I love my fellow Northwestern fans, but it seems many times those of us purple faithful take a view of our teams which is either overly pessimistic or overly optimistic. After the win on Saturday I’ve heard many people talking about how that could be the last win of the year if the O-Line doesn’t shape up. On the other hand, I’ve heard people say that now that the defense is back the ‘Cats will dominate from here to Pasadena. I have to say I don’t think either group is correct. Therefore, I want to look at the rest of the season to realistically assess what might happen to the Wildcats at Holiday time.
I tend not to be a big fan of trying to predict games several weeks out since a lot can happen in terms of intangibles in a week of football, but I’ll make an exception this time.
Week 7 @ Michigan State: Before Saturday I thought this was a good matchup for Northwestern. A less than stellar MSU pass defense versus the Big Ten’s best percentage passer. On Saturday, though, Mike Kafka struggled and MSU’s pass defense held Illinois’s two QBs to a 9-for-28 day passing. The good news, though, was that in those 9 completions the Illini made some big plays. Also, Juice Williams missed several open receivers, as he does tend to do. Therefore, I think the game will turn on whether Kafka can play well and not make mistakes for 60 minutes. I think he can and I think NU can win in a classic Wildcat shootout. Northwestern, 38 Michigan State, 30
Week 8 vs Indiana: I think Illinois will beat Indiana this week and I think NU will beat MSU. Therefore, this will be a game which features two teams going in opposite directions. Also, while Ryan Field won’t be packed, I think NU will get a nice homecoming crowd and get revenge for last season. I have to admit, though, I am a bit scared of IU’s D-line and think they’ll prevent a blowout. Northwestern, 29 Indiana, 24
Week 9 vs Penn State: Penn State is not real strong on offense. They are real strong on defense. Barring a massive change in NU’s ability to run the ball, I don’t see this game going real well for the Wildcats. I hope I’m massively wrong on this one, but I think Joe Pa gets an easy win. Penn State, 24 Northwestern, 10
Week 10 @ Iowa: I’m sure people will jump on me for this pick, but I think NU can win this game. Some of that might be homerism or the desire to see Iowa fans melt down like they do every time they lose to Northwestern, but I like the ‘Cats in this one if their defense continues to produce TOs. Ricky Stanzi has shown a tendency to make the ill-advised pass and Sherrick McManis is looking like a serious ball hawk. Also, if Coach Fitz lets Kafka show his wheels I believe Michigan showed Iowa had some weaknesses against the mobile QB. So if NU plays and coaches to its potential I like the ‘Cats. Northwestern, 27 Iowa, 24. If Fitz gets wussy and forces Kafka to stay in the pocket or the defense forgets how to tackle again I say reverse the score to Iowa, 27 Northwestern, 24.
Week 11 @ Illinois: Things are going south in Champaign rapidly. By week 12 I imagine things will be located somewhere around Caracas. I don’t think it’ll happen, but if U of I drops the game to IU this week I even wonder if Ron Zook will be coaching in Week 12. Any how, I think a 6-4 or 5-5 Northwestern team will be far more motivated in Week 11 than an Illinois team with between 3-5 wins. Therefore I say Northwestern, 34 Illinois, 21
Week 12 vs Wisconsin: I like the Badgers. I know they looked less than spectacular against Ohio State, but I’m also afraid they’ll have the home field advantage even in Evanston and I think they could make a difference in what I expect to be a close game. NU can win if Wisconsin has ball handling issues like they did last week, but overall I think Wisconsin’s running game will be stronger than NU’s run defense. Wisconsin, 21 Northwestern, 17 (I know many will say this a more likely win than Iowa. I disagree, but I’ll be happy if NU wins it)
So there you have it. I’m on record now with those predications. If things work out the way I see it NU should for sure go to a bowl. Probably the Insight, Champs Sports, or the Motor City Bowl (or Little Caesars Pizza Bowl if that’s what they want to be called now).