Prediction Friday – B1G Championship

The ‘Cats are taking their talents to Indy!

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

 

ROGER

Game Summary:

I’ll get into the significance of this game momentarily, but first I’d like to point out a few things about our opponent:

  1. This year’s version of Ohio State is NOT invincible. In fact, they are probably the most beatable Buckeyes squad in nearly a decade because they have an incredibly low floor relative to other OSU teams.
  2. Ohio State has a negative point differential in road games and a +5 point differential in road and neutral site games. That’s almost unfathomable for a top 10 team with 1 loss.
  3. Ohio State was losing in the 2nd half this season to 4-8 Nebraska, 5-7 TCU, 5-7 Maryland and, obviously, 6-6 Purdue.
  4. If Ohio State churns out a performance on par with point 3 above, they will not be one of the better teams we have played this year.
  5. Ohio State has churned out performances on par with point 3 above more often than not.

Usually I ponder which NU team will show up. This week, the more significant question is which Ohio State team will show up. I’ll be the first to tell you I have no idea. We absolutely cannot beat the Ohio State team that played last week in Columbus. That said, there are a few things here that suggest last week’s OSU team won’t be in attendance and there are a few more than could go our way earlier in the day on Saturday.

  1. This game isn’t in Columbus (see above)
  2. OSU isn’t playing their rival in the most heated rivalry in all of sports
  3. No matter what they say, every singly player on the OSU roster and every single coach on the OSU sideline thinks they are going to win this game comfortably
  4. OSU’s motivation could be almost non-existent – More on that below.

Per #4, we all know OSU’s football players don’t come to play school. But, I would also argue they don’t come to play for conference championships. They come to play for national championships. Thankfully, through positive circumstance here, Buckeye nation is going to bed Friday night thinking they still have a shot at the national title and that could be erased by 8pm EST pending the outcome of the Texas – Oklahoma game. The committee has indicated that they evaluate the entire body of work for each team in each week’s rankings. OU is ahead of OSU this week. If OU wins comfortably in the Big XII Championship Game, then the Buckeyes have effectively zero chance of jumping them. Even with a convincing win, OSU would have done absolutely nothing during the week to justify jumping an OU team that also had a convincing win, also won their conference championship game AND beat a higher ranked team and avenged their only loss of the season.

Given that motivation appears to have been a problem all year for Ohio State, the outcome of the OU Texas game is a GIGANTIC factor in this game.

Now, for the ‘Cats.

  1. This game isn’t in Evanston – that’s actually a positive for this bunch
  2. NU is playing what ‘Cats fans would consider the Evil Empire
  3. The entire world is counting NU out
  4. Motivation? Are you serious? More on that below.

Motivation is obviously not going to be an issue for NU in this one. I’ve heard a lot of the NU faithful say this is the biggest game since [INSERT GAME IN ’95 or ’96]. I’m not sure that’s true. I would argue this is the biggest game ever for this program. As I pointed out last week, NU has NEVER played a Rose Bowl play-in game. In ’95 they had to rely on help from Michigan after their season ended. In 1948, they backdoored their way into the game thanks to some weird conference rules and more help from Michigan. This is a Rose Bowl play-in game for the ‘Cats. That’s a first. Thus, I would argue this is the most important game in the history of this program.

So, what’s going to happen in the game?

If NU can slog their way to halftime well within striking range, then I like our odds. Not only will OSU be completely screwed in their attempt to win by 100, but the ‘Cats will also realize that they aren’t playing the OSU squad that showed up against Michigan. That’s quite appealing.

I’m actually most concerned about explosive plays on the special teams front early in this one. Our kickoff coverage has been a disaster for the better part of the year. That’s partially the result of not having an actual kicker for kickoff duties, but our guys have also exercised poor discipline in coverage (as LaVar Ball would say “stay in yo lane”). The Cats cannot get beat with special teams home runs and expect to stay close.

Offensively, the offensive line is nearly as critical as Clayton in this one. OSU’s defense isn’t anything to write home about, but they still have first round NFL talent on the defensive line. The ‘Cats have to avoid letting a few individuals dominate the game and dictate our offensive scheme. Our offense isn’t Purdue, but it’s also not that different schematically at the end of the day when Mick (rarely) gets creative. For that reason alone, I have some hope that the ‘Cats will be able to move the ball.

Defensively, we’re going to give up yards. There’s no way around that. We’re also going to give up points. But, it’s worth noting that OSU has the worst red zone offense in the B1G. Surprising? Maybe. But they rely a lot on the home run. We rely a lot on the bend-don’t-break. If we do a lot of bending and they hit a lot of singles and a few doubles, we’ve got a real shot here.

Thanks to some methodical offensive play, I think the ‘Cats will get this into halftime down something like 17-10 or 17-14.

At that point, the magic kicks in. Some backstory…..

Enter Rose – the van. Trent alluded to this, but Rose is a blessed van. She’s like an actual cat with nine lives… except she’s a 1990’s Chevy G20. Rose used life six, seven and eight this offseason. Her tires dry rotted, her battery died (yet again) and her brakes have essentially ceased functioning. Prior to paying our final respects to Rose, we thought it best to treat her with the utmost dignity in what could be her final season. So, she got a purple paint job. Unbeknownst to just about anyone (including Facilities Management at NU, Dr. Jim and the residents who live near Ashland and Isabella), Rose has a final resting place set aside: Lot 6, Rose Bowl Drive, Pasadena, CA 91103. She also has final transportation arrangements made. Simply put, this is destiny.

On to the 2nd half.

Look for the Buckeyes to get tense in the 3rd quarter if this game is close. The ‘Cats will benefit from that by way of some turnovers and some blown coverages and we just may take the lead into the 4th quarter.

If this plays out, it’s time for Mick and Clayton to put up or shut up once and for all. There’s no chance in hell the ‘Cats will be able to hang on against a team like Ohio State. As bizarre as it sounds, NU will have to go for the kill if they have the chance. Purdue proved that it’s possible. You better believe Fitz has reviewed that film multiple times.

It’s your time to shine, Fitz.

Game Score: NU 31 – OSU 20

Play of the Game: Up 24-20 with less than 5 minutes to play deep in our own territory, Thorson throws a backwards pass to Riley Lees who finds Jefferson wide open down the sideline for an 85 yard score.

 Player to Watch: Thorson and the Offensive Line. Ball control will be our best defense early in this game.

Warrior to Watch: Rose. It is written.

Other Game to Watch: The Big XII Championship. See above. We could really use a convincing OU win here.

 

TRENT

Game Summary: One game. One freaking game.

Six years ago the Warriors banded together, bought a dilapidated van off of Craigslist and named it Rose. The implication was that someday, someway, Northwestern would get back to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. Now, we are 60 minutes away from making that pipedream a reality.

The Warriors had been talking about painting the van purple for many years, but a lack of organization and effort delayed Rose’s purple coat until earlier this year. The honorable Patrick Grayhack braved the elements and likely some kind of lead poisoning as he went out and painted Rose purple on one hot summer day. Is it a coincidence that the year Rose finally turned purple also happens to be the year the ‘Cats win the West and get a shot at the Rose Bowl? I think not.

This is easily the biggest game for the program since I’ve been a ‘Cats fan. The boys are headed down to Indy this weekend to see One Republic rock out…and also see our beloved ‘Cats take on the Ohio State Buckeyes, I guess. OSU ‘upset’ Michigan in an outcome that shocked most…but shouldn’t have. Urban Meyer had never lost to Michigan, never lost as an underdog and was playing at home. The signs were there for an OSU win, but no one saw a total blowout coming as the Wolverines fell apart on defense and gave up 63 points. How about Pat Fitzgerald and NU making their first B1G title game appearance before Harbaugh and Michigan?

As I wrote a few weeks back, I wanted to face Michigan as opposed to OSU. OSU has the #3 passing offense in the country, and elite athletes at every skill position. When you factor in our beat up secondary, this is a bad matchup. The teams that have given OSU problems this year – Nebraska, Purdue and Maryland – all run an up-tempo spread offense and have speed at the skill positions. The ‘Cats do not play that style, and do not have a lot of speed. OSU’s defense has been much-maligned, but it’s really not that bad and doesn’t rank too far behind the ‘Cats D.

Basically this game feels like a college basketball matchup to me. Whenever you see a team like Virginia matching up with a team like UNC on the hardwood – two teams with competing styles of play – whoever wins the game will come down to who can impose their pace of play on the other. Virginia likes to grind it out, whereas UNC is up tempo – so a game where the teams are scoring in the 50’s caters more to Virginia, whereas a game where teams are scoring in the 80’s plays into UNC’s hands. In this analogy, the ‘Cats are Virginia and the Buckeyes are UNC. We want to slow the game down, play great D and turn this into a rock fight. OSU wants to speed the game up and turn it into a track meet. Whichever team can impose their pace of play on the other will have the advantage.

I have flashbacks to when OSU played Wisconsin back in 2014 in the B1G championship – they were on the outside looking up at the CFP at that point, and needed a statement victory to give themselves a chance to make the top four. They went out and whupped Wisconsin 59-0 in that game and just looked so much more athletic at every position. The Buckeyes are in a similar spot this year, needing a dominant performance in Indy to solidify their spot in the top four. They have better athletes than us at every position, and need to win big.

This could get ugly, and I wouldn’t be shocked in the slightest if OSU ran us out of the building. I’d like to think the ‘Cats have a chance here, as we haven’t gotten blown out in a game this year and have showed up each and every time we’ve been an underdog (winning five of those games outright). It’s moments like this, when nobody believes in us and everyone counts us out, that NU shows up in a big way and competes.

In my mind this game comes down to our offense. No what our defense does, Ohio State is going to put up points. They average more than 43 points per game. With their lethal deep passing game they could score on any one play. Meanwhile, the ‘Cats are only scoring 23 points per game. We need to turn this into a rock fight to win – in my mind the blueprint is what Michigan State did against OSU earlier this year. Though Sparty lost, they played a tight, low scoring field position game throughout. If this game is played in the 20s, we’ve got a shot. Once it gets to the 30s, we’re likely SOL.

Sadly I think OSU will be able to score more than 30 points on us. I see the ‘Cats keeping it tight for a while, but a few big plays in the second half puts the Buckeyes out in front and the ‘Cats won’t be able to catch up. Regardless, the Warriors and NU faithful will enjoy the Indy trip, and having our team in this kind of national primetime spotlight is fantastic publicity for our program. To make it to the B1G championship is no small feat, and the future looks even brighter.

Game Score: NU 23 – OSU 33

Play of the Game: Bowser with 2 TDs.

Player to Watch: Isaiah Bowser. The kid from working class Sidney, OH grew up in a town full of Buckeyes fans who have been converted over to NU fans ever since Bowser broke onto the scene earlier this year. Many of the folks from Sidney were planning to go to Indy for this game, and I’m sure that number has gone up since OSU beat Michigan.

How perfect would it be for the kid from Ohio to have a big game this weekend? To me, Bowser is the key to the game. If he has a successful day on the ground, the ‘Cats will be able to extend drives, slow the game down and burn clock. If Bowser can’t find room to run, the ‘Cats will go one dimensional and that’s not going to work against a team with so much talent like OSU. If Isaiah can run like he has the past five weeks, we’ll have a chance.

Warrior to Watch: Gotta be Rose.

Other Game to Watch: Really? Are there even other games happening? I guess you could say NU @ IU in basketball, which will be a nice appetizer for the Warriors during the day on Saturday.

 

ZVON

Game Summary: ‘Cats play okay in first half but I don’t think we’ve got the gusto to win. Another loss to An Ohio State University. We’ll get ’em someday.

Game Score: OSU 45 – ‘Cats 21

Play of the Game: Bowser scores a TD to tie it 7-7 in the first quarter

Player to Watch: OSU Marching Band

Warrior to Watch: This has ‘Paul’ written all over it. Does he switch allegiance once the game appears to be squarely in the hands of OSU? Does he wear an OSU shirt under his NU garb?

Other Game to Watch: This is the game

 

ROCHE

Game Summary: Roger’s verbose today, even for him. I am not.

Fetz turns 30 on game day, you guys. The ‘Cats deliver her a Rose Bowl birth for her big day.

I think the ‘Cats get a late score and snuff out a Buckeye final drive to seal the deal.

…Or this game is never close and Ohio State runs away and hides early.

Let’s go with the first one.

Game Score: NU 34 – OSU 30

Play of the Game: Bowser converts a Third and Goal to put the #B1GCats ahead for good.

Player to Watch: Thorson. He’s gonna need to show up for the biggest game of his career for the ‘Cats to have a chance.

Warrior to Watch: Rose is getting ready for her cross-country trip.

Other Game to Watch: I guess Roger makes a good point. Big 12 title game.

 

PAUL

Game Summary: This is certainly the biggest NU game I’ve ever been a part of and I’m pumped that we have five of the seven Warriors making their way down to the Circle City to watch this one in person. Sadly, Rose is taking this week off and resting up for New Years Day.

OSU was unreal last week, but I have to agree with Roger here that they are going to have an intense hangover and think they’ll be able to easily win. Add to the fact that they’ll be dejected after OU wins against Texas and this sets up the Cats well to pull this one off.

NU will keep this game close on the back of Bowser and some surprisingly clutch passes from Clayton – even one scrambling out of the pocket! We head into half time down 21-14.

The Cats D absolutely comes alive in the 2nd half and holds OSU to just 7 points. NU, without a reliable kicker makes a ridiculous 4th down conversion late in the game to tie this one up. WE ARE HEADING TO OVERTIME!!!

The D holds the Buckeyes to a field goal and Bowser gives the Cats their first ever B1G Championship with a 15 yard TD run. We are heading to Pasadena!

Game Score: Wildcats 35 – Buckeyes 31 (OT)

Play of the Game: Bowser’s winning TD run.

Player to Watch: Clayton Thorson – needs to have some key passes in this game and can’t turn the ball over.

Warrior to Watch: Rankin – how intense is he going to get during this game? Will the Warriors in 117 be able to hear him three sections over?

Other Game to Watch: There is no other game.

HACK

Game Summary: Michael Jordan years ago, the Cats took the purple to Pasadena. Tomorrow, on St. Chrispins Day, the Cats have an opportunity to do it again. Will they? Or won’t they? Only the Gods know.

 Game Score: CATS 33 – OSU 32

Play of the Game: Thorson completes a pass to Kyric McGowan for a 44 yard TD.

Player to Watch: Flynn Nagel. Need a big game.

Warrior to Watch: Andy Day – He brings it on big games and will be in attendance for this one.

Other Game to Watch: The North London Derby on Sunday. Arsenal 6 – Tottenam 0.

 

DAY

Game Summary: Cats Win!

Game Score:  CATS 30 – OSU 28

Play of the Game: Bowser on 4th and 1 to seal the game.

Player to Watch: Claydog

Warriors to Watch: HACK

Other Game to Watch: None.

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Prediction Friday – Notre Dame

Tomorrow’s game is at 6:15pm and night games are always tough ones for the Cats, including this season.  Five Warriors think the Cats will win this one.

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

Andy has maintained a perfect record, but avoided making official predictions for Akron and Wisco. and Wisco. Roger & Hack have have been the best records for predictions made on all published games.

Andy Trent Roger Roche Paul Hack ZVon
4-0
3-3
4-2
3-2
3-3
4-2
2-4

Onto the predictions….

ROGER:

Game Summary: Apathy is at an 18 year low. As I noted last week, the ‘Cats had a chance to take control of the West. Well, they did that and a lot more. We got some help with both Purdue and Iowa losing. Indianapolis is still a long ways out (it could become closer with an Iowa loss at Purdue this weekend), but it’s now officially there on the horizon.

This week’s game won’t have any impact on our beloved Rose’s pursuit to reach her final resting place in Pasadena at season’s end (side note: when NU next plays in the Rose Bowl the van is being towed out West for her last hurrah on the Rose Bowl grounds), but it is VERY significant for many reasons.

First, the Cats are playing a top 5 team at home under the lights with a lot of momentum and very little to lose. Truly, this game has no impact on NU’s ability to achieve their season’s goal(s) of getting to Indy and winning the B1G. My good friend Bags has informed me that ESPN still gives us a 39% chance of reaching the College Football Playoff if we win out (that includes wins against top 5 Notre Dame and Michigan as well as a conference title), but that seems like complete rubbish because this is still a team with 3 losses…. one of which was to Akron. So, there’s nothing to lose. That’s one hell of an opportunity that is not bestowed on every team.

Beyond that, this game is historically significant for the Northwestern football program. For those who follow the program (even from a distance), you know that Northwestern football has a metaphorical BC and AD.

Northwestern football BC was ugly. NU still holds the longest losing streak in FBS history at 34 games. Thankfully, few people acknowledge that because it was BC.

AD began on the afternoon of September 2, 1995 in South Bend when the ‘Cats walked right out of that shit hole in Northern Indiana with a victory over the #8 Irish despite the 27 point line. As the saying goes, the rest is history. Rose was born that Fall (literally… she’s a 95), the ‘Cats won at #7 Michigan, skunked Wisconsin 35-0, beat #12 Penn State in front of Keith Jackson and College Gameday and played in the Rose Bowl for the first time in half a century. Yours truly witnessed the last game firsthand that New Year’s Day. I was 8 years old. To this day, it’s still one of the most vivid memories I have.

Fast forward two decades and you have a Northwestern football program that is perennially competitive. In this time frame, NU has won 3 B1G championships, played in 13 bowl games (winning 3 of its last 4), posted 10 win seasons twice in the past 3 years and beat ND…. again…. in South Bend.  In fact, Northwestern football AD has never lost to Notre Dame.  All of that would have been absolutely unfathomable for Northwestern football BC. But none of that would have ever been possible without September 2, 1995.

So, when NU takes the field on Saturday night all bets are off.

To Notre Dame, this game is another one against a mediocre foe in their quest for the College Football Playoff.

To Fitz, and those who remember Northwestern football BC, this game is the culmination of everything that has changed in the last 23 years.

The Irish are coming to Ryan Field for the first time since 1976…. and they’re going to lose.

How’s it gonna happen?…….

ND is good, but I’m not really going out on a limb when I say they are probably the worst team to reach one of the top 4 spots in the College Football Playoff era. Their front 7 is better than their secondary. Their QB is good but not particularly mobile and prone to youthful mistakes. And, they have quality skill position players, but they aren’t track stars.

Does all that ring a bell? Well…. it should. Because it sounds a whole hell of a lot like Michigan State and Michigan put together. And if you haven’t been following along closely, let me give you an excerpt from my prediction for the MSU game…..

If we rewind to last Saturday for a second, there’s a very clear reason why NU was competitive in the game and had a chance to win in the 4th quarter – Michigan runs a conservative, pro-style offense with little regard for exploiting the opponent’s deficiencies (side bar: this is a large reason why I think Harbaugh is a fraud). Funny enough, Michigan State has been VERY similar for the past decade with this approach…. despite the fact that they’ve churned out reputable NFL QB’s left and right. I don’t expect them to be quite as conservative offensively as Michigan (see Lewerke torching NU’s defense last year in a losing effort), but they’ll be boring enough to keep this game close for no reason.

Well, if Jim Harbaugh is a fraud, then Brian Kelly is Hue Jackson. ND should win this game, but they don’t match up particularly well with Northwestern and they won’t find out how to exploit NU’s deficiencies until it’s too late.

Hartage Island is going to be a key to this one as the ‘Cats will get A LOT of pressure on Ian Book and stuff ND’s run game thanks to some isolated corners playing well.

Bad Thorson has played 2 weeks in a row now. Thankfully, it hasn’t mattered. I expect good Thorson to appear in this one and I’m looking for big games from the usual suspects (i.e. Nagel) as well as a Rondale Moore-like performance from Kyric McGowan.

The West Lot is going to be bumpin’ like it’s 1995.

Game Score: NU 34 ND 24

Play of the Game: Mick runs a speed option for the first time all season. This time, Riley Lees is playing QB. He hits the second level and pitches to Kyric McGowan for a 50+ yard TD.

Player to Watch: Kyric McGowan – just got a feeling here… this kid can run.

Warrior to Watch: The whole crew…. it’s gonna be one merry afternoon in the West Lot.

Other Game to Watch: Iowa @ Purdue. It cannot be anything else (I don’t care about Alabama vs LSU). If Purdue wins, NU can go 2 for 3 down the stretch and still reach the B1G Championship Game.

TRENT

Game Summary: The ‘Cats are all of a sudden in the driver’s seat in the B1G West. It’s hard to believe that after a 1-3 start which included a loss to Akron, we’re now 5-3 and in control of our own destiny. Northwestern smothered Wisconsin last weekend, amazingly rushing for more yards than the Badgers.

Now, it’s on to Notre Dame. We’ve had this game circled on our calendars for years. I remember when they announced a four game home and home (and home and home) series between the ‘Cats and the Domers, and Notre Dame backed out to shorten it to two…after we’d played the first game of the series and beaten them in South Bend. In 2014 many of the Warriors made the trek to Indiana and witnessed one of the greatest games of our lives.

After the ‘Cats trailed by 11 late in the fourth quarter, I remember walking to the exit with my head held high, knowing the ‘Cats had played hard and avoided embarrassment at the hands of the Irish. But, as I started down the tunnel out of the stadium, a strange sort of hushed cry rang out from the stands – something big had happened and it didn’t sound like it was good for Notre Dame. Turning around, I approached a security guard on the side to ask what had occurred. Before he could finish his sentence, I’d started sprinting back towards my spot in the stands where most of the Warriors still drunkenly stood strong. Notre Dame had fumbled, the Wildcats had recovered, and all of a sudden we were back from the dead.

Trevor Siemian, yes Trevor Siemian, got himself drafted to the NFL that freezing afternoon in South Bend as he led the ‘Cats down the field, hit Kyle Prater with some clutch passes and set us up in field goal range. Jack Mitchell, yes Jack Mitchell, made a clutch kick to take the game to OT. Notre Dame missed a FG in OT, Mitchell drained another kick, and all of a sudden we had a wildly improbably 43-40 victory on our hands.

I’ve always disliked Notre Dame, and the behavior of their fans at that game certainly didn’t help their case. It was one of the most satisfying feelings ever to walk out of there with a victory. Since then, they canceled two of the other planned games in our series, but…they weren’t able to cancel this one. We went to their house, now they have to come to ours this weekend.

The football gods did us a favor and made this a night game, meaning the West Lot will be out of control. This is our Super Bowl. But we have nothing to lose.

Typically Northwestern fans get severely outnumbered at Ryan Field by any large opposing fanbase. I expect the crowd to be in our favor for this game. For once, this will feel like a home game for us. Fitz will have the team fired up and ready to play – he hates Notre Dame.

The ‘Cats seem to have found a running game with freshman RB Isaiah Bowser, who adds balance to the offense and takes some of the pressure off of Thorson. If Thorson can avoid mistakes (he threw three picks last week and we still won pretty easily) the ‘Cats should be able to get enough done on offense. I expect the defense to show up in a big way and force a few turnovers off ND. Fitz will pull out a trick play at some point.

I’m seeing this as a tight game throughout, with the ‘Cats getting the ball back late with a chance to win. Thorson leads us down the field, and Luckenbaugh hits a short FG as the ‘Cats pull out the win and the crowd…goes….wild.

Game Score: ‘Cats 24 – ND 21

Play of the Game: Montre Hartage pick six.

Player to Watch: Isaiah Bowser. Against Wisconsin he was able to churn out 3-4 yards a pop, which helped set us up for third and short. That gave McCall the option to either run or pass or third down, and kept the defense guessing. Let’s hope Bowser can do the same against ND.

Warrior to Watch: Doc Roche is in town!

Other Game to Watch: While we play a meaningless non-conference game, Iowa heads to Purdue in an important B1G West matchup. Should Purdue pull that game out…the ‘Cats are in good shape. Go Boilermakers!

ROCHE

Game Summary: What kind of Kool-Aid you guys drinking? I love the ‘Cats as much as the next guy, but c’mon. Northwestern beat an injury-riddled Wisconsin team – a Badger squad that gifted the game with all those turnovers. Meanwhile, Northwestern played well enough to win. But they still have a lot of questions on offense (which Clayton is going to showup? How will Bowser do against a much better ND front?). They held Wisconsin to 17 points, but last time I checked Ian Book is much better than Jack Coan, and he’s got more options.

Northwestern is the favorite to win the B1G West. But they ain’t gonna beat the Fightin’ Irish.

(I also want to re-remind everyone how awful of a game they played against Rutgers two weeks back. I don’t trust the ‘Cats to put up the complete performance needed to beat Notre Dame)

Game Score: ND 31 – NU 20

Play of the Game: All the ridiculous kickoffs that’ll happen with our injured kickers.

Player to Watch: Which Thorson will show up?

Warrior to Watch: Really looking forward to being in the West Lot with you guys again.

Other Game to Watch: Iowa – Purdue.

A DAY

Game Summary: Guys… I’m just excited. Night game. Top 5 opponent. Drivers seat in B1G West. This is gonna be a tailgate for the ages. I think the energy will be electric and the ‘Cats will feed off it. The defense is really humming right now. Clayton hasn’t looked good… but neither did TD Trev in 2014 and then he came out and threw a gem. I’m too excited for us to pick anything but a ‘Cats W. It’s a close one but ‘Cats pull away in the 4th.

Game Score: ‘Cats 31 – ND 28

Play of the Game: The Flyin’ Hawaiian, Chad Hanaoka scores his first career TD on a check-down in the red zone.  🤙🤙🤙

Player to Watch: Clayton, need a bug one here buddy.

Warrior to Watch: ROCHE NO DOUBT!

Other Game to Watch: Boiler Up baby.

HACK

Game Summary: Here we go the Notre Dame Fighting Irish come to Evanston to face the red-hot Cats under the lights. Notre Dame’s worst game of the year so far was against a mediocre to bad Pitt team that held them to 19 points. Pittsburgh is coached by a collection of Big Ten veterans led by former Michigan State D coordinator Pat “The Nard Dog” Narducci and his defensive coordinator of that team was none other than former Cats linebackers coach Randy Bates.

My takeaway is this team is beatable if you don’t turn the ball over and can get pressure on Ian Book who is prone to stupidity. I think the defense will show up because Notre Dame’s o line is not that great and their skill guys are good, but not speedsters. This game comes down to Clayton, who despite his inconsistencies is pretty good when Mick Mccall gives him the keys to the O. I think he can score 3 touchdowns against this Irish D, probably all in the first quarter(jk lol). Will it be enough to win? Signs point to yes

Game Score: NU 21 – ND 19

Play of the Game: Greg Newsome blocks an extra point in the second quarter

Player to Watch: Montre Hartage – Can he shut down Boykin

Warrior to Watch: Roger – He loves Notre Dame almost as much as he loves Donald Trump

Other Game to Watch: Iowa – Purdue – Boiler Up MOTHERF*CKERS

PAUL

Game Summary: It doesn’t seem like four years ago when the warriors traveled out in style to South Bend to witness one of the greatest fourth quarter comebacks (complete coaching failures) in Northwestern history. Saturday is setting itself up for a déjà vu as the Cats are under the lights against #4 Notre Dame on ESPN. While all the nation’s eyes may start out on the Bama/LSU game, if my prediction is right, they’ll be flipping to the game in Evanston by halftime (Bama will be up 17 at that point).

NU will need to keep the pressure on the ND offense with perfection coverage and tackling this game. ND is not as good as their ranking (just look at their nail-biters against Vandy, Pitt, and BALL STATE), but they’ve got confidence and they want to avenge their home loss from four years ago. The first half will be a big defensive battle and both teams will get a TD with ND also gettting a FG for a halftime score of 10-7 Domers.

NU will come out of the gates in Q3 and get a touchdown on a nice 7 yard run by Bowser after a great 25 yard sideline catch from Nagel. ND will answer back with a TD in the 4th (17-14) and heartrates will be elevated at Ryan Field as the Cats have to line up for a 40 yard FG to tie the game with less than a minute remaining. Koobs (in for Luckenbaugh) drills it sending the Cats into OT where they force a fumble on a sack and leave it up to the offense to get a score. After genius Mick McCall runs the ball up the middle three straight times we only get 5 yards, leaving the 37 yard kick up to the injured kicker. He drills is. Pandemonium in Evanston.

Game Score: NU 20 – ND 17 (OT)

Play of the Game: 37 yard FG to win the game in OT by Koobs

Player to Watch: Bowser – we’re going to need to have a great ground assault for this one. The defensive secondary is close second.

Warrior to Watch: The Whole Squad This Week. MNUGA!!!

Other Game to Watch: Let’s be real – Bama / LSU is the pick here.

ZVON

Game Summary: Wishing for a cats victory is certainly what we are all doing. Alas, I think we fall short – similar to how the OSU game from ‘13 went down. Looks like we could win but we don’t.

Game Score: ND 27 – NU 21

Play of the Game: Bowser runs over an ND LB on way to a big 3rd down conversion early in the game.

Warrior to Watch: Andy and Roche

Other Game to Watch: Purdue/Iowa

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).

 

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
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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.

Prediction Friday – Nebraska

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Homecoming is here! The Nebraska Cornhuskers come into Evanston to take on the ‘Cats, after Northwestern pulled out a big road win in East Lansing last week. Even though the Huskers are 0-5, the Warriors are wary of a close game this week and split on the outcome.

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

 

While some of the Warriors had a rough night at the Mark II Lounge last night in honor of Homecoming, the group will be ready to go bright and early for the game tomorrow. If the ‘Cats win, rumor has it a repeat trip to the Deuce may be in order.  Doc Roche did not submit a prediction this week, so instead his selection this week is brought to you by our favorite bar. On to the picks…

ROGER

Game Summary:

Apathy went from a 10 a few weeks ago to a 6 last week and now it’s actually rather low. I’d give it a 3.5 at the moment. As Bag alluded to, the ‘Cats still technically control their own destiny in an awful division and there’s reason to believe the season isn’t entirely shot after the last 2 weeks. That warrants a 3.5.

I don’t know what to make of last week. Mark Dantonio is consistent. That’s why his teams have been pretty good for the past decade. But, that’s a double edged sword for him. With his consistency comes consistent losing to the ‘Cats. I foreshadowed the victory in a post that didn’t see the light of day (thanks, Paul) and I figured it would be the result of an MSU team unwilling to deviate from their pro style offense and run stuffing defense. That’s exactly what happened. NU lives for that shit. It means MSU levels the playing field and doesn’t require us to ever make an adjustment. That’s great because we probably wouldn’t make the necessary adjustments.

I think Nebraska is likely to be predictable as hell this week too. There’s only one problem there. Nebraska’s predictability doesn’t play into our hands the way MSU’s pro style garbage does. Their predictability means they’ll have a QB running wild every other play. When he’s not doing that by design, he’ll be heaving shit downfield to receivers running verticals and deep posts. We suck at defending that. I don’t see any reason why we won’t suck at defending that on Saturday. The Corn People will make plenty of mistakes and get called for plenty of penalties (they love the yellow flag), but they are also going to score points on NU’s defense.

So…. we turn to the offensive side of the ball. Nebraska’s defense sucks. There’s no way around that. They are unbelievably bad against the run. That said, it doesn’t appear as though we can run the ball…. regardless of the opponent. There’s no way around that either. So, Clay Dog’s going to be airing it out again this week if Mick has any sense. I expect that to work for the most part. The real question here is how much is “the most part”. That comes down to 2 things which will decide the game:

  1. Does Mick actually have any sense?Per the above, if we can’t run the ball then we should abandon the run immediately. Who gives a shit how we get yards. Passing on first, second and third down last week was a hell of a lot more effective than throwing an incomplete pass on first down, trying to run on second down and losing three yards and then getting behind the chains for third and eternity. Simply put, don’t run the ball if you can’t. The Air Raid is a thing and it can work.
  2. Will Mick roll the pocket?Clayton will make plays and we’ll get yards even if we play this game straight up with the conventional philosophy of trying to create a viable pocket. Having said that, the pocket will routinely break down and stall drives. We’ve seen this time and time again already this year. Last week, our good friend Mick made his first in game adjustment in 23 months and actually rolled the pocket to buy Clayton some more time and open up the field. It worked pretty damn well. If the pocket is breaking down early in this one, Mick better look to roll (preferably right more often than left).

Here we are again. The game comes down to Mick. These aren’t big asks. He successfully accomplished both feats last week. I’m cautiously optimistic he’ll do the same again this week.

Don’t let me down, Mick.

Game Score: ‘Cats 37 – Huskers 31

Play of the Game: After a miserable three and out to start the game that includes a sack due to a collapsed pocket, a run for -3 yards and a screen pass for 4 yards, Mick rolls the pocket on the first play of the next drive and Clayton hits Nagel for a 64 yard TD. Nagel’s first score of the year.

Player to Watch: Joe Gaziano. Nebraska’s QB (another Martinez) will get plenty of yards with his feet in this game. The ‘Cats need to get pressure and a few sacks to create some long down and distance plays.

Warrior to Watch: Paul. It has to be Paul this week. The guy lives for Homecoming.

Other Game to Watch: Wisconsin @ Michigan. Will Wisconsin lose a few conference games and finally make the B1G West interesting.

 

TRENT

Game Summary:

Kudos to the three Warriors who rightly sniffed out a fraudulent MSU last week and picked the ‘Cats to win – in a blog post that, like many of our posts, never saw the light of day. You’ll have to take my word for it.

The ‘Cats played their best game of the season on defense and actually scored in the second half for once. This season is starting to feel a lot like 2016 – two years ago we started out 1-3 with an atrocious loss at home (losing to Illinois State in 2016, and Akron this year) and then started out 2-1 in conference play with the second win coming on the road in East Lansing. All of a sudden, we went from a completely throw-away year to having irrational thoughts about competing for a B1G championship, and doing some monkey math to project out where the other B1G West teams could pick up losses. That’s where I’m at right now. I’m such a sucker. But, hope springs eternal in the fall.

Setting aside the games down the road and the path ahead of us, let’s look at this week. I’m scared shitless. Nebraska is 0-5 and coming into Evanston on Homecoming. Scott Frost, the foretold savior of the Huskers, is now on the verge of coaching Nebraska to their first ever 0-6 start. Meanwhile, the UCF team he left down in Orlando (shout out Winter Park, FL where I’m from originally) is 5-0 and looking like they could go undefeated for a second straight year. Nebraska has already lost at home to Troy, and narrowly avoided defeat at home to Akron (just like the ‘Cats) after the game was cancelled. So…there should be nothing for us to worry about, right?

Wrong. All the factors are lined up for an absolutely backbreaking loss. This is an absolute must win game for the Huskers and for Scott Frost – he simply cannot go 0-6 to start off his Nebraska coaching career. For some reason I’ve watched a lot of Huskers football this year, and they’re not as bad as their record indicates. They have a talented freshman QB who makes stupid mistakes but is an athlete and has speed. They can move the ball on offense, but they just make absolutely horrible mistakes at the worst times – whether it’s a crucial turnover or a bad holding call. They should have beaten Colorado in week two – a Buffaloes team which is now 5-0 and ranked in the top 25.

I think the Huskers are going to move the ball on the ‘Cats, and their QB Martinez will pick up several conversions on third down with his legs. Please, please put Paddy Fisher on the QB as a spy. I beg you. The weakest spot for Nebraska is their run defense – a weakness that the ‘Cats undermanned RB squad may not be able to exploit. I see a high scoring game that goes back and forth, with neither team ever taking control. The ‘Cats have a shot to tie late with a FG…but it’s no good. The Huskers ruin the ‘Cats on Homecoming – hope I’m wrong.

Game Score: ‘Cats 27 – Huskers 30

Play of the Game: Bowser finally gets some PT and busts a big run up the middle. The West Lot rejoices.

Player to Watch: Isaiah Bowser. If there was ever a game to let loose the bruising freshman RB, it’s this one. Nebraska’s interior run defense is atrocious.

Warrior to Watch: Paul. It’s homecoming and the Pike alumni will be out. ‘Nuff said.

Other Game to Watch: Chiefs @ Pats on Sunday Night Football. The first ever matchup of the two best QBs of all time.

 

HACK

Game Summary: No one has ever called East Lansing the land of dreams, but last Saturday the Cats awoke from a season-long nightmare to defeat Felton Davis and his merry band of mediocre football players. The Victorious Cats return home to face the defeated Nebraska Cornhuskers, but this isn’t the cakewalk people are predicting. While Nebraska has yet to win a game, they have talent, so unlike next week vs Rutgers, the Cats will actually have to show up and win the battle on the line of scrimmage. This game will be won in the trenches and the Cats should actually dominate here. Expect a heavy dose of Solomon Vault and John Mooooten as Nebraska’s defense is shredded like pulled chicken. Nebraska will move the ball, but their mistake-prone offense will shoot itself too many times in the foot to actually make this a game. Cats win big.

Game Score: ‘Cats 49 – Huskers 21

Play of the Game: Flynn Nagel completes a quarterback throwback to Clayton Thorson for a 47-yard touchdown. JK its goes to Kyric Mc(Donalds)Gowan and let me just say I’m loving it.

Player to Watch: Earnest Brown 4.0 – I saw some nice plays from him last week. Time to take the next step

Warrior to Watch: Paul – His girlfriend is in town on homecoming… How will he split his time between the Alumni and her?

Other Game to Watch: Bears vs Dolphins – The will Ryan Tannehill be able to walk after game

 

PAUL

Game Summary: This one is always a big game for me because I was raised a Husker fan (the cornhead will NOT be coming out this year). My dad, a born and bred Nebraskan will be in attendance for the tailgate and game and he desperately wants a win. Going to be tense in the stands. I also see this as a make or break game for the Cats and one that will help boost ND ticket prices and fan interest for what will surely be the best home game in years. Hopefully last week wasn’t a fluke and the Cats got their shit together.

NU will have to neutralize Martinez and force turnovers which have been the Huskers’ Achilles heel this season. I’m hoping for a lot of offense here as NU figures out their run game against a terrible Nebraska ground defense and Clayton “Bigbsy” Thorson keeps threading the needle on passes like we saw last week in East Lansing. Nebraska will stay in it the entire game and there will be 6 lead changes so prepare to get on the Cardiac Cats Express. Luckily, a busted coverage pass to Flynn Nagel seals the deal in Q4.

Game Score: ‘Cats 38 – Cornhuskers 35

Play of the Game: Thorson places a perfect 44 yard pass to Flynn Nagel for his first TD of the season.

Player to Watch: O-Line. Going to need to protect Bigsby in this one if we can’t get the run game going.

Warrior to Watch: ZVon. Seems like the time is right for the purple suit to come out.

Other Game to Watch: Wisco / Michigan. Who’s going to come out on top of this marquee West vs. East matchup? My money is on Wisco.

 

A DAY

Game Summary: I’ve been doing some mental reflection. Do we think we turn things around in October in recent years because we start slow and make adjustments …. or is it that the Big Ten West is just that bad? I’m aware MSU is not in the West, but our upcoming slate seems….manageable despite the fact that… ya know… we lost to Akron. Speaking of bad, Nebraska is bad. They will score points on us. It should be an entertaining game to watch. I think the ‘Cats squeak out another to get back to .500.

Game Score: ‘Cats 28 – Cornhuskers 27

Play of the Game: Trick play! Something fun happens.

Player to Watch: Defense in general. We haven’t been forcing any turnovers to switch the field and flip the momentum.

Warrior to Watch: Paul. He loves homecoming. All of his Pike buddies will be there.

Other Game to Watch: LSU vs Georgia

 

ZVON

‘Cats lose.

 

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Prediction Friday – Akron

The ‘Cats had a huge setback last week. The Duke loss (predicted by Andy and Roche) was a tough one. Didn’t look good on either side of the ball. This has become an unfortunate issue for the ‘Cats over the last few years and we at the West Lot think a big part of that is coaching. McCall needed to go years ago, but here we are.

Tomorrow’s game at 6:30pm is the first one under the lights this year. While certainly not an in demand game (Stubhub’s most expensive section this morning was the 50 yard line for $9 – every other section could be had for $6) a solid win here with improvements on both sides of the ball will give the fan base a little more hope. All the Warriors think the Cats will win this one. If wrong it won’t spell a good rest of what is a start studded home lineup.

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

Roche and Andy took Duke in last week’s predictions which puts them as the only two to maintain a perfect record.

Andy Trent Roger Roche Paul Hack ZVon
2-0
1-1
1-1
2-0
1-1
1-1
1-1

Onto the predictions… (Editor’s note: The Warriors are protesting the “Play of the Game” category until Northwestern steps it up with Roger’s Play of Game excepted due to its nature of being related to the halftime show.)

TRENT

Game Summary: My one word recap of last week’s game: Ugh. The high that starts the season, where it seems anything is possible and the whole world is in front of us – a B1G championship, Final Four all still within the distant realm of possibility – this is matched only by the low that comes with our first loss, where things fall apart and we come crashing back down to reality. Reality this year isn’t looking all that great – we got outplayed by Duke on both sides of the ball, and they’ll be one of our easier opponents this year. We still have games against Akron, Illinois, Minnesota and Rutgers on the schedule, but even if we sweep those games we’ll still need to beat one of Wisconsin, Nebraska, Michigan, Notre Dame, Michigan St, and Iowa to make a bowl game. Certainly doable, but we will be underdogs in the majority of our games moving forward.

We are not underdogs this week – we’re favored at home by 21 over the Zips. I think we’ll win but not in a blowout fashion; I’d bet on the Zips in this spot to at least cover. As Teddy Greenstein often points out, the ‘Cats do not do well as a home favorite. I see a tight game throughout, with the ‘Cats pulling away late in the fourth quarter. We need better play from our receivers and at QB – Jeremy Larkin can’t do this all on his own. The lack of creativity and ability to move the ball at all last week was mind-boggling. Duke’s got a good defense, sure – but we’re going to be playing even better defenses very soon as Michigan and Wisconsin come to town. Once Cam Green got tossed out of the game last week, it seemed like our entire game plan fell apart and we were out of ideas. That can happen this week, but it can’t happen as we enter B1G season.

Final Score: NU 31 – Akron 20

Play of the Game: n/a

Player to Watch: Isaiah Bowser – give the Ohio kid some run against the Zips.

Warrior to Watch: ZVon. The weather’s getting a bit colder and it’s officially purple suit season.

Other Game to Watch: Hawaii @ Army. Love the Rainbow Warriors this year – the only 3-0 team in the country. Let’s see how they do on a cross country trip to Army with an 11am start time…sheesh. This should be an interesting clash of polar opposite styles.

ROGER

Game Summary: I sound like a broken record, but it’s getting rather boring being a fan of this team. Even when the Cats have put up 10 wins recently, they have been essentially eliminated from “competing for championships” by the second week of October. While last week’s loss doesn’t eliminate NU from anything at the moment (other than maybe the National Championship… which was never plausible), it does suggest we won’t need to wait past the second week of October to be eliminated from more plausible championships yet again.

So, that brings us to this game.
I have to ask … who cares? As the esteemed Warrior @TrentensHome noted, this game is important in our bid to reach 6 wins and get invited to a middling bowl game where attendance of 30,000 is deemed successful. But, I’m getting tired of those and thus I’m not really interested in this game. At all.
Akron was “good” last year. And by “good” I mean they won their division within the MAC. At the same time, they lost to the 2 Power Five teams they played by a combined score of 93-14, they lost their bowl game to Florida Atlantic 50 – 3 and they also managed to lose to Troy, Miami (OH) and Toledo (twice). All the while, they lost their 2 best running backs, their 5 leading wide receivers and several of their offensive linemen to graduation in the offseason. As a result, Akron is being picked near the bottom of their division this year. This shouldn’t be close.
But it will…. because Mick (and Fitz’s QB reindeer games).

Game Score: NU 24 – Akron 13

Play of the Game: Z Von gets recruited from the parking lot to participate in a halftime game. Embarrassed from his last performance, he obliges and looks to redeem himself. Funny enough, this year’s “game” has Z Von in a punt-pass-kick competition against an 8 year old Evanston resident. Sadly, Z loses… again. His punt goes backwards.

(Non-Thorson) Player to Watch: Paddy Fisher – he has been very quiet thus far.

Warrior to Watch:  Rus. He had a great week last week. Tremendous week. Played out of his mind. Can he replicate his performance? Are we sure he has the keys to the van?

Other Game to Watch:  Vanderbilt @ Notre Dame. I have a sneaking suspicion that Vandy is a lot better than people realize. I also feel pretty confident that ND is nowhere near a top 10 team despite their ranking. This one could get fun in South Bend.

HACK

Game Summary & Complaints: Last week sucked. I believe Clayton’s butt will be firmly attached to the bench this week as we get ready for the start of a tough Big Ten slate. As a result, we will see a heavy dose of the Twins, Larkin and Moten. I did no research on Akron, but I assume the D will come out angry and not allow any points.

Dearest Under Armor, The font you’ve chosen for our numbers is not good. People can’t easily see the difference between a 0 and an 8. This is a problem considering our RBs are numbers 20 and 28 and our QBs, who rotate for some stupid reason are 10 and 18. Fix it.
I’d like to compliment Coach Fitz on an outstanding week of coaching football in which he opposed communism and the RPO. It’s about damn time, someone told the brain-damaged idiots who comment on college football to talk about something else. Honestly, how hard is it to not repeat yourself over and over again during a 3-hour broadcast. Legitimately, you do fewer than twenty games a year.
Here are some suggestions on how to become more interesting:
  1. Read a book
  2. Take an improv class
  3. Watch something other than football
  4. Rotating face paints during the game
  5. Just yell random words
  6. Mock the coaches
  7. Hire non football players to commentate
  8. Two drunk fans

Final Score: NU 21 – Akron 0

Play of the Game: n/a

Player to Watch: Whoever’s playing offensive tackle: We are three weeks from playing the second best pair of d ends in the country our tackles being injured is an area of high concern

Warrior to Watch: Paul: Many people were shocked not to see him in the West Lot last week. It would be a real shame if he got super drunk and did something stupid trying to make up for it. A real shame.

Other Games to Watch: LSU vs Auburn: Geaux Tigahs!

ZVON

Game Summary:  The parking lot will be rocking – mostly just the northeast corner of the West Lot. The Cats will come out rumblin’, tumblin’, and hopefully not stumblin’ (and def not fumblin’). Cats play well early – up at half and then a nice finish.

Final Score: Cats 28 – ZIPS 7

Play of the Game: n/a

Player to Watch: QB – whoever we play.

Warrior to Watch:  Signs point to Hack trying to release some fireball into the world.

Other Games to Watch: Vikes Packers.

ROCHE

Game Summary: Meh

Final Score: NU 40 – Akron 20

Play of the Game: n/a

Player to Watch: Whatever

Warrior to Watch:  All you guys. Give ’em hell in the West Lot tomorrow.

Other Games to Watch:  Cubs – Reds. Will the Cubs hold on down the stretch? Will they have to settle for the Wild Card?

PAUL

Game Summary:  We will win, but not by much. Total times the West Lot calls for Mick McCall to be fired during the game O/U 13.5.

Final Score: NU 14 – ZIPS 10

Play of the Game: n/a

Player to Watch: Thorson – Will he play the majority of the game this week?

Warrior to Watch: Roger. I’m feeling a nice breakout tailgate for the kid with the evening game. Also big props to the Parrotts for cooking authentic Spanish paella!

Other Game to Watch: Ohio State @ TCU. Prepare for a buckeye beatdown to impress the rankings for Irving Meyers return next week.

DAY

No submission.

Prediction Friday – Duke

Will the Cats be singing U! RAH! RAH! at Ryan Field this week?

The ‘Cats are off to a great start after a win in West Lafayette last week. While we didn’t score in the 2nd half and Fitz was doing some weird QB rotation, Thorson looked pretty good. Tomorrow’s game (bright and early at 11am Central) will hopefully serve as some redemption after last year’s brutal loss on Blue Devil soil. Warriors split the ticket on who will win this one with Day and Roche predicting a Duke win. Let’s hope they’re wrong.

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

Everyone gets a win for last week’s predictions. Roger is lucky Fitz didn’t decide to have Thorson come in 2nd in the QB rotation last week. He was also the closest in score prediction, expecting a 31-21 win (NU won 31-27).

Andy Trent Roger Roche Paul Hack ZVon
1-0
1-0
1-0
1-0
1-0
1-0
1-0

Onto the predictions…

TRENT

Game Summary: I’m so tired of Duke. We’ve played them each of the last three years. Looking ahead, we play them again from 2021-2024. Enough already, they’re such an effing boring opponent. If David Cutcliffe is such a great Xs and Os coach why doesn’t he go diagram his way into a retirement home? Peyton Manning can go ahead and join him down there for all I care. Maybe work in the kitchen and cut. that. meat.

Looking at the game this year, I’m pretty worried about the Blue Devils. They ran the ‘Cats out of the building down in Durham last year, and looked pretty good as they beat up on Army last week. Daniel Jones is a super solid QB who can do it through the air or with his legs. Our secondary is going to have to play a hell of a game to contain him – unfortunately that was the weak spot of our team last week against Purdue. We’re going to give up some points, which means we’re going to need to score and keep scoring to win. It seems like Thorson and TJ Green are going to switch in and out again without any rhyme or reason as they did last week – not a great recipe for getting our offense in a rhythm. Winning the turnover battle saved us last week – feels like we’re going to need a bit of that luck again this week to pull it out.

The one piece I was very impressed with last week was our play on both lines – we held Purdue without a sack, and pressure from our D line forced Purdue’s QBs into some errant throws. If we can control the line of scrimmage again and force two turnovers or more, I think we can pull this one out. I also know Fitz has been showing the team tape of the blowout loss to Duke last year to get them fired up – that added motivation could put us over the top.

Final Score: ‘Cats win 33-31

Play of the Game: Jeremy Larkin jukes the Duke safety out of his pants and does a safety dance of his own in the end zone.

Player to Watch:The obvious choice would be the QBs, but I think it’s Larkin. I don’t think I’m overstating it when I say he’s our best player – kid was phenomenal last week against Purdue and carried us to the W. If he can avoid injury he’s going to do some big things this year.

Warrior to Watch:Hack – kid’s been playing hurt and was able to manage getting Rose the Van towed out of the lot this week for emergency surgery. Let’s see if/how he can hold his liquor on Saturday.

Other Game to Watch: USC @ Stanford. Fun matchup early in the season. I’ll cheat and also say UGA at South Carolina – a lot of pundits are on the other USC to pull the upset here. This one could have playoff implications.

HACK

Game Summary: All respect to David Cutcliffe, who is a genius but I’m going to start this summary off by stating some facts about Duke.

  1. Coach K pays his players.
  2. Coach K dyes his hair.
  3. The Cameron Crazies are all losers.

I have no idea what happened during this game last year, but I see a motivated Cats team coming out and punching Duke in the mouth from the start. Don’t get me wrong I expect both sides to score some points, but the Cats O line should neutralize the Duke front 7, while Daniel Jones should spend most of this game running for his life and probably several undeserved first downs. The Cats will drive and score on their first 3 possessions while Duke will walk away with only one score at the end of the 1st. It is at this point that TJ Green will enter the game and the Wildcat fan base will lose its mind.

I will be leading the Warriors in deep breathing exercises, but plan on having a backup plan(Fireball) if things go poorly. Shockingly, Green performs quite well and throws a touchdown on a fade to his cousin Bennett Skowronek. Duke scores again to make it 28-14 at the half. Cat’s O again decides that it’s not worth scoring touchdowns in the second half and Duke manages to score one touchdown for each team. Throw in some field goals and we have ourself a 14 point Cats win.

On TV, I’m excited to hear Beth Mowens and Joey Galloway, who I assume are calling this game.

Game Score: NU 38 – Duke 24

Play of the Game: Earnest Brown 4.0 blindsides Daniel Jones resulting in a fumble which Jordan Thompson picks up and returns 34 yards for a score.

Player to Watch: Paddy Fisher – His performance last week was strangely quiet. My guess is that Purdue made limiting him a key part of the game plan. He’s going to have a huge role this week in limiting Daniel Jones and RPOs.

Warrior to Watch: Rose – Will she recover in time for the game?

Other Game to Watch: Penn State vs Pitt – The Battle for Pennsylvania Who wants William Penn’s colony more? I’m quaking with anticipation!

ADAY

Game Summary: I’ve got a bad feeling about this. Duke pantsed us the last time we played. Fitz is threatening to be “cute” with his quarterback situation. Rose’s status is unknown for the tailgate. I want to think we’re gonna bring home the W, but my gut says otherwise. Jones picks apart our secondary and our offense loses steam (again). Duke is able to hold off a late drive and gets the road “upset.”

Final Score: Dook 31 – NU 28

Play of the Game: Larkin breaks a big one for a TD (57 yards to be exact) on 3rd and 1.

Player to Watch: Nate Hall – had a great game against Purdue, can he keep it rollin?

Warrior to Watch:  Rog – he’s gettin’ up there… can the old timer still hang?

Other Games to Watch: Georgia @ South Carolina – ranked conference game amirite?

ROCHE

Game Summary:  The Blue Devil skill players mostly return. Daniel Jones has his favorite receiver back, but his O-Line is mostly new. I liked the pressure the ‘Cats got on Purdue, and I hope they can cause Jones to make some bad decisions.

I still don’t think the ‘Cats pull it off. I don’t have enough faith in the QB by committee, and I think Jeremy Larkin’s gonna have a hard time finding running room.

I haven’t been to a game in a while – do they still do “Hands in the Air” to start the 4th quarter?

Final Score: Duke 30 – ‘Cats 24

Play of the Game: Jeremy Larkin short TD run just before halftime to tie it up.

Player to Watch: Anyone on the ‘Cats D-Line.

Warrior to Watch:  Andy. Our longest distance Warrior makes an appearance! How will the long flight affect his performance?

Other Games to Watch: Penn State vs Pitt – Hack, that was a solid Keystone State pun. We appreciate it here.

PAUL

Game Summary: I’m 1-0 when watching the Cats on TV this year and hopefully we’ll keep that streak alive. I will be back in Wooster, OH for my 10 year reunion so will be watching this one from the couch. This will be a tough one for the Cats, but I think they have their last loss fresh in their minds. Our last loss to a non-top 10 opponent was to Duke last September 9th – and it was a bad one 41-17. Look for the Cats to balance the run/pass game pretty well and hopefully the announcers won’t say “RPO” a billion times like the kooks on NBC did for last night’s Bird Game. Defense is going to come up huge here, holding the Blue Devils to just 10 points. While the offense will score some points in the second half (unlike last game), it will only be a B- game for Clayton and Co.

Final Score: ‘Cats 20 – Duke 10

Play of the Game: Larkin breaks a big one for a TD (56 yards to be exact) on 3rd and 1.

Player to Watch: Bowser. Needs to prove himself as a viable RB option.

Warrior to Watch:  Has to be Hack here. He served as chief nurse for Rose this week. Will his effort pay off? Will Rose rise from the dead? Saturday will mark the third day

Other Games to Watch:  MSU at ASU. Sparty will actually lose this one after a pitiful performance last week against Utah State.

ROGER

Game Summary:  For a fairly solid team that went 10-3 last year, I still have no idea how NU got so thoroughly whipped by Duke last season. The Cats played about as bad as possible (and were as unprepared as possible… shout out Fitz) while Duke played flawless football. I don’t expect either of those things to happen again this year. This one should be a tight battle throughout.

I was wrong last week. While Thorson started the game and had the offense humming, apparently the platoon was in the cards. I still don’t understand this. I’m not an orthopedic surgeon (though I know one…. shout out to Mr. Hack), but I feel like one’s ability to play football post ACL surgery is binary. You’re either cleared or you aren’t. Can endurance be an issue with an injury like this? Seems strange.

As for the game…… I really don’t expect a ton of points in this one. Duke has a very good defense (they were one of the best in the country last year, surprisingly…. look it up). NU’s defense will look better this week despite some injuries to the DTs because Duke doesn’t have a 5 star receiver who runs like a gazelle. That said, they do have a dual threat QB – Daniel Jones. He doesn’t have quite the arm of Elijah “Joey” Sindelar, but he’s also not likely to throw 3 picks in the first half.

The Cats will defer the kick. Duke will put together a quality drive and miss a FG. Then, the Cats will do the same except Chuck Koobs will make a 36 yarder. Then, we’ll start seeing Fit’z platooning at QB reindeer games (probably on the 2nd drive of the game instead of the 3rd). We’ll all get pissed. The offense will stagnate for most of the game. Thankfully, the defense will do a lot of bending but not breaking.

I fully expect us to be worried like hell at some point in the 4th quarter. But, I have confidence that Clayton will take the field with an opportunity deep in the 4th and get it done.

Final Score: NU 20 – Duke 17

Play of the Game: Clayton Thorson engineers a late 4th quarter TD drive capped by a Cam Green TD catch.

Player to Watch: Thorson – Will he play the majority of the game this week?

Warrior to Watch: Rusty – What a performance from the guy this week. He got new wheels put on the damn van. What else can you say?

Other Game to Watch: Oklahoma – UCLA. OU should win easily, but I’m curious if they actually do. If they do then they are probably legit and I will fully expect them to win out in a suspect Big 12.

ZVON

Game Summary:  On Vacation.

Final Score: Cats 27 – Duke 23