McCall, and good riddance. If someone at my office repeatedly turns in poor performance for 10+ years straight, do you know what happens? They don’t stick around. It’s absurd that a D1 football program (in an industry where job security is much lower than an average job) won’t subscribe to this same philosophy, but instead stubbornly leans on ‘loyalty’ and an F you attitude towards the fan base as rationale for not making changes. These guys are getting paid a lot of money. There have to be consequences for not performing, just as there are on the field when Hunter was benched for Aidan against MSU. You have to hold your coaching staff to the same standards that you hold your players.

Game Summary: Rant just about over, let’s focus on the game this week. I’ve had this game circled all offseason as a loss – Nebraska just seems like a horrible matchup for us. We typically perform poorly against mobile QBs. Not that Nebraska is good or anything – they were severely overrated going into the year. However, I think they’ll score just enough points in this game, and our offense, well, McCall. Enough said.

Game Score: NU 21 – Nebraska 24

Play of the Game: Aidan “Atkinson” Smith throws a screen pass to Drake Anderson for a TD.

Player to Watch: Bowser. Is he healthy?

Warrior to Watch: Paul, he’s got some Husker in his blood.

Other Game to Watch: Iowa – Michigan. Should be a good one.

 

DOC ROCHE

Game Summary: Defense good. Offense bad.

Game Score: NU 13 – Nebraska 27

Play of the Game: Chuck kicks an extra point!

Player to Watch: Whoever the h*ck is at QB, in perpetuity

Warrior to Watch: Our resident Cornhusker, Huettner

Other Game to Watch: Ohio State – Michigan State. It’ll be interesting for a quarter before Ohio State pulls away.

 

A DAY

I think InsideNU described our passing attack perfectly, “Not Great, Bob!”. That said, our defense is pretty, pretty, pretty good. Nebraska was ranked to start the season. So were we (at least in one poll). Both teams have been exposed as frauds. Who will prove to the the worse team? I’m going ‘Cats. Big Red, or perhaps ‘Lil Red, will be able to score just enough (which still isn’t that much) to pull out the win. Both fanbases will want to pull their eyes out by the end of the game.

Game Score: Nebraska 20 – NU 17

Play of the Game: We finally get a defensive score. Pick 6 from Paddington “Bear” Fisher.

Player to Watch: Bente Baekers from NU Field Hockey. She’s got 16 goals on the season for a top 5 program. She’s scored 1/2 as many points as our offense has against teams not named UNLV.

Warrior to Watch: Let’s go Hack. 3PM start, how will he respond? Will he be 4 ‘Claws deep by kickoff?

Other Game to Watch: Friday Night special UCF @ Cincy. Let’s go [Bear]cats!

 

ZVON

Game Summary: Cats win a weird one. Aidan SMITTY Smith smiths a winner out of these cats.

Game Score: Cats 25 – Nebraska 23

Warrior to Watch: Sources say Hack may not even be awake for a 3pm kick.

 

PAUL

Game Summary: Nebraska is trash. So is our offense. Battle of the Defenses commence. I likely won’t even be watching this game as I’ll be playing NYC tour guide for my wonderful mother this Saturday.

Game Score: NU 14 – NEB (NOT NU) 10

Play of the Game: 50 yard screen pass TD to Bowser (is he still injured? idk) due to a missed tackle.

Player to Watch: Paddington “Bear” Fisher. I’m with Andy on this. Should be ripe for a nice INT this game.

Warrior to Watch: HACK. Raab’s in town so bound to go wild.

Other Game to Watch: Browns on are MNF this week (2nd time this year already!) Let the winning streak continue!

 

HACK:

Game Score: Nebraska 24 – NU 10

Play of the Game: 74 yard run for a guy by the name of Anderson – deja vu for the fan base.

Player to Watch: Hunter “Killer” Johnson – Can he make Mick look smart?

Warrior to Watch: Trent – T Bag is a movement

Other Game to Watch: Iowa v Michigan – I don’t think either of these teams will be ranked by season’s end.

 

Prediction Caturday – Wisconsin

FISHER

The ‘Cats had a major setback last week in a home drubbing against Michigan State, but that didn’t preclude the Warriors from having a good time and getting after it in the West Lot. They say you’ve got to laugh to keep from crying, and plenty of laughs were had.

This week Northwestern faces a daunting test on the road in Madison against a top 10 Badger team. Wisconsin is a huge favorite in this one after rolling Michigan last week. Let’s see how the Warriors think this one will play out.

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

TRENT

Game Summary: Yikes. The ‘Cats looked awful last week in a loss to Michigan State. The offense had no creativity and it seemed like a miracle every time we got a first down. Hunter got benched. It’s almost refreshing that the ‘Cats are back to being bad again – for you youngsters out there it’s a good reminder that the last four years of ‘Cats football has not been the norm. Clayton Thorson ain’t looking so bad now, eh? We miss his leadership.

This season has gone downhill quickly – the question is, can we rebound? We’ve got an absolutely brutal slate coming up these next few games. Badgers and Huskers and Buckeyes (oh my!). If we lose all three of these games we’re likely not making a bowl this year.

I simply don’t see it this week against the Badgers. MSU could have beaten us by even more last week if they’d continued to run the ball – they did so with such success that I was puzzled every time they threw it. Without looking at any stats, I’m sure the Badgers have one of the best running offenses in the country, and Jonathan Taylor is a beast and Heisman hopeful. The ‘Cats are going to get run all over in this game – while we have good D ends, the middle of our D line is suspect and Wisco’s O line will push us around.

This is the largest spread against us (+24) that I can remember in the past five years, and for good reason. We’re going to get shellacked. The only silver lining I can find is that I don’t need to stress about the outcome of this game! Time to get nice and toasted on Saturday. I don’t think we’re going to score.

Game Score: NU 0 – Wisconsin 35

Play of the Game: The ‘Cats make it to Madison (one of my favorite cities in America) and show up for the game.

Player to Watch: Alex Miller. Can he help plug the middle against Taylor?

Warrior to Watch: Z Von. Will he join the Warriors this week to watch?

Other Game to Watch: Minnesota at Purdue. Why not?

 

ROGER

I’ve seen a lot of poor play calls over the past decade. But, I’m not sure that anything tops the 4th and goal speed option call this past Saturday. That may have been Mickey’s finest hour.

Our offense is objectively terrible and Mickey and friends aren’t doing anything to help the cause with the aforementioned shit. Our defense isn’t terrible, but nobody seems particularly interested in tackling.

So, why would we expect anything different this weekend? Wisconsin looks pretty damn good, right?

………..

Wisconsin is good. But, I’m not ready to anoint them after the garbage offense they trotted out on the field every week last season. I need to see a few more ass kickings before I do that. They have the same personnel at every key position. This team – led by the same Jack Coan and Jonathan Taylor – couldn’t get out of their own way against NU last season. They looked like a JV bunch. You could have had Grayhack out there playing Mike and he would have blown up that offense.

Clearly, Wisconsin is improved and they are humming right now. Their improvement on the defensive side of the ball may be the bigger difference in their success though. That spells trouble for Mickey’s offense.

We won’t move the ball at all. But, this one will be closer than you think.

Game Summary: If Taylor is ripping off 10 yard runs like there’s nothing to it, then you can ignore everything above. I don’t think he will initially, though. Wisconsin will have to throw it every so often and I’m looking for some suspect accuracy from Jack. Look for some air mails and a pick or two in the first half. That will keep this one closer than it should be when our offense has less than 60 yards at halftime.

Eventually, Wisconsin will find some success on the ground. They’ll get a comfortable 20 – 0 lead and NU will score a garbage TD to keep the score respectable.

Game Score: NU 7 – Wisconsin 20

Play of the Game: Paddy Fisher picks off Jack Coan in the first quarter.

Player to Watch: Offensive Line. Can they do anything to open a hole and/or give Hunter some time?

Warrior to Watch: Paul. What’s he doing for the game?

Other Game to Watch: Ohio State at Nebraska. I was going to say “None. The contenders have no chance of losing again this week”, but then I remembered that Ohio State got ambushed against a very mediocre Purdue team last year in a night game. They need to avoid losing to trash teams (Purdue last year and Iowa the year before) if they want to get back into the playoff. I suspect they will, but you never know how prepared they’ll be with a bunch of guys that didn’t come to play school.

 

DOC ROCHE

It’s been, what, seven years since Northwestern’s had a competent offense? Kain platooning with Trevor, handing off to Ricky Football?

The offense is horrible, and Fitz is getting all defensive when a reporter asked a routine football question.

EVERYTHING IS FINE NOTHING TO SEE HERE.

At least the Northwestern’s uninspired performance helped me stop caring about the parking situation.

Game Summary: The game’s already over.

Game Score: NU 6 – Wisconsin 33

Play of the Game: Jump Around

Player to Watch: Hunter.

Warrior to Watch: ZVon. He’s back in town for the game!

Other Game to Watch: Ohio State at Nebraska. Northwestern’s next two opponents square off.

 

PAUL

Game Summary: This is going to be ugly and I probably will turn this game off after the 1st quarter.

Game Score: NU 6 – Wisconsin 45

Play of the Game: The Wisco kneel down to end the game, putting us all out of our misery.

Player to Watch: Who knows.

Warrior to Watch: ZVon. I heard he may be hosting the watch party and his roommate is a big Badger fan & alum.

Other Game to Watch: OSU at NEB. Will be hilarious how GameDay is here and my Huskers will get blown out.

 

HACK

Game Summary: The Cats are 10-8 under Pat Fitgerald when they are over double-digit dogs, not against the spread, straight up. There is no other reason for this pick, other than Michigan sucks.

Game Score: NU 28 – Wisconsin 24

Play of the Game: One of the pick-sixes by the brothers Miller. Yes, two defensive linemen will score touchdowns.

Player to Watch: Mick McCall – There’s a rumor going around on the Twitter that Mick installs plays that he can personally execute. This would explain the precipitous decline in Northwestern’s O as he enters his mid sixties…

Warrior to Watch: Roger, he’s leaving the house!

Other Game to Watch: Bears- Vikings : Matchup of the two most mediocre qbs in the NFL and two of its top 5 defenses! Bet the over!

 

Z VON

Wisco 31 – NU 6

 

ANDY DAY

Game Summary: We might score. I think 2 field goals sounds about right. Both in the second half, naturally. If we do win this, I wouldn’t be blown away, because this is looking like a season where we suck but pull one completely out of our asses. However, I don’t think that will be this game. I think offensive struggles continue and a balanced Wisconsin attack gets to the endzone early and often.

Game Score: Wisconsin 35 – NU 6

Play of the Game: Whichever FG is longer.

Player to Watch: Mick McCall. Forever and always.

Warrior to Watch: Trent “I’m down to get v drunk” Stafford

Other Game to Watch: Lets say USC vs UW for all my west-coasters out there.

Prediction Friday – Michigan State

MSU NU.jpg

The ‘Cats take on MSU this week in our first B1G matchup of the year. It’s a big one and NU has taken down Sparty the last three times the teams have met. Are the Warriors expecting a fourth straight victory this week?

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

 

 

TRENT

Game Summary: So the ‘Cats took care of business at home against a lackluster UNLV team. Hunter Johnson showed signs of life and made some nice deep throws, though his WRs let him down a few times with drops. He still looked uncomfortable but seemed to get his legs under him as the game went on, and threw his first TD pass as a Wildcat to an open JJ Jefferson.

 

Unfortunately this week is a much tougher test. Comparing UNLV’s defense to Michigan State’s is like comparing a sand castle to a medieval castle. We will struggle to move the ball, and I guarantee they’ll sell out to stop the run and force us to pass. Is Hunter ready to take the reins in a B1G game? I’m not so sure.

 

The good news is I believe the coaching staff sat Bowser last week to heal up and get ready for a bruising B1G schedule. While Drake Anderson looked nice and shifty last week, he won’t be able to have that same level of success against a B1G defense. This is the time for Bowser Ball and I expect him to get 25+ carries in this game. If he can give us a semblance of a running game against Sparty, we’ll have a shot. If he can’t, and Hunter needs to carry us through the air, I fear we’re in trouble.

 

It’s a bummer that MSU lost last week to ASU. Not only do they lose their ranking (I like it when we play ranked teams), but the heartbreaking manner in which they lost will make them even more motivated to come out swinging this week. MSU is favored by 10 and the over under is a measly 40 points…yet I still think that’s far too high. We’ll keep it close and this will be a typical low scoring B1G game. We’ve beaten Sparty three times in a row, but I just can’t see us getting to four.
 

 

Game Score: NU 10 – MSU 13

 

Play of the Game: Bowser takes it in for a 5 yard score

 

Player to Watch: Bowser – will he be healthy enough to shoulder a big load? Hunter – can he play competent football against a B1G defense?

 

Warrior to Watch: Rankin. Feel like he’s got it in for MSU.

 

Other Game to Watch: Michigan @ Wisco. Wisconsin has outscored its opponents 110-0 in the first two games…let’s see how they handle their first real test in the Wolverines.

 

DOC ROCHE

 

I always respect the amount of time/thought that Trent puts into his posts. Dear readers, have faith that I will do no such thing.

 

GET EXCITED FOR A BATTLE OF TWO UNINSPIRING TEAMS. BIG TEN FOOTBALL AT ITS FINEST.

 

Game Score: ‘Cats 17 – MSU 14

 

Play of the Game: Hunter throws a touchdown!

 

Player to Watch: It’s the ‘ol HJ until proven otherwise

 

Warrior to Watch: West Coast Warrior Andy Day making his first West Lot appearance!

 

Other Game to Watch: Agree with Bag here. Michigan/Wisconsin.

 

ANDY DAY

 

Game Summary:  Clearly going to be a high scoring affair… not. This game will be decided by the kickers, and luckily MSUs didn’t look so hot last week against ASU. I see a singular TD in the future for the ‘Cats, and it’s going to be a defensive one. Hopefully our bend-but-don’t-break defense can keep us in this one.
 
 
Game Score: ‘Cats 13 – MSU 9

 

Play of the Game: Pick 6 for Paddington “Bear” Fischer

 

Player to Watch: Mick McCall. Again. Always.

 

Warrior to Watch: Going to say Roger but only because it’d be weird to pick myself. He’s my co-captain for setup this week.

 

Other Game to Watch: Lot of good ones this week, but to add some flavor I’ll go with a sneaky one – Cal @ Ole Miss. Should be a close one.

 

ROGER

 

Wow! Roche and Andy taking the cats to win!

Well… I’m not, Doug. As much as I would like to pick us to win, I don’t see enough (read: any) offense here against a top flight defense. It won’t take much, but I don’t think we have much.

 

All of that said, Hunter showed us something last week with his arm and his ability to avoid a sack. He definitely throws an elite ball and has decent pocket presence. Unfortunately, that alone doesn’t make a good quarterback. He struggles with consistent accuracy, he doesn’t have a great grasp of Mick’s fantastic offense yet and his offensive line and receiving corps are suspect.

 

Game Summary: Read above. This game is going to be low scoring. The Cats defense is pretty good. Williams and Newsome took terrible angles on 2 plays and made UNLV look respectable. But, the reality is that the ‘Cats defense will anchor the team all year. They did so against Stanford. They did so against UNLV. They’ll do so in this game as well.

 

We aren’t going to shut out Sparty, though. At the very least, they’ll be able to get some points from the field position battle (though, their kicker doesn’t have a lot of confidence at the moment).

 

The wind is supposed to be strong on Saturday mid-day. The punters will be pivotal in this one. I think the best scoring opportunities will come when each team has the wind at their backs. Look for Sparty to take advantage of a few of those drives via some mild-trickery (end arounds, flea flickers, etc.).

 

The ‘Cats have killed Sparty the last several years with their use of the superback. Unfortunately, we don’t appear to have one of those anymore. So, I’m curious to see what we’ll do against a defense that doesn’t allow anything on the ground. I suspect we won’t mix it up much… hence my score:
 

 

Game Score: MSU 13 – NU 3

 

Play of the Game: Chuck makes a 38 yard field goal to get the ‘Cats on the board in the 3rd quarter.

 

Player to Watch: Offensive line – will they open the occasional hole and provide any sort of protection for Hunter?

 

Warrior to Watch: Andy. It’s his home opener. Something tells me he’s not a fan of the new parking regulations. Could he ignore the rules, head for the corner of Ashland and Isabella and claim “no brake pads, no such thing as last”?

 

Other Game to Watch: None. Our playoff contenders have no chance of losing yet again this week. Yes, I’m dismissing ND’s chances at UGA.

 

ZVON

 

Cats 27, MSU 21

 

HACK

 

Game Summary:

 

Punt, run run run Punt run run pass Punt run run punt… Safety MSU… Cats hit a field goal as time expires.

 

 
Game Score: NU 3 – MSU 2

 

Play of the Game:Gaziano sacks Lewerke for a loss of 23

 

Player to Watch: Drake Anderson – Is he a weapon?

 

Warrior to Watch: Andy Day- He’s a man on a mission to drink some Burgandy’s.

 

Other Game to Watch: ND vs Georgia – GO DAWGS

 

PAUL

 

Game Summary: Cats give up a defensive TD and a long 70 yard run, but otherwise looks solid. Sadly, our offense doesn’t come prepared and the play calling STINKS. Cats never reach the endzone and settle for 3 FGs.

 

Game Score: NU 9 – MSU 17

 

Play of the Game: 45 yard FG to end the half

 

Player to Watch: Mick McCall – how bad will the play calling get against a actual defense this week.

 

Warrior to Watch: Hack – will he make it to the tailgate before 9am??

 

Other Game to Watch: Michigan @ Wisco. Great inter-league B1G matchup here. Rooting for Sconnny.

Prediction Friday – UNLV

Sept18Blog1_NU2

The ‘Cats open at home tomorrow against the UNLV Runnin Rebels, and the Warriors are fired up to take the West Lot by storm and christen another season in Evanston. The weather is going to be beautiful and the beer will be flowing like wine. No surprise who the Warriors are picking in this one, though we’re split on how close the outcome will be.

Andy Trent Roger Roche Paul Hack ZVon
nulogo nulogo nulogo nulogo nulogo nulogo N/A

 

ROGER

Game Summary: We’ve all seen this shit before (Akron, Illinois State, Western Michigan…. sorry, that team was terrible even if they ran the table in the MAC). I’m not sure why we expect this to be any different. UNLV is obviously terrible, but that doesn’t mean a damn thing.

NU’s offense is 129th out of 130 in adjusted efficiency. Hunter Johnson has the worst passer in FBS. Simply put, our offense was terrible against a VERY average Stanford team who got smoked by a VERY average USC team during our off week. But, that’s par for the course with Mick.
There’s no reason to believe we will blow anyone out. Fitz and Mick aren’t up for that.
I do think we will find a way to win the game, but only because we will avoid giving up 3 defensive tds like we did against Akron last year.

 

Game Score: Cats 20 – UNLV 17

 

Play of the Game: Paddy Fisher annihilates UNLVs qb causing both his helmet and the ball to come loose.

 

Player to Watch: Hunter. He was atrocious 2 weeks ago. Will he be at least marginally better?

 

Warrior to Watch: Me. I’ll be back from my honeymoon on Friday night. Will we have any Supertuscans at the tailgate?

 

Other Game to Watch: None. The past few college football seasons have been painful outside of NU. The trend continues. There are 5 teams vying for 3 playoff spots (Bama, LSU, Oklahoma, UGA and Ohio State). Clemson is already in. Watch out for Syracuse though…. that’s Clemson’s toughest remaining game. They only lost by 43 to Maryland.

 

DOC ROCHE
 

We get it Roger. You’re being all cultured in Italy. I bet the fireball is gonna taste like battery acid when you get back.
 

 

Game Summary: Good lord that Stanford game was a bummer. I do think Northwestern’s run game will have a day against a pretty bad UNLV team. It’ll be an uninspired playbook for Hunter, who looked like a young Evan Watkins out there a few weeks ago.

 

Game Score: Cats 38 – UNLV 14

 

Play of the Game: Hunter Johnson throws a TD to someone.

 

Player to Watch: Ol’ HJ until he proves us otherwise.

 

Warrior to Watch: Rusty. He’s bringing the satellite and the TV.

 

Other Game to Watch: Pitt-Penn State is usually a fun game to watch.

 

TRENT
 
Game Summary: Well the ‘Cats lost game one and didn’t look great. While we held Stanford to 10 points (plus a bogus last second fumble TD), we only scored 7. The game was so bad I can barely remember any specific moments from the action. I do know TJ Green looked the better of the two QBs but got knocked out for the year. Hunter Johnson looked like a first time starter and definitely will be a work in progress.

Good news is we’ve got UNLV this week. They lost their last game to Arkansas State by 34 points and aren’t very good, especially on defense. Hopefully the ‘Cats O can get enough going to put some points on the board and pull this one out. I’m very proud to have coined the term Bowser Ball™ however Bowser isn’t playing in this one :(. However, think the ‘Cats will run a lot this week with HJ using his legs. Beware the ‘Cats at home as a double digit favorite – I can’t remember the last time we covered in this situation. However I think NU will be fired up and Fitz has too much bad Akron taste in his mouth to let the team slip up here.

 

Game Score: NU 38 – UNLV – 17

 

Play of the Game: Hunter throws his first TD pass, a deep post to Riley Lees.
 

 

Player to Watch: Hunter Johnson.

 

Warrior to Watch: Doc Roche. The doctor is back in Chicago and will be ready to roll in the West Lot.

 

Other Game to Watch: ASU @ MSU. Can Sparty stay undefeated before their trip to Evanston next week?

 

ANDY DAY
 

Game Summary: Our offense is bad until proven otherwise. I don’t care how bad UNLV’s defense is supposed to be, our offense is arguably worse (yes, we have the second worse offense in the FBS right now). We will struggle again to score, but so will UNLV. Our defense is still pretty darn good despite some tackling issues in Week 1, and we’ll manage to hold a high scoring offense to only a handful of scores.

 

Game Score: ‘Cats 20 – UNLV 19

 

Play of the Game: Hunter Johnson completes two consecutive passes.

 

Player to Watch: Mick McCall

 

Warrior to Watch: Dr. Michael Roche, MD. Will he lose his keys, only to find them later?

 

Other Game to Watch: LSU vs Northwestern….State.

 

HACK
 

Game Summary: UNLV lost to Arkansas State last week. They aren’t good. Too bad this isn’t a  home and home. I will be eating Paella and enjoying the nice day as the Cats roll.

 

Game Score: ‘Cats 35 – UNLV 3

 

Play of the Game: Hunter Johnson completes a 75-yard pass to Kyric McGowan on the first play from scrimmage

 

Player to Watch: Hunter till he proves otherwise.

 

Warrior to Watch: Dr. Michael Roche has returned praise be to Otto Graham!

 

Other Game to Watch: Stanford vs UCF: Can Stanford make our loss look good?

 

PAUL
 

Game Summary: With no Bowser, Hunter will have to really prove himself. Can he handle the pressure of his first home game in an ideal tailgate timeslot at 2:30?? I’m not convinced yet after that pitiful performance by the O-line and O-coordinator two weeks ago. I have a bad feeling this one is going to be tight with NU needing a late FG to win it.

 

Game Score: ‘Cats 19 – UNLV 17

 

Play of the Game: Winning FG kick with seconds remaining.

 

Player to Watch: Kicker. I sense we’re going to need a game winner in this one.

 

Warrior to Watch: Gotta be Roche. Welcome back to the West Lot!!

 

Other Game to Watch: Iowa v. Iowa State. Going to be as tough a battle as the one over the effectiveness of corn subsidies in Washington DC!

Prediction Caturday – Stanford!

usa_today_8782493.0

Game day is here! The moment we’ve been waiting months for has finally arrived. Half the Warrior crew is out on the West Coast bringing those West Lot beats to Palo Alto. Special Happy Birthday shout out to Andy Day!!!

Let’s see who we’ve got in the game.

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

 

TRENT

Game Summary:

Four years ago, the ‘Cats took on Stanford to open the season in Evanston. In many ways, the program was in a very different spot. Northwestern was coming off back to back 5-7 seasons, and deep within the fan base there was unrest and questions about Fitz. The Wildcats had questions at QB as Trevor Siemian entered the NFL draft and few people (aside from yours truly) were picking the ‘Cats to beat the Cardinal. I like to think this game was an inflection point for our program, as Northwestern smothered Stanford and only lost two games during the regular season to finish in the top 15 of the CFP rankings. Since then we’ve won three bowl games and a B1G West Title. What a difference a few years makes – Fitz’s Q score has never been higher as we enter the 2019 season.

Just as it was four years ago, the ‘Cats are dealing with a change at QB, and we really didn’t know what we are going to get at the position this weekend. Fitz has played his usual media games and has folks guessing about who will start on Saturday – is it the talented but unproven Hunter Johnson, or the veteran TJ Green? Or, will it be a combination of both?
I seriously hope it is not the latter – we saw last year against Purdue how quickly a team can burn its momentum by switching QBs throughout different series, not allowing either to get into a rhythm. I’d like to see Hunter in there – we saw what TJ Green could do last year and it wasn’t anything to write home about. Perhaps he’s made serious strides this offseason, but I have my doubts.
Stanford runs a pro style offense, similar to a lot of what the ‘Cats see in the B1G. They’re going to run the ball, run play action, and play smart football – grinding out games. The ‘Cats will try to do the same, especially with some of the questions at QB.
However, something tells me Fitz has been playing us all and we’ll see Hunter Johnson run out for the first NU offensive snap of the game. I think the ‘Cats will play conservatively to start out, and expect a lot of Bowser early on as we ease into the game and the season.
I believe the biggest weakpoint on our team is the secondary, and KJ Costello is the kind of QB that could pick us apart. However he doesn’t have the same weapons he’s had in years past, aside from a solid TE (from what I’ve read).
This is going to be a low scoring game – I love the under here. Fitz has a great record in tight one score games, and even though our team is young, they’ve been in some pressure situations over the past few years – the B1G championship experience will be valuable. Fitz has never had an issue getting the team up for big games – they will be fired up and ready for this one. I think we pull it out with a late FG.
Game Score: NU 20 – Stanford 17
Player to Watch: Hunter Johnson on offense, Greg Newsome on defense. I’ve said enough about HJ – for Greg, can he take over as the lead DB for Hartage and play lock-down D?
 
Warrior to Watch: Andy Day. Our West Coast Warrior reps the purple faithful out in the Bay Area and is going to do it up right for this season opener and his birthday.
Other Game to Watch: Illinois – Akron. A bettor threw down 55K on Illinois to cover -17, can they avoid a Northwestern-like performance against the Zips?
ANDY “B” DAY
Game Summary:

Solid defense. Painful to watch offense. Does that remind anyone of a team? Sounds a lot like the 2015 ‘Cats. I think this game looks very similar to 2015 Stanford @ NU. Go ‘Cats!

Game Score: NU 16 – Stanford 6
Player to Watch: Whoever ends up playing quarterback
 
Warrior to Watch: Grayhack. He’s out in the Bay and ready to play.
Other Game to Watch: Oregon – Auburn in Jerry World. Should be a fun one.
ROGER
Game Summary: I’m curious to see what the offense is all about this year. I assume it’s same old same old, but we don’t even know who the QB is at the moment…. which is concerning.
This is a non con game though. We have demonstrated that we don’t give much of a shit about those in recent years. So, I’m going to take the same attitude. I’m also going honeymooning on Sunday, so it’s a win either way.

Game Score: Cats 21 – Stansbury 16, Roger’s Honeymoon – 100

Player to Watch: Mick/TJ/Hunter
PAUL
Game Summary:  No Cats are getting caught in Trees tomorrow. Our defense plays lights out and gets critical turnovers in the red zone as our offense is a mess. McCall decides to use the Wildcat QB strategy which does not pan out.
Game Score: NU 12 – Stanford 9
Play of the Game: Pick in the end zone saving a TD
 
Player to Watch: Bowser
 
Warrior to Watch: DAY. It’s his 30th celebration. Got to love it.
Other Game to Watch: Duke Bama. Upset alert.
HACK
69-0 Cats win
DOC ROCHE
Game Summary:  A team led by two quarterbacks is most often led by none.
I don’t know anything about Stanford.
Game Score: Cardinal 24 – Cats 10
Play of the Game: First play of the game – when we find out who QB 1A is
 
Player to Watch: The QB Platoon!
 
Warrior to Watch: The birthday boy!
Other Game to Watch: all of em. Happy Labor Day.
Z VON
Cats 2 Stannis 0

The Wild Wild B1G West

wills mith

 

It’s game week. I honestly can’t believe it’s really here. Northwestern has a game on Saturday. Life is good.

This time of year is rampant for wild speculation about who will be in the playoff, who will win their division, which teams are dark horses, how long Lovie Smith will continue to cash checks at Illinois, etc. What’s fun is that no one really knows for sure, so you can really say whatever you want and bet that somewhere out there, there is someone that will agree with you (and an army of people who will disagree).

Much has been written about the B1G West race this year – not in the context of the CFP title race or even really in the context of competing for the B1G title, but because the division seems so up for grabs.

We’ve made the joke many times about the B1G “Wild Wild” West, and I can think of a few instances where our Thursday Pump Up Jam featured the sweet sweet tenor of Will Smith from the late 90’s. Rarely has the B1G West seemed as wild and open as it does this year.

There is a clear basement on our side of the conference, with Illinois having won a total of four B1G games in the last three years. But, aside from Lovie’s crew, you can make a case (and people have) for every other team in the division to take the West. Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Purdue and the ‘Cats all have been talked about as a potential West champ.

A lot of the B1G West race will, as it does every year, come down to each team’s schedule and specifically who they face on the other side of the division. I’ve done a highly scientific analysis to look at how difficult each team’s schedule is based on two key factors: 1. who they play in the East, and 2. how many road games they have against their fellow B1G West competitors (I eliminated Illinois from this mix because, well it’s Illinois).

In the East, there is a pretty clear hierarchy of teams. You’ve got Ohio State and Michigan on the balcony popping some Veuve Cliquot, Penn State and Michigan a floor below sipping some Burgundy, Maryland and Indiana on the first floor drinking some Miller High Life and then Rutgers chilling in the basement with Natty Ice and a pack of Malboro Reds. For the purposes of our scientific schedule analysis, I’ve assigned games against Ohio State or Michigan a value of four, PSU or MSU three, Indiana or Maryland two and Rutgers one point.

Then, I’ve assigned one point to every road game the B1G West ‘contenders’ have against the other set of contenders in the division. The more points a team has, the more difficult their schedule – let’s see how it shakes out:

Iowa – 11 points

Rutgers (1), @Michigan (4), PSU(3), Purdue, @NU (1), @Wisconsin (1), Minnesota, Illinois, @Nebraska (1)

 

Nebraska – 10 points
@Illinois, OSU (4), NU, @Minnesota (1), Indiana (2), @Purdue (1), Wisco, @Maryland (2), Iowa

 

Purdue – 11 points
Minnesota, @PSU (3), Maryland (2), @Iowa (1), Illinois, @Nebraska (1), @Northwestern(1), @Wisconsin(1), Indiana (2)

 

Minnesota – 9 points
@Purdue (1), Illinois, Nebraska, @Rutgers (1), Maryland (2), PSU (3), @Iowa (1), @Northwestern (1), Wisconsin

 

Wisconsin – 13 points
Michigan (4), Northwestern, MSU (3), @Illinois, @OSU (4), Iowa, @Nebraska (1), Purdue, @Minnesota (1)

 

Northwestern – 11 points
MSU (3), @Wisco (1), @Nebraska (1), OSU (4), Iowa, @Indiana (2), Purdue, Minnesota, @Illinois

 

What does this mean? Based on this very subjective taxology, Minnesota has the easiest schedule, Nebraska second easiest, Purdue, NU and Iowa are fairly even, and then Wisconsin has the most difficult schedule. Wisconsin is the only team that has to face both Michigan and Ohio State…plus they also get a fun home game against Sparty. That is brutal. Meanwhile Minnesota gets Penn State at home, and then has very manageable crossover games at home against Maryland and on the road against Rutgers.

 

What does this really mean? I have no idea. The ratings could be way off – maybe Michigan State will have a down year while Indiana could take a step forward. We won’t know until the games are played.

 

We can only hope that, once the dust settles on the Wild Wild B1G West, our ‘Cats are riding off into the sunset with Will Smith.

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.

 

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