Lowes Line


Purdue Preview and Prediction

By Jersey Cat

Matchup: Northwestern Wildcats (0-0) at Purdue Boilermakers (0-0)
Date: Thursday, August 30, 2018, 7:00 pm CDT, Ross-Ade Stadium, West Lafayette, IN
Line: Northwestern (+1.5)


Welcome back to the Lowes Line, NU fans!  Hard to believe 2018 marks the twentieth (!) season of us honoring Marcus by keeping his Northwestern football previews going.  Truth be told, I would have to think if Marcus read some of this drivel we spit out twelve or so times a year, he’d likely say, “How the hell is this shit you guys write supposed to be an honor?  You can keep it.”  Be that as it may, we continue scribing nonetheless.

When we last left our beloved ‘Cats just before New Year’s, they were busy finishing off their second consecutive season with a bowl win and second season in the last three with ten wins. The optimism was muted, however, as QB Clayton Thorson tore his ACL during the bowl win over Kentucky. 

Getting to ten wins this season will be a tall order for the ‘Cats, as they play four teams ranked in the preseason Top 25.  Aside from the unusual conference game for a season opener at Purdue this week, NU has non-conference matchups at home against Duke and Akron before the bulk of Big Ten play kicks in.  The ‘Cats will host current #14 Michigan, Nebraska, #4 Wisconsin, and Illinois, while traveling to #11 Michigan State, Rutgers, Iowa, and Minnesota.  The ‘Cats also host #12 Notre Dame in Evanston for the first time since 1976.

Going into the 2018 campaign there are a lot of positives for NU.  You have to like the offensive line, which returns 4 of 5 starters from a squad that averaged 174 yards per game rushing throughout the ‘Cats current 8-game winning streak.  Behind them will be sophomore tailback Jeremy Larkin, who had a coming out party in the Music City Bowl, and rushed for over 500 yards on the season while backing up Justin Jackson.  It will be interesting to see if the 5-10, 197 lb. Larkin has the same durability as Jackson had.

Thorson is on the mend quicker than many of us might have expected, having been mentioned on the depth chart as a possibility to make the start a mere 8 months after a serious knee injury.   We’ll see if this occurs, although I’m skeptical.  If Thorson is not cleared to go, junior walk-on TJ Green will be the man behind center. 

Defensively, NU has a solid front seven, with five returning starters.  Samdup Miller and Joe Gaziano are the big names up front, while the linebackers are led by sophomore captain Paddy Fisher, the first sophomore to be named a captain in the Fitz era.  Fisher is joined at linebacker by TFL-machine and senior Nate Hall, who missed the Music City Bowl with an injury, but is expected to be a full strength.

As for the opening day opponent in Purdue, Boilermaker head coach Jeff Brohm had a solid first season in West Lafayette, inheriting a squad that went 3-9 the year before his arrival, and winning the last two regular season games of 2017 to finish at 6-6, before topping Arizona in the Foster Farms Bowl.  The offense is led by a two headed QB in the form of David Blough and Elijah Sindelar.   The backfield was a smorgasbord of running backs last year, and without a clear cut number one, 2018 looks to be no different.  The four backs with the highest rushing totals from last season all return for Purdue, with DJ Knox and Markell Jones the big names.  The question for the Boilers will be on defense, where seven starters have left the squad. 

So what to expect for the 2018 opener?  NU tends to start the season slow, but with a conference game right out of the gate, Fitz should have the proper level of focus instilled in the team.  Although officially listed as an underdog, I like the ‘Cats chances to get a W the conference opener. 

I expect the Wildcat defense to dominate, forcing the Boilers to throw the ball.   NU’s defense holds, but the Wildcat offense is not entirely there just yet.  If Thorson is out, all bets are off, and even if he’s in there, I expect the running game to be more prevalent for NU.

Pick: NU on a Thursday is true Must See TV.  ‘Cats pick up where they left off in 2017.  Take NU and the points.  Northwestern 20, Purdue 14.


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 2018 season it has returned to HailToPurple.com, for anyone to enjoy.  Thanks to the gridiron brain trust at the Lowes Line!