2017 Season Prediction

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It’s been a long summer, and I’ve been licking the scraps from the bottom of the sports entertainment barrel. As I channel surf, I find myself deciding between some late night drone racing on ESPN 2, or competitive cornhole over on ESPN U.

But now it’s (almost) fall, and football season is (almost) back, and all is (almost) right in the sports world again. I can pull myself back from the sketchy outskirts of cable, and back to the safety of major network television. Instead of trying to watch Austin Carr get a chance in a Patriots preseason game against the Jags, I can watch the 2017 Wildcats take the field against some actual competition.

How will the ‘Cats fare in 2017? I’ve got no damn idea, but I’m going to try and make a prediction here. Northwestern historically is good when we expect them to be bad, and vice versa – they love to zig when we expect them to zag. The media narrative is that we’ll be a competitor for the B1G West this year – we’re returning our 3,000 yard QB and a 3,000 yard career rusher, and may have the best secondary in the B1G. We’ve got a pretty easy schedule and some manageable crossover games against the B1G East. It’s a bit silly that the winner of the B1G West will likely come down to who in our division got the least difficult crossover games against the other side.

On the other hand, we lost Austin Carr and Anthony Walker – two key players at positions where we don’t have a lot of depth. I think Carr will be a huge loss – Clayton Thorson had a nice year last year but Carr was by and large his go-to target, with 90 catches. We’ll see how Thorson does this year without that AC80 crutch – Flynn Nagel is waiting in the wings and would expect him to have a big year. Skowronek was also a nice security blanket last year for Thorson, and expect that to continue this year.

Season Prediction:

I’m predicting a 9-3 year for the ‘Cats in 2017. I see us getting through the non-con unscathed, splitting @ Wisconsin and Penn State on Homecoming, dropping a game at Nebraska, and then dropping another game to either Iowa or Michigan State at home. If we do beat Wisconsin, we’ll have an outside shot at taking the B1G West.

Player to Watch:

Clayton Thorson. Kind of an obvious one, but am very curious to see if he can continue the success he found towards the end of last year. The importance of losing Austin Carr cannot be understated – Thorson will be without his go-to target who accounted for about a third of his completions last year. If he can take a step forward, the ‘Cats will be legitimate B1G West contenders…but if he regresses without AC, we could be in for a long year.

Game to Watch:

Has to be Wisconsin. Our first game against a B1G opponent is a huge one. If we can get the win against the Badgers, we can afford to lose 2-3 games and still have an opportunity to get to Indy by winning a tiebreaker. If we lose @Wisco, there is no margin for error the rest of the way. The Badgers always seem to grind out 9-10 win seasons year in and year out, but now having lost TJ Watt and now Jack Cichy for the year, two of their best players on D, they do seem due for a down year. We shall see.

The Skinny:

I will say this is the best chance the ‘Cats have had in years to win the West. Our schedule is about as easy as you could ask for in the B1G, we’ve got a proven starter at QB and a star RB in JJ. I know we’ll be able to put up points, but I’m worried about our defense. It was porous at times last year, and that was with Anthony “Cakes” Walker holding down the middle of the D. I do feel good about our D line getting QB pressure, and our secondary covering on the back end – for me it comes down to how well our LBs can play without Walker in the mix. Expect a lot of 33-30 type games.

CFB Final Four Picks:

  • USC
  • Oklahoma State
  • Alabama
  • Ohio State
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B1G Picks – Week 10

Well it’s been a week. But hey, it’s Saturday, and college football is back – so that’s something. Let’s make some B1G picks, shall we?

 

Rutgers @ MSU (-15.5)
It’s the battle of the B1G basement as both these teams enter the day at 0-6 in conference play. A year removed from the College Football Playoff, it’s hard to fathom how Sparty has looked so downright brutal. I think Michigan State gets back on track here, but hard to see them covering this many points. Pick: Rutgers +15.5

 

Penn State (-7.5) @ Indiana
Penn State all of a sudden looks like the real deal, as they sit at #10 in the CFP rankings. I think Indiana is overrated and has been all year. Pick: PSU -7.5

 

OSU (-29.5) @ Maryland
Ohio State needs to keep winning, and winning big, to keep their Playoff hopes alive. I see them winning big against the Terrapins. Pick: OSU -29.5

 

Illinois @ Wisconsin (-26.5)
With three games left to go in the year, Wisconsin is in control of the B1G West and their own destiny if they can win out. They’ve worked through the meat of their ridiculously tough schedule, with only the Paul Bunyan Axe game left against Minnesota looking like somewhat of a challenge. I think Wisco wins this one easily, but doesn’t cover that high spread – they’re not one to blow teams out. Pick: Illinois +26.5

 

Minnesota @ Nebraska (-7)
A few games ago Nebraska had the whole world in their hands, sitting in the top ten of the CFP rankings and in control of their destiny. What a difference a few weeks makes – they lost a tight one at Wisconsin, and then got absolutely pummeled in a 62-3 loss against the Buckeyes last week. But I like them in a bounceback game this week. Glad to hear Tommy Armstrong is ok after things looked pretty bleak for a while last Saturday. Pick: Nebraska -7

 

Michigan (-22.5) @ Iowa
This is the game I had the hardest time picking. Iowa CIty is not an easy place to play, but Michigan is not an easy team to play. I know the Hawkeye fans will be going nuts in a night game, but their team looked brutal in a blowout loss to Penn State last week. Michigan is due for at least one game to be close, right?? Well, maybe not. At the end of the day, you have to trust in Harbaugh, who has showed all year he’s not afraid to pour it on teams and cover huge spreads. Pick: Michigan -22.5

 

Northwestern (-14) @ Purdue
After a terrible start to the season, the ‘Cats have redeemed themselves pretty well and sit at .500 in B1G play. We could certainly have won in Columbus a few weeks ago, but got outplayed last week in Evanston against the Badgers. If we can pull out this game, we just need to win one of the last two to go to a crappy bowl game. I think the ‘Cats offense is much improved, but still don’t trust Mick McCall. I also think this Purdue QB David Blough is pretty talented, and that worries me against our depleted secondary. ‘Cats win but don’t cover in West Lafayette. Pick Purdue +14

 

Elsewhere in the country:

  • I like Oklahoma -17 at home against Baylor. Baylor is an absolute mess, on and off the field, and OU still has an outside look at one of the CFP spots.
  • In the Pac12 after dark tonight, give me Washington State -17 at home against Cal. I’ve made a lot of money betting against Cal all year – their D is atrocious.

Homecoming Weekend B1G Picks

Homecoming weekend is here! The Warriors are ready to let loose tomorrow, with a home matchup against the Hoosiers on the docket, and then Cubs home for game sixtomorrow night against the Dodgers and Clayton Kershaw. Huge sports weekend coming up – let’s get into some Big Ten picks. See y’all at the ‘Cats game on Saturday.

 

Minnesota (-18) @ Rutgers

I think Minnesota’s pretty good, and Rutgers is pretty bad. (this is why you all tune into WLW, for our data-driven analysis) Even though this game is up in Minneapolis, I don’t feel comfortable about betting on Minnesota to beat anyone by 18 – it’s just too many points. Pick: Rutgers +18

 

Purdue @ Nebraska (-24)

Nebraska is due for a blowout. I expected more out of Purdue last week at home against Iowa, but they looked brutal. Pick: Huskers -24

 

Wisconsin (-4) @ Iowa

This one is tough. I think Wisconsin is the better team, but Iowa’s playing at home and still in the running for the B1G championship game. This game was a tight one last year, and I’m expecting a tight one this year – at least for three quarters. Wisco pulls away late. Pick: Wisco -4

 

Illinois @ Michigan (-36.5)

Harbaugh has no qualms about running up the score on bad teams. Illinois is a bad team – Lovie isn’t looking so hot in his first year down in Champaign. Pick: Michigan -36.5

 

Michigan St. (-3) @ Maryland

I see a bounceback game from Michigan State here – there’s no way Sparty is this bad, right?! Pick: MSU -3

 

Ohio St. -20 @ Penn State

Penn State is a very tough place to play. OSU went to 3OT during their last visit to Happy Valley. I see another tight game, with the Buckeyes pulling away late but not covering. Pick: PSU +20

 

Indiana @ NU (-3)

The ‘Cats! After a brutal start, we’ve won two straight B1G games and have actually scored a ton of points in doing so. I think Indiana is pretty good, but they’re not a team that scares you. As long as the ‘Cats’ offense keeps clicking, we’ll be in fine shape. Pick: CATS -3

 

 

Fall Friday B1G Picks

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Fall is officially upon us! When I rolled out of bed yesterday to 40 degree temps, I felt the B1G football fever. Daydreams of three and outs, punts downed at the 1, fullback runs up the middle and M00N games ran through my head.

After a bye week, the ‘Cats are back in action and it’s time to make some B1G picks.

 

Iowa (-11) at Purdue

Why does everyone think the Hawkeyes are good? They have won two B1G games each by a score of 14-7, against Minnesota and Rutgers. They lost at home to the ‘Cats and also lost at home to an FCS team (albeit probably the best one). Purdue historically seems to have something over on Iowa – these games always tend to be close. With Purdue at home and a double digit dog – I love the Boilermakers. Pick: Purdue +11

 

Minnesota at Maryland (-6.5)

This is the B1G game I feel I have the worst handle on this week. With QB Mitch Leidner out I believe the Gophers will struggle to score – and if nothing else Maryland can put up points. Pick: Maryland -6.5

 

Illinois (-6) at Rutgers

This is a line reflective of the fact that Rutgers lost by 78 at home last week to Michigan. But I think that’s a throwaway game – Jim Harbaugh loves to run up the score; he went for a two point conversion when the Wolverines were up 27-0 in that game. Illinois is not a good team and should not be favored on the road by 6 anywhere. Pick: Rutgers +6

 

NU at Michigan St (-6.5)

Ok here’s the homer pick. You have to think Sparty will be fired up after losing their last two games in ugly fashion; this is also their Homecoming. Mark Dantonio always scares me – I think he’s one of the best coaches in the country and I wouldn’t be shocked if you saw him at a Texas, USC, LSU, etc. next year. However, I don’t think Michigan State’s offense is any good – I expect a low scoring game and when that happens I’ll go ahead and take the points. Pick: ‘Cats +6.5

 

Nebraska (-3) at Indiana

This line started with Nebraska as a much bigger favorite and has dropped down – money is coming in on the Hoosiers. I’m not convinced Indiana is a top tier B1G team – yes they beat MSU but then again MSU might not be very good. This is a big boy game for the Hoosiers and I don’t see them coming through against the talented Huskers. Pick: Nebraska +3

 

OSU (-10.5) at Wisconsin

Ok here’s our marquee game for the B1G this week. Wisconsin has played the toughest schedule in the nation to-date and done pretty darn well – with just one loss by seven at the Big House. Their defense is legit – new QB Alex Hornibrook has shown some nice flashes but also looked pretty brutal at times. Camp Randall is a tough place to play and despite OSU’s superior talent I have a hard team seeing the Badgers get blown out in a raucous atmosphere. I think the Buckeyes win by 3 but don’t cover. Pick: Wisco +10.5

 

Favorite non-B1G Game: Alabama (-13) at Tennessee

The Vols have been the most fun team to watch in college football this year. After a series of crazy wins, they suffered a crazy 2-OT loss to Texas A&M on the road last week. If anything, I think the loss validated them more than any of their wins thus far. The Vols played ‘Bama very tight last year and I see a similar game this year. 13 points is way too much. Pick: Tennessee +13

 

Let’s see how these work out this weekend…and of course GO CUBS GO!!!

WLW Power Rankings – Week Two

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Oh how the mighty have fallen. Two weeks in and the ‘Cats are 0 and 2, and sitting at the bottom of our B1G power rankings. Northwestern’s performance thus far is deserving of last place after an unthinkable loss to an FCS team, Illinois State, at home last week. The ‘Cats put up a measly seven points against a team that shouldn’t even be on the same playing field (I’ve heard some conferences aren’t letting teams play FCS teams any longer) and lost on a last second field goal. In short, we suck. But, just as it sat at the bottom of Pandora’s box – Hope is still there. Northwestern has not yet started B1G play – remember that only games against other B1G teams count against our conference record. So, in theory, the ‘Cats could still go to the B1G Championship game. ESPN’s FPI gives the ‘Cats a .1% chance of winning the conference. So you’re saying there’s a chance

Ok enough about the ‘Cats. We’re basically irrelevant, so let’s look at the rest of the B1G. Ohio State and Michigan still predictably sit on top, with Michigan State, Iowa and Wisconsin not too far behind. That’s the clear top tier of the conference, with Nebraska the only other team that may join that group as a contender. The class of the B1G is facing stiffer competition this week which should shake things up a bit and give us a good benchmark – Ohio State plays at Oklahoma, Michigan State is at Notre Dame, and Nebraska takes on Oregon. Michigan and Iowa still haven’t really played anyone of consequence, so although they are blowing teams out they are still a bit unproven. The top of the B1G is still very crowded and we’ll find out much more over the next few weeks as we enter conference play. On to the rankings…

 

 

Team Points
1. Ohio State (5) 96
2. Michigan (2) 91
3. Iowa 79
4. Wisconsin 78
5. Michigan State 76
6. Nebraska 61
7. Minnesota 52
8. Penn State 49
9. Indiana 44
10. Maryland 34
11. Illannoy 28
12. Purdon’t 18
13. Rutgers 15
14. Northwestern 14