A new season is here and we can finally get back to some Wildcats football and get the realistic expectations for Northwestern in 2014. Last year was extremely tough to watch as we saw the Cats just crumble after a quick start to the season.
The Cats started the season with four straight wins then dropped their next seven games before knocking off Illinois to end the season. One more win would have put the Cats in the NCAA postseason. They had plenty of opportunities to get that win as they lost to Minnesota by three and took Michigan and Iowa into overtime before losing. Then Nebraska capped off a miracle by getting a 49 yard touchdown with no time remaining to beat the Cats by three.
Northwestern hung in the game with Ohio State and only lost by 10 but got beat downs by Wisconsin and Michigan State.
The Cats won’t see Michigan State or Ohio State this season unless they meet in the Big Ten Title Game. That bodes well for them as it makes their schedule a bit easier. They will play out of conference teams California, Northern Illinois, Western Illinois and Notre Dame this year. The game against the fighting Irish isn’t till the middle of November while the other three are right away.
Their Big Ten schedule includes home games against Wisconsin, Nebraska, Michigan, Illinois and road games against Penn State, Minnesota, Iowa and Purdue.
The co-starter quarterback situation for the Cats is over as Senior Trevor Siemian will be the teams every down quarterback this season. The last two years Siemian was known as quarterback B and Kain Colter, quarterback A, as they shared reps. This will help the cats be more stable on offense and improve the passing game.
In order for the passing game to be good, the Cats offensive line will have to improve from where they were at last season. All five starters are returning from last year. They allowed 36 sacks last year, second worst in the Big Ten, only three fewer than the 39 Purdue gave up. Treyvon Green is back for his senior year, which will take a lot of the pressure from Siemian and with experienced receivers and the super back (Dan Vitale), the Cats offense will be much improved.
The Defense will also be improved this year with the bright spot being at the linebacker position. Potential All-American Chi Chi Ariguzo is as good as they get. He had 73 tackles and 4 interceptions last year from the weak side. He can be on the field all three downs and is able to make big plays in the passing game. The man in the middle next to Ariguzo is Senior Collin Ellis who is moving over from the strong side. He has become a leader of this defense over the spring.
If I had to give you a fantasy expectation of the Cats this year it would be 10-2 with losses to Iowa and Wisconsin and get back to where they belong in the college football postseason.
Let’s talk reality now though. I see Northwestern winning their first three games of the season which are all at home then going into Penn state and getting the win. That will put them at 4-0 and only two wins away from bowl eligibility again.
October forth the Badgers come to town and win in a nail biter giving NU their first loss of the season. It doesn’t get any easier as next they have to travel up to Minnesota which is always a tough place to play. Minnesota is much improved this year and I say they beat NU once again. If the game was in Evansville I’d say Northwestern tops them, just not on the road.
They return home the next to face Tommy Armstrong and the Huskers. This game has upset all over it and NU gets their fifth win of the season.
Iowa is up next and I expect Iowa to compete for the West title this year with Wisconsin. I think the Cats can keep it close but won’t hold them off. Really wouldn’t be surprised if Iowa wins by double digits, but this is reality not fantasy. Michigan is next at home and the crowd will be super hyped up for a home game that can make the Cats eligible for a bowl again.
Home field advantage will be a huge roll in this game and the Cats aren’t going to want to wait any longer to get that sixth win. They beat Michigan and improve to 6-3 and then lose the very next week to Notre Dame.
They finish the season off with Purdue and Illinois, NU will storm past both of them and finish the season at 8-4 and get ready for December football again.
Injuries can play a big factor in the season just like it did last year but with all the returning players Coach Pat Fitzgerald is on track for a come back season!
|Aug. 30, 2014||California||Home||Tickets|
|Sept. 6, 2014||Northern Illinois||Home||Tickets|
|Sept. 20, 2014||Western Illinois||Home||Tickets|
|Sept. 27, 2014||Penn State||Away|
|OCT. 4, 2014||Wisconsin||Home||Tickets|
|Oct. 11, 2014||Minnesota||Away|
|Oct. 18, 2014||Nebraska||Home||Tickets|
|Nov. 1, 2014||Iowa||Away|
|Nov. 8, 2014||Michigan||Home||Tickets|
|Nov. 15, 2014||Notre Dame||Away|
|Nov. 22, 2014||Purdue||Away|
|Nov. 29, 2014||Illinois||Home||Tickets|
Featured Image via (thegrio.com)