Lowes Line


Notre Dame Preview and Prediction

By Jersey Cat

Matchup: Northwestern Wildcats (3-6, 2-4 B1G) at Notre Dame Fighting Irish (7-2)
Date: Saturday, November 15, 2:30 pm CST
Line:  Northwestern (+17.5)

How’s that saying go again?  Uglier than the east end of a westbound horse?  That about sums up last week’s game against Michigan, and certainly the special teams and offensive line play of the ‘Cats. 
After a disaster in Iowa two weeks back, the ‘Cats returned to Evanston to take on Michigan in a game where NU had a chance to eradicate from their memories the previous 90 minutes of football they had played, which resulted in 7 points.    Deadspin even got in on the action, producing a story during the game that read, “Northwestern And Michigan Are Playing One Of The Worst Games Ever.”  And they were spot on, even specifically mentioning that, “Northwestern had a punt on 4th-and-24 that failed to make it to the first down marker.”   Lovely. 
It's ugly all right, and it goes to show how important the offensive line is.  NU's effort and maybe capability and/or talent up front is just not there, and it showed big time against the Wolverines.  NU could neither run nor pass, with Justin Jackson being held to 35 yards on 17 carries, and the Michigan defensive line being all over Trevor Siemian like a pack of dogs on a three-legged cat. 
Fortunately, the Wildcat defense came to play, and did a decent job in holding Michigan at bay for most of the game, and off the scoreboard completely until midway through the third quarter.  Even then, it took a muffed punt by NU to give Michigan incredible field position to get on the scoreboard.  There have only been three games in all of FBS college football this season that were scoreless at halftime.  Two of them were played at Ryan Field, as NU and Northern Illinois were also deadlocked at zero at the break back in September.
NU managed to make a big play as Ibraheim Campbell picked off Devin Gardner and returned it to the Michigan 15 yard line.  The way things were going, he would have needed to take it to the house.  That drive resulted in no points, with the 'Cats moving 23 yards in the wrong direction and out of field goal range.  It finally clicked for NU late in the fourth, as they moved on scoring drives of 95 yards, resulting in a field goal, and 74 yards, resulting in a TD.
To quote former Jet coach Herm Edwards:  “You PLAY to WIN the Game!”  I had no problem with Fitz going for two following the TD with three seconds remaining.  I did have a problem with the play that caused us to have to go for two in the first place, as well as the blocking scheme.  Note:  If you want to roll right, it’s kind of important to block the left defensive end,  else your QB will crap himself and trip over the hash mark, ending the game.   Could they have kicked the extra point and try to win in OT?  Sure, but I like the thought of being aggressive, even though you can make the argument that going for two implies Fitz didn't have confidence in his squad to win it in extra time.
Off to South Bend this week, where the Fighting Irish await.  Notre Dame had been humming along, making their way up the rankings after their best game, a loss to Florida State, had them on the doorstep of the four-team playoff.  That came to a crashing halt in the desert against Arizona State.  The Irish fell behind early, due to their propensity for turning the ball over.  After being down 34-3 with a minute to go in the first half, ND went on a run, and cut the deficit to a field goal halfway through the 4th quarter.  The luck of the Irish and ND's playoff hopes ended there, as the Sun Devils put up 21 points in the final 5 minutes to pull away, a pick-six sealing it.
Not sure what to expect this weekend.  Will the Irish be out for blood after having their season all but ruined last week, or will apathy have set in?  We know the Irish tend to play to the level of their competition as times, especially at home, and tend to be careless with the ball from time to time too.  Don't look at the ND-North Carolina game as a barometer, 'Cat fans.  No, the Tar Heels are not a great team, but they have the ability to make plays and score points, something NU can't seem to do.  Everett Golson is too good of a quarterback, and the athleticism of the Irish defense is likely too much for the 'Cats to handle.
The weather may play into the ‘Cats favor in this one, as the speed of the Irish could be neutralized in the cold and wind.  And maybe a turnover or two will give the 'Cats a short field and allow them to take advantage and get on the board.  One thing's for sure:  forget the nostalgia.  This ain't 1995.  If the 'Cats win, they should carry Fitz off the field.

Pick:  In the land of Touchdown Jesus, I’m a Doubting Thomas.  Take the Irish and lay the points.  Notre Dame 28, Northwestern 10
P.S. Rudy was offside.
Season to Date:  3-6 Straight Up, 2-7 ATS

The Lowes Line is an e-mailed description of NU's next football game, with an invariably fearless prediction of the outcome and how NU will fare against what the other "experts" predict.  Our good friend and Brother Marcus Lowes began the broadcast mailing in 1996.  The crack Lowes Line Staff (alumni Jersey Cat, GallopingGrapes, Eric Cockerill, Joel Kanvik, Charlie Simon, and MO'Cats) have continued the Line in memory of Marcus.  For the 2014 season it has returned to HailToPurple.com, for anyone to enjoy.  Thanks to the gridiron brain trust at the Lowes Line!