Happy New Year Wildcat fans! We enter 2021 in a golden era for Northwestern athletics, with football in addition to men’s and women’s basketball teams all ranked. It’s a good time to be a Wildcat fan. And what better way to start the year than with a bowl matchup against Auburn. On to the West Lot Warrior predictions…
The 2010 Outback Bowl was the first and only ever bowl game I’ve attended, and wow was it a doozy. An absolutely bonkers game where the ‘Cats looked like they were out of the game multiple times and continued to storm back against a talented Auburn team which won the title the following year (albeit with the sizable addition of Cam Newton). Mike Kafka set a bowl record with 47 completions and 78 attempts…insane.
That was the first football game of the 2010s, and it feels fitting to play the same team just over a decade later. After a great year for the ‘Cats and a hard fought loss in the B1G Championship game, it would be great to start out 2021 with a win over an SEC team. I remember how bad the Tigers fans were in Tampa 11 years ago – just drunk ass annoying people yelling “War Eagle” (when their mascot is a Tiger??) at us after a 3 point OT win over what they clearly thought was an inferior NU team.
Game Summary: The ‘Cats had a lot of players unexpectedly enter the transfer portal, including McGowan, Leota and my boy Bowser. Will be tough to see them go, and perhaps is a sign they know something we don’t about Fitz’s future?
I don’t think Auburn is super interested in this game after an extremely mediocre 2020 and firing their coach. But, they still have talent and that vaunted SEC speed right? That will keep them in the game, but I trust Fitz to get the NU players up for this one as a way to send off Coach Hank in style with his 400th win. The ‘Cats wrap up a stellar campaign with a bowl win, and revenge over the Tigers.
Game Score: NU 24 – AU 21
Play of the Game: Pick six from Cam Mitchell.Player to Watch: Brandon Joseph. The redshirt freshman was named an AP All American and had a ridiculous one handed pick in the B1G Championship. What will his encore look like?
Warrior to Watch: Andy Day. 10am PST start time after New Year’s Eve…rough.
Other Game to Watch: It’s great the ‘Cats are on national TV on New Year’s Day as an appetizer for the CFP Semis, but wish we were not going head to head with the Peach Bowl. I’ll go with OSU-Clemson as my game to watch – these two teams have been talking a lot of shit this week and really seem to dislike each other. I think the Buckeyes will have a rough go of it after the B1G pulled every punch to get them in this game. Watch for the Tigers to roll in this spot.
No contest due to COVID.
Cats by 2 scores. Ramsey with his best game of the year. This game is meaningless, but I have a feeling 2021 is going to be fun for Wildcat Nation. Let’s get it started the right way.
Cats 45 Auburn 7 Gus Malzon is recalled at halftime. Northwestern is led onto the field by Mike Kafka, and Corey Wooten and blows this bullshit team out.
The ‘Cats are once again playing on Championship weekend and represent the B1G West in Indy. Can they pull off the upset and rain chaos upon the CFP picture?
What a wild year.
The ‘Cats got off to a great start in mid-October by throttling Maryland. It looked like NU had found a quarterback. After a few nail biters against Iowa, Nebraska and to a lesser extent Purdue, NU was ready to claim the West against Wisconsin. And that they did.
Inevitably, everything came crashing down to earth against Michigan State. Some were wondering how the hell that was possible… even for NU. Surely, it was the usual NU curse. The one where the ‘Cats fall flat on their faces when on the precipice of something nice (after all, we can’t have nice things). But, it really wasn’t that. In hindsight, the loss to Sparty happened because NU isn’t actually that good and the ‘Cats have absolutely no margin for error.
Unfortunately, it appears as though both the B1G West and the totality of the B1G are as bad as either have been in years. NU’s win at Iowa was the only half impressive accomplishment for the team. Hell, the Cats haven’t even defeated another team with a winning record. There are only 4 of those in the entire conference and NU is one of them. Some may point to the lack of non-conference games as the determining factor for this anomaly, but even then it’s still statistically far fetched that a 14 team conference would only have 5 teams AT OR ABOVE .500 (Minnesota is now .500) at the end of this season. The ACC has 9. The SEC has 7. The 12 team AAC has 6. The 10 team Big12 has 6. Even the Pac12 – with an absurdly limited sample size – has 7.
So, what am I getting at here?
Simply put, NU is overrated at #14 and that’s largely a result of inflationary victories at the time against Purdue and Wisconsin. It turns out that both of those teams are hot garbage. Purdue is probably the worst team in the B1G not named Illinois. Wisconsin has totaled 10 points or more in exactly 2 games this season – their first 2. A lot of people are (rightfully) tearing into the College Football Playoff rankings, but it shouldn’t have anything to do with NU’s ranking which is actually higher than where it should be based on pure numbers. Take a look at what the computers think of the ‘Cats. FPI has NU at #23 and the Colley Matrix has NU at #22 (with a #118 SOS). The OG BCS would rank the ‘Cats at #16.
Enter Ohio State.
They are not overrated. While they have only played 5 games, they pass the computer test, the eye test, the smell test and (sometimes) the COVID test. They have more 5 star wide receivers on their bench than any other B1G team has on their entire roster. Let that sink in. Their offense is lethal. Their defense is better than many of the pundits claim.
But, Ohio State isn’t infallible either. They have played 1 game in the past 4 weeks. They played like absolute trash for 20+ minutes against Indiana earlier in the season. That level of trash – over an entire half or 3 quarters – could easily lose to an NU team playing well. OSU exposed themselves for having a floor that is fairly low for a team of their caliber. But, that’s not new for the Buckeyes. They have been randomly trounced by B1G West teams (Iowa and Purdue) in recent years when they simply didn’t show up. It’s 2020 and there’s absolutely no reason that can’t happen again.
Northwestern is a 20.5 point dog. Rightfully so. They are -1112 straight up. Why in the hell would anyone expect them to win? Well, it’s 2020. When any sense of normalcy starts returning to the world it seems like all hell breaks loose yet again.
Game Summary: Ohio State will be rusty early. I expect Fields to miss a few throws that would otherwise seem pedestrian. I also expect him to make a few bad reads trying to tuck it and run when NU is surprisingly well schemed to stop that.
This type of rust won’t be unexpected with only one game played in the previous 4 weeks. But, the longer it goes on the more irritating it becomes for Buckeye nation and Justin Fields.
Meanwhile, the ‘Cats won’t do much on offense in the first 15 – 20 minutes, but they’ll do enough with Cam Porter and creative uses of both Ramsey’s and McGowan’s legs to give everyone some hope that they can put together a few sustained drives and stay in the game.
As the game goes on, OSU will start pressing defensively to try to create a change in momentum. This is about the time when Twitter will light up with questions from the NU faithful about what could have been for the past 10 years. Wait…. what?
Yea. Remember Mick? Our offensive coordinator for more than a decade? The one who allowed us to waste away a top 25 defense year after year? Somehow he’s marshaling a top running game for a CFP contender (Iowa State). But, he never had the audacity to swing for the fences when he had nothing to lose. Bajakian will. And I think it will work. See you on Twitter.
Game Score: NU 31 – OSU 27
Play of the Game: One of several Bajakian home runs or the Papa Fitz home run call on special teams.
1) Andrew Marty deep ball to Ramsey out of the Wildcat 2) Riley Lees pass to RCB off a reverse 3) Kuhbander run for a TD out of the kicking formation
Player to Watch: Greg Newsome. The ‘Cats need him to be able to hold down the fort with no help. That’s an incredibly tall task, but I think he’s up for it.
Warrior to Watch: All of us. Are you kidding? The champagne could be flowing like we’re partying in the grass of the West Lot in 1995.
No contest due to COVID.
I can’t wait for the game this weekend. The ‘Cats are in their second B1G Championship Game in three years. We join Ohio State, Wisconsin and Michigan State as the only other schools to compete for multiple B1G Championships.
My first trip to Ryan Field was a home game against Duke in 2007. The Blue Devils held the nation’s longest losing streak at 22 (yes, twenty-two) straight games. Duke beat the ‘Cats to break that insane losing streak, then proceeded to lose every other game for the remainder of the season.
What that experience has done is make me appreciate this moment more. We’ve come a long ways from my first ‘Cats game til now. I was complaining earlier this week about the ‘Cats lack of respect in the polls while at the same time bemoaning our backbreaking loss in East Lansing that still stings. After taking a pause, I realized that neither mattered.
What matters now is that we’ve got an opportunity to win the Big Ten on Saturday. When we came to the 2018 game, I partied in Indy and was just happy to be there. This year, there is no partying in Indy, and I’m not just happy to be here. I want to win, and I think we can.
There are a few intangible factors working in our favor:
1. Coach Hank is retiring after this season. The team is going to be uber-motivated to send him off with a win in the B1G Championship.
2. Jim Philips is moving to the ACC. I think the players will also play hard for Jim – even though is leaving of his own volition.
3. The game has zero fans and starts at 11am CT. The ‘Cats are very used to playing 11am CT games with no fans in the stands. This works in our favor.
4. Peyton Ramsey is named after Peyton Manning. Ramsey is playing in his home state again and in the stadium that hangs Manning’s jersey in the rafters.
5. No one believes in us.
The biggest factor is the last one. The ‘Cats are one of the best teams in the country at playing hard as big underdogs. We can’t handle being the favorite, like we were against MSU and shat the bed. I think the team will play extremely hard on Saturday, and give the Buckeyes our best shot.
I continue to lament about the Sparty loss, but I would not feel nearly as good about our position coming into this game if we were an undefeated team ranked in the Top 10. In that scenario I could see us getting blown out by 50. But given the MSU loss has dropped us in the rankings and set us up as an enormous underdog – these elements work in our favor for this weekend.
Before the 2018 B1G Championship Game, I wrote that the NU-OSU matchup was like a college basketball game. Whichever team dictated tempo would have the upper hand. The same holds true in 2020, we can’t get into a track meet with OSU or we will lose. We’ve got to muck the game up, have some semblance of success running the ball, and burn clock to win.
The ‘Cats have not been able to run the ball well at all this year – although I say that after we nearly racked up 400 yards on the ground last week. I think our game plan has to be Peyton Ramsey passing on early downs to then set up the run. If we can connect on some short and intermediate routes against a somewhat suspect OSU secondary, that should open up some running lanes for our RBs (I guess Porter?). Ramsey throws a little fluttery ball without a ton of power behind it – playing in a dome without the Midwest winds whipping around should help him with his accuracy.
I expect a big game from Kyric McGowan, who was the leading receiver for the ‘Cats in the 2018 matchup. Kyric has had two brutal mistakes this year – a muffed punt against Iowa and then the dreadful blown handoff against MSU which basically cost us the game. Aside from those two incredibly harmful plays, he’s been our best player on offense, bar one (Peter Skoronski). He has had extremely sure hands and come up big in clutch situations. I think the senior will ball out on Saturday, both through the air and on the jet sweep.
In the 2018 title game, OSU’s receivers absolutely killed our secondary. Terry McLaurin and Parris Campbell, both now NFL stars, tore us apart while Dwyane Haskins threw for nearly 500 yards and played the type of game that got him drafted in the top 10. Our secondary this time around is the strength of our team. We had two first team all B1G-ers with B Jo and Newsome, and have plenty of other talent with Pace as well. They will have the test of blanketing OSU’s (shorthanded???) receivers on Saturday, and I think they’ll do a much better job than two years ago.
The problem, and it’s a big one, is Justin Fields. We’ve had notorious problems with running QBs in the past, and Fields is a prototypical running QB. We can spy him with our senior LBs, but none of them are fast or athletic enough to stay with Fields in the open field. I’m terrified of those 3rd and 8 situations, where our secondary does its job in coverage…and Fields just easily scampers for the first down.
So we need to have Fields basically play a poor game (maybe that one week off of rust will help), we need to be able to run the ball, and we need to win the turnover battle. The ‘Cats have not had a defensive score all year. It’s happening this Saturday…mark my words.
The ‘Cats don’t have the talent or speed that OSU does. But I do think this Buckeyes squad is not as strong as the 2018 version, and the ‘Cats have a better defense and a better O line than two years ago. We also have a lot of intangibles working in our favor. I certainly think we will cover the spread, and I believe we can win this game.
Game Score: NU 33 – OSU 27
Play of the Game: Greg Newsome pick six.
Player to watch:
Offense – Peyton Ramsey. This is his moment. He came to NU to compete in this game, and is playing in his home state in Lucas Oil Stadium, where his namesake took the field for so many years. Need a big game from Peyton.
Defense – Earnest Brown IV. He had a monster game two years ago, with a forced fumble, half a sack and 2.5 tackles for loss. Getting some pressure on Fields will be critical on Saturday to force some mistakes.
Warrior to watch: whole squad
It’s 2020. Anything could happen. I could easily see this game getting out of hand quickly. But I can also easily see Northwestern pulling off the unthinkable. I’m going to predict the latter.
Game Summary: ‘Cats win the toss and defer to the second half. OSU gets a first down or two but the drive fizzles out and the ‘Cats get the ball with decent field position. A well rehearsed drive later and… what’s this? The ‘Cats are up 7-0. The game goes back and forth, and the ‘Cats enter the locker room trailing 14-13. OSU +21.5 bettors are sweating (for good reason). Stupid Darren Rovell is giddy on his stupid Deal Or No Deal style live stream. Howie Mandel rolls his eyes. Did you know he’s a Germaphobe like Warrior ZVon? Google “Howie Mandel Hazmat Suit.” I digress.
‘Cats get the ball to start the second half, and what do you know, it’s a trick play for a big score. A defensive battle heats up, but a big turnover by OSU proves to be the difference. The ‘Cats prevail. OSU goes home crying (and complaining about how something wasn’t fair, despite them not even qualifying for the game!!). The CFP committee poops themselves. The ‘Cats get Chick-Fil-A. Huzzah.
Game Score: NU 23 – OSU 21
Play of the Game: The aforementioned trick play. Everyone will be going nuts by themselves on their home couch.
Player to Watch: Ramsey. We need to put up some points. I don’t think we need to win a shootout, but we certainly aren’t gonna win 13-10.
Warrior to Watch: Everyone. Especially Roger.
I am not as optimistic as the other Warriors, but I’ll still put a bottle of champagne on ice if we’re down by 10 or less at halftime. Big Kudos to the coaching staff and the players for getting here two of the last three years. I have to say it’s been an amazing time in NUFB history to be a fan.
Game Summary: Cats lose. Rovell loses all his money and never takes a deal.
Game Score: NU 17 – OSU 41
Play of the Game: We’ll have a lucky pick or two . Sadly no defensive TDs or successful trick plays today.
Player to Watch: Peyton Ramsey Bolton!
Warrior to Watch: The Squad. We’ll be spread out over 3 time zones and Day is one to watch here with the 9am local start. How amped can he get before kickoff?
Great moments are born from great opportunity. And that’s what the Cats have here tomorrow, boys. That’s what they’ve earned here tonight. One game. If we played ’em ten times, they might win nine. But not this game. Not tomorrow. Tomorrow we play with them. Tomorrow, we stay with them. Tomorrow, we smack them in the mouth and we shut them down because we can! Tomorrow, WE are the greatest football team in the world. The Cats were born to be football players. Every one of you. And Northwestern was meant to be here tonight. This is our time. Their time is done. It’s over. I’m sick and tired of hearing about what a great football team Ohio State has. Screw ’em. This is our time. Now go out there and take it.
Game Summary: Justin Fields is the best player on the field, but football is a team sport. It’s the weirdest year in living memory where anything can and has happened, but Ohio State seems to think they are going to waltz to the playoff. As the great philosopher, Mike Tyson, once said, “everyone’s got a plan till they get punched in the mouth.” The Cat’s need to physically dominate this game and hope Justin Fields makes a few mistakes, which he is prone to do. Does 2020 have one last shock in store for us? Let’s hope so…
Game Score: Northwestern 28 – Ohio State -27
Play of the Game: Fields rushes towards the goal line but is stripped by JR Pace. The ball goes out of the back of the end zone for a touchback.
Two weeks ago the ‘Cats fanbase was dejected after losing to a terrible MSU team via a blown handoff and allowing the Sparty QB to continue slithering for 8 yard runs throughout the contest. A few days after the ‘Cats had vaulted to #8 in the rankings, the purple faithful was distraught and dreams of a CFP withered away. Or did they?
The ‘Cats enter the weekend 6-1 with a date against OSU on Saturday in the B1G championship. We are heavy 20 point underdogs, pretty much in a similar spot to the 2018 champ game (believe we were 18 point dogs in that game, and despite a closer game than expected, OSU still covered :/).
Our chances for a W are slim, but it’s pretty legit that we will have a shot on the field to win the damn conference. The shot is long in and of itself (ESPN gives us a 1% chance), but let’s look at a scenario … what if we did win?
Caveat: I completely recognize that we have no business playing in the College Football Playoff and would likely get run off the field by Alabama. But the top 4 in the CFP has something sacred about it – it’s such an exclusive club that it’s an honor to even be considered. Many NU fans would rather play in a bowl against a beatable opponent and finish with our highest ranking in years. I’d rather make the CFP…mostly because it would be hilarious to be there.
Background: I used to be obsessed with the 538 CFP predictor, where they showed each team in contention for the CFP and odds to get there based on various scenarios. That predictor is since defunct and has been merged into ESPN’s “Playoff Predictor” which is a poor man’s version (layoffs at ESPN may have had something to do with it).
My dream was to find creative ways to get NU into the CFP, and my favorite year was in 2015 when it seemed like there were some routes to get there. This is the closest we’ve been since then. My purple bias aside, there is a path right now. It is an incredibly unlikely path, but if certain games break our way on Saturday we could get there. There are really three paths in my mind:
Bama beats Florida
ND beats Clemson
Cincy loses to Tulsa
NU beats OSU
This path would have the ‘Cats jumping the winner of the Big 12 – but we would have a better win than either team and one less loss (though in fewer games). We would also need to stay ahead of the Pac 12 winner, if it is USC. I think this is the most realistic scenario for us to make the final four.
Bama beats Florida
ND beats Clemson
A&M loses to Tenn
NU beats OSU
This is a similar path, but swaps out a Cincy loss for an A&M loss to lowly Tennessee. All the same factors hold true about staying ahead of B12 and P12 winners. However, I do truly think a one loss B10 team with two top 15 wins would be ranked above the winners of those two conferences.
Bama beats Florida
Clemson beats ND
A&M loses to Tenn
Cincy loses to Tulsa
NU beats OSU
A Clemson win would put them and ND both in the final four, and Bama winning would sew up three spots. We would then be competing for that fourth spot with A&M, Cincy, P12 and B12 winners. If A&M and Cincy go down, I think we could get there.
Second Caveat: This is all assuming the committee looks at the teams in the mix through leveled eyes, which is an extremely flawed assumption. If NU were say Wisconsin or Michigan, one loss and a conference championship would make them a shoo-in for the final four. But we’re not, we’re Northwestern. Our name alone (plus a loss to a 2-5 team) knocks us down several pegs. The committee in the first two scenarios above could easily slot a 2 loss Clemson in ahead of us – let’s be honest, Clemson is a much better team than the ‘Cats. There’s also a decent chance the B12 winner would stay ahead of us – the CFP would use the fact that we played fewer games than others as the excuse. But if the committee is truly factoring in the resume and placing importance on conference championships, then we have a slight chance.
Something to look out for tonight: Tonight’s CFP ranking is important in that we need to stay ahead of USC for these scenarios to play out – we were one spot ahead of USC last night.
None of this matters if we lose to Ohio State. We truly are David versus Goliath – ESPN gives us a 9% chance at a victory. However, I’d encourage all ‘Cats fans to take a beat and look at where we are right now. We’re in our second B1G championship game in three years – playing for an outside chance at a NY6 bowl or even a playoff spot. This is extremely rare territory in the century-long history of the Northwestern football program. Enjoy it after a truly shitty 2020. Remember, it’s an honor just to be considered.
The ‘Cats picked up a big win in a big spot, prevailing over Wisconsin 17-7 last week and taking a stranglehold on the B1G West in a season that’s gone off the rails due to COVID. As games get canceled left and right, Northwestern continues to plug along to a 5-0 record and a top 10 CFP ranking. Can they keep it up this week against Sparty?
TRENT (4-1 PICKS)
Stakes are stressful. We’ve got real stakes now as the ‘Cats enter this weekend at 5-0 and ranked #8 in the country. We’re basically in the B1G Championship game at this point, and if we win out and could beat Ohio State there’s a good shot we would make the College Football Playoff. 2020 truly is an insane year.
This weekend we play a mirror image of ourselves in Michigan State, a team with a great defense and a brutal offense. We are favored by nearly two touchdowns on the road against a B1G blue blood. This makes me incredibly nervous – this would be a textbook letdown spot for the ‘Cats. However, this year’s team feels different. Based on their soundbites and social commentary over the past week, they don’t seem complacent.
The backdrop on all of this is COVID. Teams are going down left and right, with OSU being the latest to show a spread amongst the players. Thankfully, the ‘Cats have avoided COVID issues to-date – in this year of attrition, that is half the battle. I say this as I knock on wood of all various sizes, shapes and colors.
Game Summary: MSU has looked terrible to-date and scored 7 total points in the past two games. I don’t expect them to score much more this week. The ‘Cats will struggle to move the ball, especially if we cannot get the run game going. Our rushing offense is a big area of concern right now – Bowser got rightfully benched last week after a backbreaking fumble, and looks like he may still be injured. Bajakian threw everything against the wall, even giving Cam Porter a good deal of run last Saturday, and still ended up with less than 1 rushing yard per carry on average. That ain’t great.
I anticipate those struggles will continue this week, and we’ll put our whole offense on Ramsey’s shoulders. I think he’ll give us just enough with his arm and his legs to pull this out, but it’ll be closer than expected. If we win this, we officially clinch the B1G West.
Game Score: NU 27 – MSU 24
Play of the Game: Brandon Joseph gets another pick. Kid’s a ball hawk and is leading the nation in INTs with an average of one per game.
Player to Watch:
Offense: Bowser. Something’s up with him and he’s been off all year. Would be nice to see him get going in this game.
Defense: Eku Leota. Dude’s a beast. Our defense is working at all three levels right now, but getting that pressure upfront makes everything on the back end so much easier.
Warrior to Watch: Nick Rankin. Will this be the game that gives him a heart attack?
Other Game to Watch: We’re at such a strange point in the year where we really don’t have much to root for in the B1G. The West is sowed up if we can win just one of our last three games, and Ohio State looks like they’ve got the East on lock barring a late collapse.
Now it’s really root for the teams we have beaten to keep winning and make our wins look impressive, and then hope the teams ahead of us in the playoff rankings to falter. Here is my playoff watch for the week, including all teams ahead of the #8 ‘Cats:
Friday: #2 ND @ UNC. Would be great to see the Domers go down, and it’s a possibility this week against Sam Howell and the Tar Heels. This is ND’s toughest remaining regular season game, and a loss would eliminate the possibility of two ACC teams in the playoff. Upset potential: 4/5
Saturday:#4 OSU @ IL. Ohio State should sleep walk through this game…if it gets played. Still hasn’t been canceled yet. Upset potential: 1.5/5. Cancellation potential: 3.5/4
Kentucky @ #6 FL. Kentucky has a lot of players out due to COVID. No way they’re stopping the high flying Kyles. Upset potential: 1/5
#22 Auburn @ #1 Bama. The Iron Bowl always brings upset potential given the fierce rivalry. But this year’s Bama team is impossible to stop, and will be fired up for revenge after losing to Auburn last year. Nick Saban’s got COVID – will he be calling plays from up in the Goodyear blimp? Upset potential: 2.5/5
Pitt @ #3 Clemson. Pitt is a team that has upset the Tigers in the recent past. But, Clemson was so pissed after FSU “canceled” on them last week that they’ll be rearing to play and will run up the score. Upset potential: 1/5
LSU @ #6 Texas A&M. A&M in my mind is the biggest wildcard in the playoff race.They are a threat to get in over a P5 conference champ. I think they’re due for a sleepwalk game, and this could be it. But LSU isn’t half the team they were last year. Upset potential: 2/5
(#7 Cincinnati’s game was canceled due to COVID)
Well, well, well…. This is strange territory. The ‘Cats are all but certain to win the West at this point. They aren’t likely to play next week against Minnesota, so they essentially need this game to be played on Saturday to win the division. But, we’re looking at bigger things at this point.
The last time the ‘Cats were in a position like this was mid-November 2000. NU had just knocked off Michigan in one of the greatest college football games ever played (thanks, Kevin Wilson). Standing between the ‘Cats and an outright B1G title and another trip to the Rose Bowl were two shit opponents (Iowa and Illinois).
NU subsequently laid a big egg at Iowa and had to settle for a share of the conference title and a trip to the Alamo Bowl for a throttling (thanks, Frank Solich).
I don’t think that’s going to happen this time. This team is built on defense and resembles the 95/96 version of the ‘Cats more than anything else.
Game Summary: The ‘Cats will continue to look lethargic offensively for most of the game. I expect the running game to have issues yet again against a fairly decent Michigan State defense. That said, I also expect NU to pick up a few chunk plays at opportune times.
My hope is that this game is won easily because of field position and turnovers. MSU should struggle mightily against our defense. It’s an absolutely terrible matchup for a sub par quarterback.
Game Score: NU 27 – MSU 9
Play of the Game: Ramsey with a long scramble for a TD.
Player to Watch: The offensive line. They have been fine on pass protection but there are no holes for our backs.
Warrior to Watch: Let’s go with Grayhack. Why not?
Other Game to Watch: I think Bag has this covered… I’m most interested to see if/why the Ohio State – Illinois game is played.
The undefeated Cats and Badgers meet at Ryan Field this afternoon in a contest that will basically decide the B1G West. This game was supposed to be played at Wrigley Field, with two whole viable end zones. Damn you, 2020.
Let’s see the picks…
I cannot overstate the importance of this week’s game against Wisconsin. This is the biggest clash we’ve had since 2018 Ohio State, which offered us a chance to make the Rose Bowl. This is the most important regular season game since…maybe 2015 Michigan? 2013 Ohio State? The 2000 season? To put it simply, this is a big one.
Wisconsin’s defense has allowed 18 points in two games, while their offense has scored 90+. They’ve looked absolutely dominant against Michigan – showing no rust from two weeks off due to COVID. It’s terrible to say but the best thing for the ‘Cats here is for Roche’s prediction of ‘no contest’ to occur, allowing us to skip this one and knocking Wisconsin out of B1G West contention. Let’s assume and hope that will not happen.
Wisconsin has pummeled their opponents in all phases of the game to-date – there is a reason that ESPN had them listed as the fourth most likely team to make the playoff this year at the beginning of 2020. But, this is not Ohio State or Alabama. Those two teams that they pummeled? They are 2-6 on the year (and easily could have been 1-7 as IL kicked a late FG to beat Rutgers). The Badgers have beat up on two bad teams. They have a freshman QB, who has looked great to-date, but was also sitting behind Jack Coan to start the year.
Maybe you see where I’m going – I love this spot for the ‘Cats. Heavy underdogs at home. No fans in the stands, so that we won’t see a 75% red stadium on Saturday. Cold rain in the forecast (maybe that’s a wash). In really sad news, one of our former weight training coaches passed away this week. Fitz will have the guys playing hard in honor of his memory.
Game Summary: Forecast for Saturday is temps in the 40s, 10-15 mph winds and a 60% chance of rain. This for two teams that will play great D. Here’s some free advice: take the under.
I anticipate a slog fest and both teams trying to run the ball – Wisconsin with more success. We could not run at all against Purdue, and it made the game much closer than it needed to be at the end. Purdue’s rushing defense is ranked #54 – Wisconsin’s is #6. It’s going to be tough going on the ground – and while we can’t go completely one dimensional, I honestly hope we will abandon it if it’s not working.
This game is all about Peyton Ramsey. He came up clutch against Purdue and we need him to play lights out this week in the rain. Notorious RCB stepped up in a big way and looked like Austin Carr out there with three TDs. Our offense is not great, but we’ve made plays when it counts. If we can do that again, and win the turnover battle, we can win this game.
Game Score: NU 17 – WI 16
Play of the Game: Eku Leota sack forces a fumble, which Bergin scoops up and scores. Aren’t we due for a defensive score??
Player to Watch: Peyton Ramsey
Warrior to Watch: Paul
Other Game to Watch: Purdue – Minnesota. If Purdue loses this game, we’d basically have to lose out not to finish in the top two in the West.
This game is important. I agree with Bag. It’s also a COVID season and everything is completely out of whack. So, unfortunately, that does take away from some of the luster here. I fear it could also take away from the legitimacy of a significant NU accomplishment – winning the B1G or making an NY6 game.
But, whatever. It’s still entertaining and the ‘Cats are clearly still good. They would be good if this was a normal season. They also probably would have lost to a MAC team for no reason in non-con play.
Wisconsin appears to be very good. Forget their results to date because it’s hard to judge from one week to the next let alone with a 3 week gap between playing shitty opponents. That said, they look fast. That’s very un-Wisconsin like. They also have their best QB since Rus Wilson. He’s young though…. so maybe he’ll make a few mistakes in a hostile environment like Ryan Field with no fans.
As far as NU goes, their offense needs to be better. The general lack of a run game for several weeks now has been very disheartening. While the ‘Cats amassed yards on the ground against Nebraska and Iowa, they did it in random chunks. There wasn’t any consistency there. NU’s ground game was horrid this past week against a below average Purdue defense. Some reasonable play calling and Peyton’s knack for converting third downs have kept the offense out of McCall territory. But, they aren’t far off statistically. Don’t believe me? The ‘Cats are currently 75th in offensive efficiency. The execution has to be better this week or this game could get ugly.
Game Summary: Look for Wisconsin to try to start fast in this one. In their first 2 games, they seem more inclined to do that than in years past. Hopefully this results in an early pick from Mertz. He’s going up against a far better secondary than the trash Illinois and Michigan put out there. This might get him off his game as he hasn’t faced one bit of adversity as a college quarterback thus far.
NU’s defense should be stout again. Wisconsin will get their yards on the ground, but the ‘Cats will stop drives when they need to. That’s what this defense does best.
The outcome of this game is going to come down to Peyton Ramsey’s ability to throw the ball downfield. NU is more likely to need chunk plays in this game as Wisconsin’s defense is not going to allow the ‘Cats to methodically drive down the field. So, somebody needs to get open and Peyton needs to deliver.
Look for a nail biter going into the 4th with some unexpected heroics from a receiver or two way down on the depth chart.
Game Score: NU 27 – WI 23
play of the Game: Bryce Kirtz gets open behind an ambitious Wisconsin DB and scores on a 55 yard TD catch late in the 4th.
Player to Watch: Ramsey
Warrior to Watch: Z Von… his significant other went to Wisconsin. Will they still talk to each other after the game?
Other Game to Watch: Meh… Not sure much else matters here. The winner of this game is going to win the West barring Wisconsin winning and then having another COVID cancellation. I’m curious to see Indiana play Ohio State. Indiana is a 20 point dog…. seems disrespectful.
DOC ROCHE (0-0)
No contest due to COVID.
his week the following things have happened to my teams: The Bears sucked, Theo left, and the Bulls announced they were tanking again. 2020 keeps telling us to get on the line and blowing the whistle. It’s time for a team to be our Mike Eruzione and save us from more pain. Are the Cats that team? I hope so. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AEXS8TBd6ug
Game Summary: We know this game is going to be ugly. Every Cat’s fan knows that this game will take years off their life. Whether or not the Cats are able to win will depend on the following factors:
An ability to run the ball
Not turning the ball over.
Turning turnovers into Touchdowns Breaking off chunk plays
A consistent pass rush
Making Wisconsin work for every yard
A lucky bounce or two
Game Score: NU 14 – WI 13
Play of the Game: Northwestern blocks a 45-yard game-winning field goal attempt.
Player to Watch: Defensive Ends – Need to pressure Mertz in a big way.
Warrior to Watch: Z Von, people are saying he might join Twitter if the Cats win.
Other Game to Watch: Arsenal vs Leeds United: The game got feisty last year in the FA cup.
ANDY DAY (4-0)
I had a dream about this game last night, and unfortunately I already bet on ‘Cats +7.5 prior to this vision. It goes as follows (yes, this actually happened in my dreams last night):
Game Summary: The Warriors were all together at an outdoor sports bar, drinking waiting for the game to come on. Somehow, we manage to not realize the game has kicked off an hour ago, and get the establishment to change our TV to the ‘Cats. As the game turns on, we get a big interception that leads to a touchdown one play later. ‘Cats now lead 13-6! I leave for the restroom, and take my time getting back to our table. By the time I return the ‘Cats are down 40-13. I don’t know how it happened, and it happened fast. The game ends with the same final score
Game Score: UW 40 – NU 13
Play of the Game: Clearly the INT that sets us up for a TD.
Player to Watch: Whomever allowed UW to score 34 points during my trip to the restroom.
Warrior to Watch: Gonna go with Z here. Will a mid-game tweet from Paul send him off the deep end?
Other Game to Watch: COVID.
Game Summary: The Cats always play Wisco tough and this is going to be the only year for NU to ever have a shot at the College Football Playoffs. They’ll need to beat Wisco today and then beat OSU in the B1G Championship and they’ll likely punch their ticket. A man can dream.
Game Score: Wisco 25 – NU 26
Play of the Game: Scoop and Score by #77 – I have no idea who this is. Just have a feeling.
Player to Watch: #77
Warrior to Watch: Hack. How will his Wisco lake house neighbors react if NU dashes their hopes for the season. I hope he’s flying the NCat flag up there!
Other Game to Watch: OSU / INDY. Visiting my sister and BIL this weekend and they’re both Buckeyes. Could NU win and OSU lose?!?!
After another big win last week against the Huskers, the ‘Cats are 3-0 and ranked in the polls. Can they keep it up in West Lafayette at a strange 4pm start time?
TRENT (PICKS 2-1)
The ‘Cats eked out a win against a flawed Nebraska team, improving to 3-0 in Big Ten play for the first time in 20 years. This week will be a much tougher test against Purdue. That is a strange sentence to write.
I have big concerns about Purdue’s David Bell and Rondale Moore, who you could stack up against pretty much any other WR duo in the country. Rondale missed the first two games and I’ve been Googling his name each day to check on his status for Saturday – if he is out, this game is much more manageable. Our secondary has been the strength of our team to-date, and curious to see how our strength lines up against Purdue’s.
There’s no doubt about it – this is a huge game. Purdue was lucky enough to miss Wisconsin due to COVID, and really only has one very loseable game remaining, against Indiana. If we beat the Boilermakers, we are a game up with a tiebreaker, and have about the same difficulty of schedule from here on out. We lose, and we’re in a spot where we would essentially need to make up two games down the stretch. If we win Saturday, and Wisconsin falls to Michigan…watch out.
Game Summary: I see the ‘Cats pounding Purdue on the ground in this game. The Boilermakers have the 83rd ranked rushing D, and we sat out Bowser last game to rest him up for a big load on Saturday. As I mentioned in my prediction last week (which played out), we’ve seem to have found our identity as a team that pounds the ball on the ground, plays great D, and wins on third down and in the turnover battle. This is typically a spot where the ‘Cats falter – ranked, favored on the road – but after last week I’m hopeful for our future. It will be close throughout, but I see the ‘Cats building a lead early and holding on for dear life at the end for a big win.
Game Score: NU 21 – Purdon’t 17
Play of the Game: Bowser catches a screen pass for a TD
Player to Watch: Greg Newsome. He came back last week after missing two weeks with injuries, and was called for approx. 17 BS penalties. The refs seemed to throw a flag every time he breathed on another player (guess that saying takes on a new meaning during COVID). Will we have him shadow Bell or Moore on Saturday? He will play an important role. Warrior to Watch: Andy Day. They love those night game start times out west.
Other Game to Watch: Wisconsin @ Michigan. How will the Badgers look after two weeks off? Will they be starting their fourth string QB? I’m not one to root for the Wolverines, but a Michigan win here would be big for the ‘Cats.
DOC ROCHE (0-0)
No contest due to COVID.
Cats 29 – Purdon’t 28
The ‘Cats appear to have quite the defense. They are giving up yards, but they lock down within the red zone and have an unbelievable knack for the timely play. Let’s hope the 90 minute streak of 2nd half shutout football continues on Saturday.
I’m a bit more optimistic that the ‘Cats will be able to plow this week. To be honest, their offense has been quite shit thus far. There’s clearly more ingenuity in Bajakian’s playbook than there was with our good friend Mick, but the numbers right now don’t reflect any sort of improvement over McCall’s offenses. NU ranks below 100 in offensive efficiency. Simply put, that sucks.
I’d like to see Ramsey scramble a bit more. He’s very good as an improviser but he seems a bit hesitant to actually do that. On the flip side, he doesn’t have a strong arm. That was apparent last week. He looks like Tim Wakefield trying to hit 80mph on a fastball. So, throwing downfield consistently might not be in the cards.
Here’s to Bowser playing and the O line putting guys on their asses.
Game Summary: Per the above, NU will try to grind this one out (as they always do). Purdue isn’t really interested in that type of game, but I think the ‘Cats will have success dictating tempo in this one. Expect a healthy dose of Bowser (or Brown) mixed in with some mid yardage chunk plays from Lees, McGowan and Raine. I see no reason the defense won’t continue their bending and not breaking routine. This may be the biggest challenge the secondary will face all year, but Purdue’s QB is a sitting duck in the pocket and I expect the ‘Cats to get to this guy several times.
Game Score: NU 31 – Purdue 20
Play of the Game: Ramsey with a loooooooong scramble on 3rd down to essentially seal the game.
Player to Watch: The D Line…. see the Game Summary above.
Warrior to Watch: Bag. Why not?
Other Game to Watch: Wisconsin @ Michigan. I don’t think there’s any other option here. This is really the only other game that has any impact on NU’s season. Go Blue?
Cats 33 – Boilermakers 20
Game Summary: Likely more of the same. Stout defense, sub-par offense, game ends with more points for the ‘Cats than their opponent. I’ll be up in Sonoma drinking wine until about kickoff time (this schedule change really throws a wrench in my plans) so I’ll likely be watching the first half from the car on the way back to SF. Really hoping I don’t have any reason to throw my phone out the window.
Game Score: NU 24 – Purdue 20
Play of the Game: We actually run play action on 1st down and get a nice wide open receiver for a TD. Probably RCB if I had to pick someone.
Player to Watch: Payton Ramsey. He’s been a decent game manager but I’d like to see more.
Warrior to Watch: Roger. I hear he has a nice Burgundy ready for a nightcap after the game.
Other Game to Watch: I guess I gotta say it… Go Blue?!
Game Summary: The Cats are undefeated, but back to back mediocre performances against decent competition have left me wondering what this team is. In regards to the Cats, my state of mind matches that of Missouri. In other words, I need the Cat’s to “show me” something.
Purdue received a Covid bye last week, which will definitely help them and begs the question is Wisconsin’s covid outbreak a clever attempt by the Badgers to weaken the Cats before their matchup next week. Our investigative team will have more on that next week. Unfortunately for Purdue, two of their three best players are likely out this week.
NU O vs Purdue D
The Cats are currently 103rd in the SP+ offensive ratings while Purdue is 60th on D. This matchup appears to be in Purdue’s favor, however, George Karlaftis is the heart and soul of this D and without him, they were outscored by Illinois led by 4th stringer Coran Taylor. Theoretically, Northwestern should get better as the season progresses and they learn Coach Jake’s system better. Could this be the game for the Cat’s to break out?
NU D vs Purdue
Strength on Strength. David Bell is a stud and Horvath is a nice back, but Rondale Moore hasn’t played yet and he would make this offense dynamic. The Cat’s haven’t allowed a second-half point yet, and have been very good against everything except quarterback runs. Aidan O’Connell can’t run and will struggle like an Irishman on the morning of March 18th. If Rondale Moore plays, this could be really interesting…
Game Score: NU 35 – Purdue 24
Play of the Game: Greg Newsome reads and intercepts a bubble screen to David Bell and takes it the other way for 6.
Player to Watch: Earnest Brown – The line needs to get some pressure in order to disrupt the Purdue air attack.
Warrior to Watch: Trent- He really hates trains.
Other Game to Watch: Bears vs Vikings – There may be a wager on this one amongst the boys…
Our ‘Cats are 2-0 and face the Huskers this week. Funny enough, five years ago another McCaffrey brother in red and white came into Ryan Field and had his worst outing of the year. Can the ‘Cats replicate that success today with a strong defensive effort?
TRENT(1-1 PICKS RECORD)
Our ‘Cats are 2-0, literally as good as we could have hoped at this point in the season. I was pretty impressed with the resilience of the squad to come back from a few terrible mistakes in the 1st quarter against Iowa and an early 17-0 deficit. It was a good feeling to still have belief that we were in a game even facing that kind of hole – that’s the benefit of having a competent QB, you feel like you’ve at least got a shot to come back. The identity here is what I believe we’ll see a lot of from the ‘Cats this year – run the ball, play great defense, and let Peyton Ramsey manage the game.
This week we face the Huskers in a matchup that always seems to be close. Their mobile QB Adrian Martinez always gives us fits. Nebraska got a “bye” last week after their game against Wisconsin was canceled due to COVID. Will that help their team with the extra rest, or will they come out rusty?
Game Summary: I think the ‘Cats start faster this week (it would be hard not to) and expect a run-heavy game plan against the Huskers. I like the three man rotation we’ve got going at RB, with Bowser carrying the bulk of the load, Drake Anderson coming in as a scat back, and sure-handed senior Jesse Brown coming in at the goal line. Expect Peyton Ramsey to pick up some yards rushing himself, and reconnect with John Raine through the air (#0 had 0 catches last week).
We’ll put up some points this week, so it’s a matter of our D holding Nebraska down. Our defense has looked pretty spectacular so far this year, ranking #3 in the country in S&P. Mobile QBs always give us trouble, but I think we will stop the Huskers just enough to eke this one out.
Game Score: NU 33 – UNL 27
Play of the Game: Peyton Ramsey hits Raine for a play action TD.
Player to Watch: Paddy Fisher. Can he contain Nebraska’s mobile QB?
Warrior to Watch: Paul. Long week.
Other Game to Watch: Michigan State @ Iowa. MSU beat Michigan in the Big House last week. Iowa blew a 17 point lead at home to the ‘Cats. And yet the Hawkeyes are favored by 9 in Kinnick. Seems like a strange line?
DOC ROCHE (0-0 PICKS RECORD)
No contest due to COVID.
Game Summary: This game should be significantly different than what we saw last week. Nebraska can and will move the ball. That said, our offense will likely open up a bit more against this team. I think the game ultimately comes down to how successful our defense is inside the red zone. If we can keep Nebraska out of the end zone more often than not then I like our chances.
Game Score: NU 30 – Lil Red 23
Play of the Game: Peyton Ramsey with a 30 yard scamper on a crucial 3rd down.
Player to Watch: The O Line… they seem to be getting better.
Warrior to Watch: Everyone… what a week.
Other Game to Watch: Meh…Purdue and Wisconsin won’t be played so I don’t care about much elsewhere.
Cats win by 2
House Divided Game for the Huettners Well be seeing two Reds lose this week. Huskers 23 – Cats 31
Game Summary: Traditionally, the Cats struggle against athletic QBs and Nebraska has two of them. We did well against Lil Tua in week 1, and he looked good in week 2, so maybe we’ve figured this out. I doubt it. The Cats secondary is pretty good, so I would bet on them taking advantage of some less accurate throws from the two-headed monster at QB. Luckily, Nebraska is not great at defense. Ohio State can make anyone look bad, but they were straight up not having a good time against the Buckeyes. I think we’re in for a shootout with some more touches for Drake “The Brakes” Anderson out of the backfield to get the people going. Also, Malik Washington might break out this game.
Game Score: NU 31- UNL 28
Play of the Game: Luke McCaffery is intercepted by Greg Newsome for 6.
Player to Watch: The defensive ends: They need to keep contain on the outside.
Warrior to Watch: Andy – His second favorite Wiener was a winner and what better way to celebrate than with a Cats victory.
Other Game to Watch: Clemson vs ND: Will Clemson be able to overcome the Golden Domers without Trevor Lawrence? Also, how weird is it that Trevor Lawrence lives by himself in college?
ANDY DAY (2-0)
Too lazy to write a summary. ‘Cats eek out a win. NU 21 – Neb 16
The ‘Cats went 1-0 last week and shellacked the Terrapins back into their shells. This week brings up a big big matchup in Iowa City against the Hawkeyes. Can the ‘Cats pull it out on Halloween?
editor’s note: this was written before the Maryland-Minnesota game last night. I was right about the game being one to watch, but will admit Tua’s brother impressed.
Of all the possible outcomes for game one, the ‘Cats winning by 40 was not one that I had on my radar. I’ll give myself a pat on the back for my prediction of an easy win for once, but I did not see a scenario where we’d look that dominant. Granted Maryland is probably horrible, and Taulia Tagovailua is obviously benefiting off his brother’s name, but still, for us to do that against any B1G team is lovely to see.
Peyton Ramsey is just super solid, and reminds me of Dan Persa with the way he plays and his mannerisms. His accuracy and his wiggle in the running game were what stuck out the most to me. Mike Bajakian may seem like a genius after game one, but that may just be a reflection of how horrid Mick McCall truly was, and how truly horrid Maryland is. But damn, it was so refreshing to see WRs getting open and RBs getting room to run. And how about an actual TE on the field making an impact. John Raine is the truth, he may be my second favorite player on the team behind my boy Bowser.
So recap over, now a quick hit on Wisconsin. They’ve got six players with COVID, including their current first and second string QBs. Paul Chryst and five other members of his staff also have it. Their game against Nebraska is canceled, and Wisco loses those six players for 21 days. This is going to completely scramble the B1G West and could take the Badgers out of contention for the B1G championship if they miss two additional games. Does this open things up for the ‘Cats?
Back to our game this week, at Iowa. The Hawkeyes had some serious internal issues this summer with calls of racism and internal turmoil within the team and coaching staff. Kirk Ferentz is the longest tenured coach in the conference, and makes way too much money for doing his typical 7-5 or 8-4 dance each year. The Hawkeyes lost game one to a shorthanded Purdue, and you can just imagine what the temperature will be in Iowa City if they open with losses to the Boilermakers AND the Purple Wildcats. Can those folks in Iowa take the internal BS ON TOP off losses to those two teams which they see (fairly or not) as lowly opponents in the scheme of the B1G? I think not. I think Ferentz will be on the serious hot seat if that scenario plays out, and honestly I think he’ll be coaching this game like his job depends on it.
Game Summary: I don’t see our offense having the same success as we did in game one. Iowa’s defense is a far cry from the sieve that was the Terrapins D. I’m anticipating a slugfest in a cold Iowa City, with Bowser having some success but ultimately the ‘Cats going down in a close one.
Game Score: NU 23 – Iowa 28
Play of the Game: Bowser continues his success in Kinnick with another long TD scamper.
Player(s) to Watch: The O Line. After a solid performance last week, that unit is going to have a much tougher test this week. If they can open holes for the RBs and give Peyton some time, we’ve got a solid chance. If they can’t, it’ll be a long day.
Warrior to Watch: Rankin. This game is on Halloween. What will he wear? Other Game to Watch: Minnesota – Maryland on Friday night. This will serve as a barometer to show us if NU’s blowout win against the Terps actually was impressive. Also curious to see how Minny bounces back after a L against Michigan.
Other Game to Watch: Minnesota – Maryland on Friday night. This will serve as a barometer to show us if NU’s blowout win against the Terps actually was impressive. Also curious to see how Minny bounces back after a L against Michigan.
No contest due to COVID.
Cats won last week…. so did COVID. Wisconsin and Nebraska will be a “no contest” this weekend. Again, I’ll be shocked if NU plays all 8 scheduled games.
Back to the football. Yes, Maryland is terrible. That said, last season’s version of NU would not have been able to march up and down the field and beat them by 40. So, we’ve got that going for us.
I think Ramsey is a legitimate Power 5 QB and that goes a long way in making an offense look functional. I also appreciate how Bajakian seems to have simplified the run blocking and protection schemes. No more of that Mickey Mouse McCall shit leaving our QB back there to get clobbered. This week we have Iowa. I didn’t watch them last weekend, but they lost to what many considered a suspect Purdue team (without Rondale Moore no less). So, I’m assuming this is your typical Kirk Ferentz Iowa squad: a team that vastly underachieves given they probably have a few 10+ year NFL players at non-skill positions.
Game Summary: See the underachieving part above…. I suspect our defense will do the bend but not break thing in this game because Iowa will shit the bed when they most need to move the ball. Ramsey will be solid again and we’ll establish a running game that gets more effective as the game goes on.
Game Score: NU 27 – Iowa 17
Play of the Game: Iowa’s QB gets blindsided on a JR Pace blitz and fumbles deep in his own territory.
Player(s) to Watch: Probably the offensive line again. They were good last week, but they played Maryland. Has the simplified scheme helped? Will Skoronski look the part again against a better front 7?
Warrior to Watch: Me. I have a majestic Halloween costume.
Other Game to Watch: I guess we start watching the B1G West… we have a short season and games are already getting canceled. NU could look the part and make it to Indy or they could back their way in with some help elsewhere (i.e. more Wisconsin games canceled). If NU gets off to a 2-0 start and you have an 0-2 Iowa, 1-1 Tonka and 1-? Wisconsin, then this could get interesting very quickly.
CATS 30 – IOWA 21
I would like to apologize to two groups for my prediction last week. I underestimated the Cat’s D and to the rest of the panelists of this illustrious group for exposing them as Pharisees of the highest order. I alone predicted that the Cats would treat the Terps like the Germans have treated the French Army since Napoleon. I kept the faith. I knew that no one rolls into Evanston on a cold October night for a season opener and leaves with their dignity still intact.
Now, let us turn to this week wherein the Cats travel to Iowa to play the Hawkeyes. In this matchup of the two longest-tenured coaches in the Big Ten, we have two programs in very different places. One has been wounded by scandal and staggers into this game like a sickly water buffalo. The other is creeping silently in tall grasses waiting for its moment to separate the weak from the herd. Iowa is the one team Coach Fitz truly hates and he always has the boys ready to play against them. Time to deliver the hammer blow and end the Ferentz era.
Game Summary: Think of this Iowa team like an older Mike Tyson. They clearly aren’t in their prime, but the knockout punch is still within their grasp.
Iowa O vs NU D: This Iowa team’s strength appears to be their wide receivers, which is an odd thing to type. Northwestern appears to be loaded in the defensive backfield so strength on strength should be fun to watch. The Hawkeyes have a talented but inexperienced qb and a solid o line as always. If they were to open up the play calling a bit, they might fare better, but this is Iowa and they won’t. Expect many punts and run, run, pass sequences.
NU O vs Iowa D: This Iowa D is not your typical Hawkeyes D. Iowa might have the worst secondary that I’ve ever seen an Iowa team have. They got torched by a Purdue team playing with one albeit great wide receiver. The Cats don’t have a receiver of Bell’s quality, but they do have 6 or 7 good options for Peyton Ramsey to pick out. I expect for him and the receivers to have a field day. The front seven is solid but lacks the typical Iowa star power and depth. It will be interesting to see if the Cats and their young o-line can get a run game going against them. I think it’ll be a slow start on the ground with later chunk plays as the Cats salt away the game.
Special Teams: Iowa has a very good kicker and a punter from Australia, who we will be seeing plenty of on Saturday.
Game Score: Northwestern 31- Iowa 10
Play of the Game: Paddy Fischer stuffs a qb sneak from the 1 for a turnover on downs.
Player(s) to Watch: Joe Spivak and Jake Saunders. These two hog mollies need to play well if the Cats are going to contain the world’s most boring offense.
Warrior to Watch: Roger, let’s just say he’s hauntingly beautiful.
Other Game to Watch: Ohio State – Penn State Should be fun, I guess.
Game Summary: Cats spook the Hawkeyes
Game Score: Northwestern 26 – Iowa 19
Play of the Game: Fake FG for 1st Down
Player(s) to Watch: Paddy Fisher
Warrior to Watch: HACK – will he turn into a vampire?
Other Game to Watch: The Battle For Michigan
Game Summary: I think ideally we will still be able to score. Clearly not as easily as last week, but should be able to get some momentum and put up some points. I feel like our defense is better than Purdont’s, so we should be able to keep them from putting up too many points. I think we get an early lead and never give it back. We get a scare at some point in the 4th, but a big stop shuts the door and we end up with a nice W.
Game Score: NU 27 – Iowa 20
Play of the Game: Ramsey Scampers for a huge 1st down which lets us run out the clock
Player(s) to Watch: Bowser – he had some moments against MD but only averaged 3 YPC (compared to 6.1 as a unit). How will he handle an undoubtedly better Iowa D?
It’s finally here. Northwestern is actually playing football tonight. Our setup will look a little different today as the Warriors break a streak of nine straight years of tailgating in our namesake West Lot. Rose the Van is on life support, with her future very much in doubt as the sun rises this morning. We’re not sure she’ll survive the day.
But in life, as one chapter closes, another begins. It’s a new football year and there is reason to be optimistic about our ‘Cats on the field. Even if only for a few hours, we’ll relish each snap by the only Big Ten football team audacious enough to don purple. We’ll try to forget about the pandemic raging around us, and come together for a few hours to cheer on our ‘Cats.
Before we get into the picks, a quick statistical note. There are only TWO teams in the Big Ten against whom NU has a winning record historically. The first is Indiana – we lead the Hoosiers in the lifetime series 47-35. The second is Maryland, against whom we are 1-0 with a win in 2017. Let’s keep that record in the plus column today. On to the picks…
Game Summary: Mick McCall is gone, I repeat Mick McCall is gone and the Cats are back! I have no clue what to expect from this Northwestern team on offense, but I think Coach Jake will overcome his groin injury to lead the boys to a big performance in the opener. It doesn’t hurt that Maryland has more holes than swiss cheese on defense. The Cat’s D will be good. Maryland is frisky but I think they’re undisciplined and loose with the football no matter who they are starting. There are rumors that Greg Newsome may be out, which could be trouble given the talent Maryland has at WR. I don’t think it’s going to be close folks.
Game Score: NU 42 – MD -21
Play of the Game: Peyton Ramsey 75 yard touchdown pass to tight end John Raine.
Player to Watch: The young WRs – We have some good veterans at the top of the depth chart (expect Riley Lees to be on the Patriots practice squad next year) but, Malik Washington, Genson Hooper Price, and Wayne Dennis Jr could provide much-needed splash plays.
Warrior to Watch: Andy Day, he’s got a new patio and he’s going to use it
Other Game to Watch: Nebraska – Ohio State – There can be only one punishment for treason, death by Justin Fields’s hands.
Northwestern football is back.
I’ll definitely watch. How could I not? But, I have mixed emotions about this. The B1G did the right thing initially by postponing the season only to later capitulate to the pressure of the almighty dollar. Sadly, this already appears to be a dumb move. The University of Michigan has placed their students under a shelter-in-place order, but naturally this doesn’t apply to the football team. Absurd.
With the B1G’s marginally more restrictive COVID rules, I suspect there will be more than 1 team that fails to play all 8 scheduled games and I’ll go out on a limb and say at least one team will fail to play more than 4 games (note: if any player tests positive, he must sit out for 21 days). So, here’s to hypocrisy and sidelining all reason for some entertainment on Saturday…..
Game Summary: Maryland is sneaky athletic. They have a 5 star wide receiver and a very highly recruited dual threat QB (NU wanted him). If you recall, this team annually peaks in Week 1 or 2 (multiple wins against Texas in recent years). I doubt they will have much trouble moving the ball against NU for the aforementioned reasons. The question will be whether NU’s offense can show some life to make the game interesting. I’m cautiously optimistic we will see more of an offense this year… and hopefully a well balanced one. Given that, I think Ramsey and Co. will actually be particularly effective at slowing the game down and making this a close one.
I like the ‘Cats late in this one if for nothing else than their experience in those games and Ramsey’s poise and presence as a 5th year QB.
Game Score: NU 27 – MD – 25
Play of the Game: Peyton Ramsey 25 yard read option scamper for a score.
Player to Watch: The Offensive Line. Without Slater, this could be ugly. They have to be exponentially better for this team to be worth a damn.
Warrior to Watch: Rusty. Sources say he turns 48 today.
Other Game to Watch: Nah. Not much interest elsewhere this season.
I like the Cats but haven’t paid attention much this off-season because I thought there would be a season-off.
Game summary: idk – cats QB looks somewhat decent. Which would be a nice change since last season.
Game Score: Cats 27 Maryland 14
Player to Watch: Peyton Manning Ramsey
Warrior to Watch: Hack Attack
Other game to watch: I haven’t watched one down of CFB this season so no idea
Game Score: Cats 32 – Terps 27
For some godforsaken reason I’ve got a lot of confidence in the ‘Cats on Saturday. This is based on three factors:
Fitz is the second-longest tenured coach in the Big Ten.
We have one of the most experienced teams in the conference.
Maryland missed a lot of practice this fall.
In such a weird, disruptive year, having a coach who’s familiar with his team, and players who are familiar with each other, seems pretty important. Granted, our most important player is a transfer from another school, and we’ve got a completely new offensive coordinator.
The ‘Cats are favored by 11 (!!!) against Maryland on Saturday. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about the ‘Cats, it’s that you never take them as a double digit favorite at home, especially against a conference opponent. But it’s a good thing that you can’t bet the ‘Cats in IL because I would be very tempted this week…
Game Summary: I think the ‘Cats new offense starts strong and runs all over Maryland in the first half. Transfer QB Taulia Tagavoiola (not going to try and spell it right) has a rough start with a pick six and a fumble as the ‘Cats D hangs strong. Bowser goes wild and Peyton Ramsey works in enough play action to be dangerous.
In the second half, the Terrapins storm back and wear down our defense with an intermediate passing game. They crawl back within a score, but a long run by Drake Anderson seals it late.
Game Score: NU 31 – MD – 17
Play of the Game: Pick six by captain JR Pace.
Player to Watch: Peyton Ramsey. Gotta be in his first start for the ‘Cats.
Warrior to Watch: Hack. It’s his Bday!
Other Game to Watch: Michigan – Minnesota. We’re rooting for the B1G East in every crossover game (aside from our own).
To be completely honest, when I first heard that the B1G season was cancelled, I thought it was a prudent move. When they decided to return, initially I wasn’t that excited. But lo and behold it’s the Friday before Gameday and I’m freakin’ AMPED. LET’S GO ‘CATS!
Game Summary: I honestly have no clue how things will go here. Lots of uncertainty. My thoughts are that the offense will not be the worst in the country as it was last season, but it will not be light years ahead either. Realistically somewhere right in the meaty part of the bell curve. I hope that is the case, because last season watching our team required eye-gouging. I think Maryland will have some successes, and we’ll have some miscues, but at the end of the day, we make a few more plays than they do and pull out the W.
Game Score: NU 24 – MD – 21
Play of the Game: Isaiah Bowser 42 yard scamper and score.
Player to Watch: Ramsey. Can he deliver like he did at IU? If so, giddy up.
Warrior to Watch: Tempted to call my own number here, but I’m gonna have to say Grayhack. Seems like a no brainer.
Other Game to Watch: B1G games I guess? I don’t really care what’s happening elsewhere, tbqh.
The best part of 2020 is that it puts everything in perspective. The ‘Cats had a rough year in 2019. We won one game in the Big Ten, our last. Our three wins included Illinois, UNLV and UMass. But here in 2020, you look back and say, “eh”, maybe that year wasn’t so bad.
The ‘Cats were picked to finish either 6th or 7th (Of 7) in The Big Ten West in every single CBS Sports Preseason poll. Every other team in the West was picked by at least one writer To finish in the top 3. Our highest ranking was 6th.
This is where I put on my optimism hat. If I know anything about the Cats, it’s that we zig when people expect us to zag. When we are expected to perform, we fall apart. When no one expects us to be any good, we are halfway decent.
Our offense finished last in the Big Ten last year. We played five different QBs. But why would this year be any different? When you get a solid QB and a solid new O coordinator, it’s a new variable factor. And again, perspective. When you’re comparing to Mick McCall, even a bunch of children piled on each others’ shoulders inside a trenchcoat, wielding a playcalling sheet, would look solid in comparison.
But seriously, Bajakian brings a new offense to the scheme. Up tempo. Runs a lot. Uses TE. No more Superbacks. And he’s got a QB to run the system. Again, we played 5 QBs last year. None of them were even mildly competent aside from Marty (and maybe TJ Green for 5 snaps). Now we pick up Peyton Ramsey “Bolton,” a starter at Indiana. PFF absolutely loved Ramsey last year…
That’s about all the time I have to write, so wrapping this up with a few quick hits.
Player to watch on offense: John “Purple” Raine, TE. This transfer from FAU had some decent success with the Owls last year and brings some experience to a position group that did absolutely nothing last year. We need some pass-catchers to get open this year, and I’ve got a good feeling that Raine will become a go-to target for Ramsey. Ramsey’s obviously the most important player on the team, but going with Raine here who’s a little more off the radar.
Player to watch on defense:Earnest Brown IV, DE. With Miller opting out on the D line and Gaziano now in the pros, a position of general strength for the ‘Cats gets weaker. Brown is now our best player on the line – can Earnest generate some pressure on opposing QBs this year?
Most important game:@Iowa week two. Most people are picking Minnesota or Wisconsin to top the Big Ten West, but I feel this Iowa game is more important because it sets the tone for the year. Kinnick is typically a brutal place to play, but no fans will take some of the sting out of it. Win this game, and it could propel us on a really nice path with a very manageable schedule this year.