Nevada Preview and Prediction
By Jersey Cat
Matchup: Nevada Wolf Pack at Northwestern Wildcats
Date: Saturday, Sept. 2, 2017, 2:30 pm CDT
Line: Northwestern (-24)
Hey, folks, welcome back. It's college football season again. For only
the third time in school history, Northwestern starts its season on the
heels of a bowl victory, following the win over Pitt in the Pinstripe
Bowl in December of last year.
It's hard to believe that this will be the 12th season at the helm of
the Wildcats for Coach Fitz. Even harder to believe might be that as
much as folks like to get on him for too much loyalty to assistants,
not being aggressive enough in spots, etc., he has averaged 7 wins a
year for 11 years. Think about that. How expectations have changed. For
many of us, 7 wins was an undergraduate career, and for over a decade
it's become an expectation and par for the course for one season.
What should we expect for 2017? I'll put it right out there: less than
8-4 would have to be considered a disappointment. Aside from this
weekend's home opener against Nevada, the 'Cats go to Duke before
hosting Bowling Green in the non-conference schedule. NU takes trips to
Wisconsin, Nebraska, Illinois, and an initial trip to Maryland since
they joined the conference. The 'Cats get Penn State, Iowa, Michigan
State, Minnesota, and Purdue at home. Getting ahead of myself for a
moment, should NU run the table in the non-conference schedule, their
Big Ten conference opener at Camp Randall will give the winner the
inside track to the B1G West title.
Defensively, I like the line up front and I like the secondary. Senior
defensive tackle Tyler Lancaster is a name you'll be hearing a bit this
season, and with good reason. He received the coveted #1 jersey, and is
just a beast. Alongside Lancaster at defensive end is sophomore Joe
Gaziano, who played in all 13 games last year and had 4.5 sacks. The
secondary is also a point of strength, especially at safety, where
Godwin Igwebuike and Kyle Queiro are as good as they come, full of
athleticism and capable of making big plays. The linebackers are a
little bit more of a question mark, and redshirt freshman Paddy Fisher
gets thestarting nod in Week 1 in the middle. He's joined by senior
Brett Walsh and junior Nate Hall.
On the offensive side of the ball, the biggest story is senior Justin
Jackson, who comes into his final season with a load of accolades. He
led the Big Ten in rushing last year, and is the first back in school
history to rush for more than 1,000 yards in his first three seasons.
Jackson is 356 yards away from being NU's all-time leading rusher, and
it's possible he could end up in the Top 10 for career yards of all
backs in FBS history.
When NU's offense isn't riding Justin Jackson, junior QB Clayton
Thorson will be focus. Thorson had a significant improvement from his
first season to his second last year, and if he continues to develop,
NU could definitely put up some numbers. Thorson threw for 22 TDs
against 9 INTs as a sophomore, but had the benefit of Austin Carr as a
target, who has since graduated. Filling the shoes of the best WR in
the conference won't be easy, but junior Flynn Nagel is the choice to
emerge as the #1 target. Nagel had 40 receptions last year and has big
play capability, but could become a solid third down possession
receiver as well. NU fans will be interested in seeing how much of
Oregon graduate transfer Jalen Brown we get
to see. Brown comes to Evanston with two years of eligibility, and
while not listed with the first team in Week 1, has the potential to
become a big play option for Thorson.
NU returns 16 starters and should be poised to have a really successful
season if they can stay healthy. As previously mentioned, the
linebacker corps is the group I worry about the most. The capability of
the secondary leads one to believe the 'Cats will play well against the
pass, but teams with strong running games like Wisconsin and Penn State
could give NU problems. It will be interesting to see how the run
defense develops. If safety Igwebuike again leads the team in tackles
as he did last season, it could spell problems.
So what to say of the Week 1 opponent, Nevada? Not much, really. Let's
face it, this is a game NU should win, although the 0-2 start last year
gives us pause. No disrespect to Nevada, but we're just not giving them
any respect. Nevada went 5-7 last year, but was one of Purdue's three
wins on the season. The Wolf Pack hired former Arizona State wide
receivers coach Jay Norvell to be their coach, the first head coaching
position for Norvell. Fitz has had a solid record in season openers,
although he's dropped two of the past three, last year against a good
Western Michigan team and in 2014 against Cal. This one should be
different, however, and the question is whether NU covers.
The biggest games on NU's schedule come in late September and early
October, so hopefully the 'Cats get things moving early in the
non-conference slate to iron out the kinks. If history is a guide, this
won't be the case. NU comes out slow, gets the win with some big plays
by Justin Jackson and the defense, but doesn't cover. They do, however,
to quote Fitz, go 1-0 this week.
PICK: Northwestern 31, Nevada 10. Take the Wolf Pack and the points.
The Lowes Line is an
e-mailed description of NU's
football game, with an invariably fearless prediction of the outcome
how NU will fare against what the other "experts" predict. Our
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.
the 2017 season it has returned to HailToPurple.com,
for anyone to enjoy. Thanks to the gridiron brain trust at the Lowes