Lowes Line
2007 Posted


The Complete 2007 Lowes Line Predictions

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 2007 season it returned to HailToPurple.com, for anyone to enjoy.  Thanks to the gridiron brain trust at the Lowes Line!

Northeastern Preview and Prediction

By Jersey Cat

Matchup: Northeastern Huskies at Northwestern Wildcats
Date: Saturday, September 1, 11:00 a.m. CDT
Television: Big Ten Network – aka local watering hole if you don’t have DirecTV
Line: N/A.  No published line


NU football returns this weekend for the 2007 season, and with it, the savvy prognostications of the Lowes Line.  The Wildcats look to build upon some of the late-season successes of 2006, where they concluded the campaign with two wins in the final three games – a decent end to a season that had difficult stretches in head coach Pat Fitzgerald’s first year at the helm in Evanston.

The ‘Cats have a twelve-game schedule for 2007, and will need to win six games to become bowl eligible.  NU has a favorable schedule this year – they open with three non-conference games at Ryan Field, and have a total of seven games at home.   After Northeastern, NU hosts both Nevada and Duke.   The Big Ten schedule kicks off in Columbus for the Wildcats in 2007.  NU hosts Michigan, Minnesota, Iowa, and Indiana this year, with road trips to Michigan State, Purdue, and Illinois, in addition to the game at Ohio State.  The conference schedule is bisected by a trip to Detroit to play a non-conference game against Eastern Michigan at Ford Field on October 19th. 

The quarterback controversy over who would lead the team in 2006 is a distant memory.  After recovering from a broken leg last season and coming back to lead NU to wins over Iowa and Illinois, C.J. Bachér became the signal caller, and the junior will be taking the snaps for the ‘Cats as the starter this year.  Bachér runs the offense well, and although his planned primary target of Andrew Brewer is out for the season with a broken arm., fortunately for NU, wide receiver is a position where the ‘Cats are relatively deep.  Juniors Eric Peterman and Ross Lane look to be the go-to guys for Bachér in the passing game.  Sharing the backfield with Bachér is junior running back Tyrell Sutton, who is coming off a sophomore season that saw him hit the 1,000 yard plateau, but barely.  Sutton suffered several injuries in 2006, but should be back and ready to go.  It’s likely that Sutton will enter the top three of all time rushers at Northwestern within a game or two.  Sutton has the potential to be the best statistical back in school history before he’s done, barring injury.  Opening holes for Sutton up front is a collection of experienced linemen. Although suspended for the opener against Northeastern, Trevor Rees will be back at center for Nevada next week.  Senior tackle Dylan Thiry and junior Joel Belding are the main men up front. 

On the defensive side of the ball, NU returns the entire line.  Leading the charge at stopping the opposition’s running game is senior end David Ngene.  He’s joined by Corey Wooton and Kevin Mims who will both get significant time.  The linebacker corps is led by Adam Kadela, a fifth year senior who is likely to be the focal point of a defensive scheme where middle linebacker tends to get a lot of attention.  In the secondary, NU is in as a good shape as they have been in recent memory.  Deante Battle and Sherrick McManus are the cover guys, with senior Reggie McPherson at free safety.  Junior Brendan Smith will see plenty of time at strong safety.  Smith is a great athlete who will need to be a playmaker for NU to be successful.

This week’s opponent is Northeastern – a member of the “Football Championship Series,” the supposed new way to say Division 1-AA.  The Huskies return sixteen players from a squad that finished 5-6 last year, including a win over New Hampshire, who happened to beat Northwester last year in week two. The biggest name for the Wildcats to key in on is running back Mo Murray.  Stopping him will be key for Northwestern, as will containing athletic quarterback Anthony Orio.

Planning to watch the game this weekend on the brand spanking new Big Ten network?  Good luck.  One of the biggest issues has been the inability of The Big Ten Network to come to an agreement with Comcast, the cable provider of both yours truly and many Wildcat fans.  At issue is the idea that consumers should only pay for the channels they want, placing the channel on a sports tier of programming, as opposed to being placed on expanded basic.

A la carte pricing wouldn’t be bad at all if actually implemented across the board for cable programming.  While allowing me to choose the Big Ten Network, I could also get rid of things like Soap Net.  Do you really need a channel for that nonsense?  The people talk to themselves!  And when was the last time you tuned in to the audio delights of channel 443 – Salsa Merengue?  Adios to that one as well. 

This theme could also help family life – while I like AMC, if I opted out of that one, there’d never again be the twice weekly exchange that starts, “You’re watching The Godfather again? So help me, if I have to listen to you one more time in that stupid Brando voice about Michael hanging himself in his jail cell or being shot by a police officer…” 
“But honey, this is a great part...”
“No! No!  Apollonia!”

All in all, this looks like a season of optimism for Northwestern.  Taking care of business in the non-conference portion of the schedule is paramount, and will likely be the determining factor in whether a bowl game is attainable.  A .500 record of 6-6 is likely and not being overly optimistic in this writer’s opinion.  A good break here or there could take the squad to 7-5 and a decent bowl game. 

I was always upset when people in the northeast regularly confused Northwestern with Northeastern.  “Northwestern – that’s the co-op school in Boston, right?”  Not remotely. 

This is a winnable game for the ‘Cats, and one they need to have in order to get out of the gate on the right foot (paw?).  Look for the running game to set the tone with Sutton early.  He could get the 169 yards he needs to pass Noah Herron, Jason Wright, and Bob Christian and move into third place on the all-time school yardage list in this game alone.  If so, it’ll be a good start to the 2007 season for the ‘Cats.

Pick:  Go NU!  Beat NU!  Doesn’t sound right, but you get my drift.  Northwestern 27, Northeastern 17.

Nevada Preview and Prediction
By MO'Cats

Matchup: Nevada Wolfpack at Northwestern Wildcats
Date: Saturday, September 8, 11:00 a.m. CDT
Television: Big Ten Network
Line: 'Cats by 10 (up from 7.5 earlier this week)

Well, the season is underway, and the 'Cats started off with a nice comfortable victory. The 'Cats picked their 1-AA opponent a little better this year and cruised to a 27-0 victory. The most concerning thing about the game to this author was the ease with which Northeastern drove the ball on its first possession. Northeastern used 13 plays and drove 52 yards before stalling inside the 'Cats 30 and missing a field goal. Only 13 of the 52 yards were gained via the pass as Northeastern RAN THE BALL DOWN NORTHWESTERN'S THROAT. Northwestern responded with a 72 yard drive of its own (all but 11 in the air) and sealed the deal with a Bacher rushing touchdown. The two teams traded punts and after a particularly poor one by Northeastern, the 'Cats used the short field to set up a 30 yard field goal by Villarreal. Northeastern again squandered a decent drive and missed another field goal while the 'Cats responded with a 75 yard touchdown, putting them up 17-0. I have to say, the opening drive of the second half was impressive. The 'Cats took the opening kick and after initial miscues and a helping of a personal foul, Bacher calmly drove the 'Cats down the field with a steady diet of Sutton up the gut. Sutton plunged in from a yard out after a 6 minute drive, putting the 'Cats up 24-0, finishing off the game for the most part.
Final tallies include Bacher throwing for 243 yards with 2 TD's (one throwing another rushing). Sutton finished with 108 yards (a 4.5 yard/carry avg) and a score of his own. The defense seemed to take a bend but not break approach and came away with a shutout after 2 missed field goals and 2 turnovers on downs in Cat territory. I would say a fair beginning to the season and a win is a win. Here's hoping Fitz was playing this one vanilla.
The opponent this week is the Wolfpack from Nevada. Most remember last year's game as NU appeared to have the game under control early. 4 turnovers later Nevada was up 24-21, but the 'Cats still had a chance. Near the end of the game, an interception returned for a touchdown sealed the victory for the Wolfpack and the 'Cats finished their out of conference season a disappointing 2-2. Northwestern has changed dramatically in a year. Bacher is firmly entrenched at QB, Fitz and the rest of the coaching staff have had a full year under their belts and Sutton is another year wiser. Here's hoping for a better result.
Last week Nevada ran into a buzz saw in Lincoln, losing 52-10 to the Cornhuskers. Living in Big 12 country, I was forced to watch this horrible game as Nebraska just ran the ball down Nevada's throat. Nebraska was bigger, deeper and stronger and by the end of the 3rd quarter, Nevada had had enough. Nevada actually led in this game 10-7 midway through the second period, but two quick scores to end the quarter put the Huskers up 21-10 at half. The third quarter was all Huskers as they ran roughshod over Nevada, putting up 28 points and the game was over with over a quarter to play. The Huskers put up an impressive 625 yards on the Wolfpack (yes you read that correct) with an incredible 413 of them on the ground. This week may be a little different as their top linebacker, senior Ezra Butler, returns to action. The Wolfpack's pistol offense is led by first year signal caller Nick Graziano. The pistol is where the QB lines up in a mini shotgun with a tailback behind him. The offense as a whole is pretty green and wasn't able to do anything last week. 


Northwestern needs to run the ball effectively to win this game. IF Nevada can get their offense going, this could be a very high scoring affair. With the return of center Trevor Rees this week, let's hope Northwestern can ram the ball down Nevada's throat just as Nebraska did last week. Just get a body on Butler and Sutton should run free.

Prediction: Sutton runs wild for 170 yards and the NU defense forces the turnovers on the green QB this year.
Northwestern 31
Nevada 17
Take the 'Cats and give the points
Season: straight up 1-0 ATS: 0-0 (no spread first game of season)

Looking at the most recent five seasons:
2006 season: 9-3 straight up and 6-6 against the spread
2005 season: 8-3 straight up and 6-5 against the spread
2004 season: 8-4 straight up and 6-6 against the spread
2003 season: 10-2 straight up and 7-5 against the spread
2002 season: 10-2 straight up and 8-4 against the spread
Too bad we haven't been playing the money line on the 'Cats

Duke Preview and Prediction

By Galloping Grapes

Matchup: Duke Blue Devils at Northwestern Wildcats
Date: Saturday, September 15, 7:00 p.m. CDT
Television: Big Ten Network
Line: 'Cats by 16.5 (game circled--T.Sutton questionable)

Talkin' Football (Willie Beatin' Up The Dook)
     (with apologies to Terry Cashman)

The Wildcats had won it,
Pat Fitzgerald had done it,
And Lloyd Carr read the want ads all the while.
A new Bowl run was being born,
Northeastern we would scorn,
So down on the corner
Mustard's Last Stand went on trial.

We're talkin' football
Bachér and Tyrell Sutton
Talkin' football
Ngene and Corey Wooten
First Northeastern, then against Nevada we had some fun
They thrilled us right down to the final gun,
And this week Willie will face a lousy Dook.

Well the 'Cats weren't winning,
Versus Nevada at the beginning,
One back going out, one coming in.
Omar and Roberson with the save,
The Comeback and the safety,
And NU was the only one winning down in Evanston.

We're talkin' football
Bachér and Tyrell Sutton
Talkin' football
Thiry and Corey Wooten
The Offense, the Defense, should have their way
They should dominate throughout the day,
And this week Willie will drop a stinky Dook.

Now my old friend
Jersey Cat
We all swore he was the Pearl Jam singer's kid
Not even Coach K will play hooky
To go and see the Dookies,
And me I always loved Air Willie.
Those were the days.

Well back in the 80's,
NU's Streak was the lamest,
But now it's Duke that can't beat anyone.
The Dookies are on the brink,
And Nifong is in the clink,
And the Wildcats will win again in Evanston.

I'm talkin' football,
Like Trevor Rees and Kadela,
Talkin' football,
Ross Lane and Deante Battle,
McManis, McPherson and Kafka too,
If the Champs Bowl is calling, it's no fluke.
They want Willie, after beatin' up on Dook.
Willie will beat the Devils outta Dook. (Say hey, say hey, say hey)
I'm talkin' Willie, buryin' that Dook. (Say hey, say hey, say hey)
The pick is Willie to cover against Dook. (Say hey, say hey, say hey)
Prediction:  There's a Dookie in the pool!!  NU will clean up (even with Sutton
questionable--note actual football item!) and the 'Cats will enjoy a celebratory
Baby Ruth afterward.

Northwestern 34, Duke 13

Take the 'Cats and lay the points.

Season:  Straight up: 2-0  ATS: 0-1

Ohio State Preview and Prediction

By Joel Kanvik

Matchup: Northwestern Wildcats (2-1, 0-0) at #8 Ohio State Buckeyes (3-0, 0-0)
Date: Saturday, September 22, 2:30 p.m. CDT
Television: ESPN
Line: Buckeyes favored by 23.5


I think I'm doubly cursed this week.  Not only do I have to follow the previous Lowes Line with its sendup of the baseball song, but I have to try to make sense of why Northwestern lost, at home, against the team with the longest active losing streak in FBS (the old Division I-A).  There will be no clever lyrics in here...quite frankly, I don't think the 'Cats earned that kind of adoration this week.

So how bad was it?  Northwestern allowed lowly Duke to jump out to a 20-7 lead by the end of the first half.  Northwestern only managed 7 measly points in the entire second half.  The 'Cats, who had no turnovers in the previous 10 quarters (that's 2 and a half games for the math-impaired, R-TV-F majors on the list), gave Duke the ball twice on Bacher interceptions.  NU outgained Duke by 200 yards and held the ball 8 minutes longer.  The interceptions were killers, for certain.  But NU also committed 13 penalties for 125 yards!  Fitzy, teach some discipline to your young charges!  The 'Cats were also a measly 1-5 on fourth down attempts.  I will say this, I appreciate a coach that will go for it on 4th...sets the tone for the team.  Unfortunately, that team was already thinking about the first round at Tommy Nevin's.

Coming into the game with THE Ohio State University, Northwestern ranks higher in total yards (466 v. 428) and passing yards (298 v. 226), but lower in rushing yards (168 v. 202) and scoring (25 v. 30).  Bacher leads the way (and hopefully to the guys in the purple helmets), completing 58% of his passes, throwing 4 TDs as opposed to 2 INTs.  Roberson, not Tyrell Sutton, has carried the load, with Roberson doubling Sutton in carries and yardage.

The problem is the 'Cats are going to run into a defensive buzzsaw.  The Buckeye defense has proven to be its strongest squad this year.  Last year's Nagurski award winner as the nation's best defensive player, James Laurinaitis, promises to be a huge obstacle to NU offensive success.  Last week against the University of Washington, Laurinaitis had 2 interceptions and a key sack to stop the Husky offense, en route to a 33-14 victory.  The defense also pitched a shutout the week before against the Akron Zips.  Offensively, the Buckeyes are led by Todd Boeckman at quarterback, stepping into Troy Smith's shoes and warming to the role.  Each week has seen Boeckman get stronger and more efficient.  He has completed 63% of his passes, with 6 TDs against only 2 INTs.  Incidentally, the Buckeyes are 5-1 in their last six against the 'Cats.  It says here that, when the dust settles on Saturday, they'll be 6-1.

The only question is by how much.  As Michigan has found out painfully, teams that run a spread offense can create problems for teams that do not see that offense much.  NU will be playing against an improving Buckeye team in the raucous 'Shoe.  I think NU will beat the spread...but barely.

Pick:  Buckeyes 38, NU 17

Season to Date:  Straight up:  2-1.  Against the spread 0-2.

Michigan Preview and Prediction
By Charlie Simon

Matchup: Matchup:  Nortwestern Wildcats (2-2, 0-1) vs. University of Michigan (2-2, 1-0)
Date: Saturday, September 29, 11:00 a.m. CDT
Television: Big Ten Network
Line: Wolverines (yelled loudly like in Red Dawn) by 17


Ugh, where to start.  Last week's game (I use that term loosely) versus the Ohio State Buckeyes was one of the ugliest I have ever seen NU play.  How bad was it?  At the 5 minute mark of the first quarter NU trailed, 28-0.  I am sure some Ohio State fans were taking off their shoes to count and figure that at this pace the final score would be 312-0.  OSU scored on its 3rd play from scrimmage with a long touchdown pass that looked oh so easy.  NU, 3 and out with an 18 yard punt (you could smell the fear from the NU players).  Another OSU pass play, another touchdown.  I got up to get another beer.  I returned 2 minutes later and it is 28-0.  WTF?!?  The play by play announcer notices that OSU has their second string O-line in the game in the first quarter.  Another TD pass makes it 35-0 in the first quarter.  The OSU quarterback has not even been touched.  NU's offense is nowhere to be found.  It was blatantly obvious that NU felt undermanned and just wanted to head back home.  It should be noted that NU's best player, Tyrell Sutton, who had practiced all week, was not able to play due to a lingering ankle injury.

Ideally this week NU would play an opponent who was similar in strength.  Maybe a mid major school like Northern Illinois or a lower tier Big Ten school like Minnesota.  Someone they could compete with to get their confidence back.  Unfortunately Michigan comes to Evanston this week.  Yes this is the same UM that lost to Appy State, but they have had their surprise for the year and will not overlook NU, no matter how temping that might be. 

This week will be a real test for NU.  Tyrell Sutton's ankle is still not healed and he is listed as doubtful for Saturday's game.  NU does not have to win the game against UM but they must COMPETE.  If they go out half heartedly or scared (or both like last week) they will get creamed and the season might be lost.  If UM wins 41-7, it will go down hill quick with the possibility of a 3 or 4 win season being the best NU can muster.  On the other hand if NU can play well this week and next, even if they lose both, then the toughest part of the season is over.  After MSU next weekend, they have the POTENTIAL on paper to win the remainder (or a majority of) of their games and head to a bowl.

Michigan has good wideouts that NU will not be able to stay with but UM will concentrate more on the run game which NU has a better chance of slowing down.  Mike Hart will get 200 yards, but (in theory) it takes longer to score rushing than passing.  Also Michigan will probably be without their starting QB, as Henne is still questionable with a leg injury.

I hope with a little luck NU can keep it close until the second half.  It will be difficult because NU has been slow starting every game this year.


NU stays within 14 points until the 3rd quarter before UM realizes they can pass at will and puts NU away.

NU - 16, UM - 37

Season to Date:  Straight up:  3-1.  Against the spread 0-3.

Michigan State Preview and Prediction
By Eric Cockerill

Matchup: Matchup:  Nortwestern Wildcats (2-3, 0-2) vs. Michigan State (4-1, 0-1)
Date: Saturday, October 6, 11:00 a.m. CDT
Television: Big Ten Network
Line: Spartans by 16.5 (o/u 53)


I don’t know about you, but I tried to call Charlie last week to make sure he was OK, but he went on vacation this week so I think he's recharged and ready for little optimism.  So this week, I'll step back from the edge, at least a little.  Last week’s game was disappointing, but the end result was still better than expected...no severe depression following the game (now when the Cubs lose Saturday night, you may need to call and check on me).  Overall, NU showed something I’ve always hoped for from a Wildcat team, and that was intensity.  There was some serious hitting going on, particularly on defense.  It’s OK to be the smarter team, but this is still football and it’s, in essence, a physical confrontation.  The team’s effort reflected well on Coach Fitzgerald and his ability to motivate the team after a demoralizing loss the week before.  If only they had avoided the costly turnovers at the end of the game, we could be having a very different Lowes Line and Coach Carr could be finally looking for a new job. 

As an update to the team status, it looks like Bacher will be playing.  Good news, but that comes with bad news…Sutton has already been listed as out for Saturday’s game barring remarkable improvement.   Here’s the really bad news…the words “red shirt year” have been mentioned in the same sentence as Sutton and Fitzgerald’s official response was “that’s up to the medical staff”, which sounds to me like it’s a very real possibility.  I promised to be upbeat though, so I must mention that Omar Conteh showed himself to be capable replacement last week so all is not lost.

This week, NU faces the Spartans who had been rolling along before they lost a very close game to #9 Wisconsin last week in Madison.  One thing may have been revealed last week, and that’s that MSU’s defense may not be as good as their previous games suggested.  On offense, MSU is showing surprising strength in both the running and passing game regardless of the opponent.  Their offense is led by quarterback Brian Hoyer, running backs Joe Ringer and Jehuu Caulcrick, and wide receiver Devin Thomas.  The team is averaging 33+points per game on offense.  The balanced attack should cause problems for NU and the same intensity that was shown last week will be critical if NU has any hope of slowing this team down.

On defense, MSU major strength is the pass rush with 23 sacks in five games and 42 tackles for loss, including contributions from their linebackers and defensive backfield.  This shows that they aren’t afraid to blitz using many schemes to reach the quarterback.  Unfortunately, this also happens to be one of NU’s weaknesses.  Wisconsin showed that it is possible to put a lot of points on the board against this team by using their aggressiveness against them but NU will have to provide better protection against the pass rush then they have to date to be successful.

My two keys to the game:  NU must maintain the physicality they demonstrated last week on defense to slow the Spartans down and force mistakes and they must provide pass protection to give Bacher enough time to make good decisions.  If they do that, this will turn into a shootout and I give NU a better than 50/50 chance, so pray that we’re above the Over/Under of 53.

Still, I think MSU will get to Bacher enough to win the game, but not by 16.5. 

NU - 27, MSU – 38,  Take the Cats and the points.

Season to Date: Straight up: 4-1. Against the spread 0-4.  (Las Vegas loves us).

Minnesota Preview and Prediction
By Charlie Simon

Matchup: Northwestern Wildcats (3-3, 1-2) vs. University of Minnesota Golden Gophers (1-5, 0-3)
Date: Saturday, October 13, 2007, 11:00 a.m. CDT
Television: Big Ten Network
Line: Northwestern -7


After last week’s stunning Victory, optimism has returned to the Lowes Line.

Last Saturday in East Lansing the ‘Cats had a superb offensive performance.   C.J. Bachér threw for a school-record 520 yards and five touchdowns, including the game-winner in overtime as Northwestern racked up a wild 48-41 victory over Michigan State.   For his efforts Bacher earned USA TODAY's, Walter Camp National Offensive, and Big Ten Player of the Week honors.  Tyrell Sutton did not play but Omar Conteh played well, rushing for 79 yards and catching the winning 12-yard TD pass in overtime.

There were two keys to the ‘Cats victory.  The first was outstanding play by the O-Line.  Bacher had time to throw.  Maybe Coach Fitz and the ‘Cats read last week’s Lowes Line when senor Cockerill wrote “they must provide pass protection to give Bacher enough time to make good decisions.  If they do that, this will turn into a shootout and I give NU a better than 50/50 chance”.  Nostradomus could not have predicted it better.  The second key to the win was that the Wildcats did not turn the ball over.  Now the ‘Cats did not play a seamless game as the Defense gave up 41 points and 481 yards.  Special Teams might have been worse with one missed extra point, one muffed FG and another missed FG with time expiring.  Oh yeah, and they also gave up an average of 42 yards on the kick off coverage.  The good news is that they won and the most difficult part of their season is over.

The “crazy varmints” of Minnesota come to Evanston this weekend.  They are very similar to NU in that they also run the spread offense (the Offensive Coordinator is Mike Dunbar, who was NU’s Offensive Coordinator under Coach Randy Walker) and have a very porous Defense.  This is the first year for Minnesota and the spread so they are still experiencing growing pains as shown by their 1-5 record (or maybe their Defense is just “not good”).  Either way it should make for an entertaining Homecoming game.

Minnesota is led by redshirt freshman quarterback Adam Weber who is averaging 257.2 yards per game in the air and 301.8 yards per game of total offense. Weber is the Gophers' second-leading rusher (268 yards, 3 TD's) behind starting tailback Amir Pinnix (469 yards, 5.4 ypc, 3 TD's).  The Gophers are led on Defense by the “gopher's ally. His friends. The harmless squirrel and the friendly rabbit.”

On paper it appears that the first team to 50 will win as neither team’s defense has been able to stop much of anything.   I don’t think it will be quite that high scoring as these Defenses practice against the spread offense all week.  They should know how to defend against it.

Sutton is listed as day to day but he has been that way for weeks.  I doubt he plays as he has not practiced this week.  I am not sure if it is good or bad if he redshirts.  It would be nice to have him around for two more years but I think his explosiveness is greatly missed.

For the Wildcats to make it to a bowl game this almost a must win game.  In all probability 6-6 will not be enough to go bowling so they must win 4 of their remaining 6.  They would need to win this week, next weekend against Eastern Michigan, and then split their last 4 versus Purdue, Iowa, Indiana, and the #18 ranked Illinois.

The key again will come to turnovers.  If the Wildcats can hang on to the ball then they should squeak out a victory.  It will be close and NU must avoid a letdown after last week’s emotional victory.  I think NU starts slow but wins in the end.

Pick:  NU 34, Minn. 31

Take the Wildcats straight up, but not to kill (I mean cover) all of the gophers.

Season to Date: Straight up: 4-2. Against the spread: 1-4.

EMU Preview and Prediction
By Eric Cockerill

Matchup: Northwestern Wildcats (4-3, 2-2) at Eastern Michigan University Eagles (2-5, 1-2) in the Fourth Annual Collegiate Clash
Date: Friday, October 19, 2007, 6:00 p.m. CDT
Television: ESPNU (or Comcast if you’re near Detroit)
Line: NU by 10.5 (o/u 59)


The Cats head to lovely Detroit, Michigan tonight to face the EMU Eagles in the Fourth Annual Collegiate Clash.  NU should be counting their blessings for not having to go to Ypsilanti for the game (for those of you that don’t know, it’s adjacent to Ann Arbor and the first syllable rhymes with “hips” without the h).

Since last I wrote, NU has won two straight games in overtime and scoring 97 points combined (and giving up 89).  They’ve been exciting games and may have been enough to push them into a bowl game, provided they continue to win the winnable games.

Eastern Michigan is actually larger than you would expect with an undergraduate enrollment of 23,000 (compared to NU’s current 7,600) and is well known for its teaching programs. Their football team, the Eagles are in the lower half of the MAC this year.  For those of you who remember last year, the Eagle’s head coach Jeff Genyk was formerly a member of the NU coaching staff for 12 years and has hired no less than 5 assistant coaches with ties to NU (4 as coaches and one as a player).  There was some concern last year that EMU might have an advantage of knowledge of the 'Cats' system, but NU was victorious in a 14-6 game. 

Eastern is having a rough year of it with wins against just Howard and NIU. If shared opponents are any indications, NU should do fine as the Eagles lost to Michigan handily after Michigan took their foot of the gas in the fourth quarter, while the Cat’s played Michigan tough all game.

Eastern’s offense is fairly balanced though not particularly scary, but the defense gives up almost 200 ypg rushing, which suggest a good day for NU’s Conteh and Roberson.  Look for more passing than normal from the Eagles (they average 170 ypg) due to NU’s defense and the fact that they’re likely to be trailing the Cats for most of the game.  Individually, only three EMU players stand out: linebacker Daniel Holtzclaw, quarterback Andy Schmitt, and punter Zach Johnson.  When your third best player is the punter, things are not looking good for season long success. [Ed. note: as mentioned on the site yesterday, Andy Schmitt is injured and will not play against NU.  This could affect the Eagles' passing ratio.]
The Wildcats still have no definitive word on Tyrell Sutton yet, but I think its safe to say that he’ll be out another week at least.  So far it has not seemed to have hurt the 'Cats, as Bacher has picked up the slack and then some.  Considering NU’s offense is currently hitting on all cylinders, Bacher should have no problem exceeding 200 yards passing in this game even with the cold, windy conditions
[Ed. note II: it really does get cold and windy at turf-level inside Ford Field.  No, really...] and then letting the running game burn the clock.  It could be a blowout if EMU can’t get on the board early, but more likely the second half will be filled with Condeh and Roberson running for first downs repeatedly and chewing up the clock, the score may be closer than the spread indicates.

Prediction:  NU gets ahead early with a good mix of passing and rushing, then turns the running game loose in the second half. 

NU - 27, EMU – 17, Take the Eagles and the points.

Season to Date: Straight up: 5-2. Against the spread 2-4.  (Las Vegas still loves us, but the not as much).

Purdue Preview and Prediction
By Jersey Cat

Matchup: Northwestern Wildcats (5-3, 2-2) at Purdue University Boilermakers (6-2, 2-2)
Date: Saturday, October 27, 2007, 11:00 am CDT
Television: Big Ten Network
Line: NU (+13)


After a break in the middle of the conference schedule, NU returns to Big Ten action this week against Purdue.   The 'Cats come into the matchup against the Boilers riding a three game winning streak – heart-stopping overtime wins against Michigan State and Minnesota, and last week's winning ugly (but winning) contest in Detroit against Eastern Michigan. 

Leading the charge the last several weeks has been the play of junior quarterback CJ Bacher, who took home Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week honors following the victories over both the Spartans and Gophers.  Bacher has been on fire as of late, connecting on 70% of his passes for 1,351 yards, and 10 TDs against 1 INT over the three-game streak.    Proper credit must also go to the offensive line, who have given Bacher time to throw and get the ball to the open man. 

After getting in for a few plays against Eastern Michigan, running back Tyrell Sutton is scheduled to return to the starting lineup against Purdue after being out for several weeks with a high ankle sprain.  Sutton's return should pay dividends for NU if he can get off to a quick start, forcing the Purdue defense to be kept honest against the run, which has become almost something of an afterthought in recent weeks.  Omar Conteh, who has more than filled in admirably in Sutton's absence with 100+ all-purpose yards in each of the last three games, will likely continue to get some reps.

The question here is the defense. Northwestern has continued to show an inability to stop opponents from scoring, although there have been pockets of brilliance in a few must-have goal-line stands at points earlier this year.  The secondary is again questionable, and could be very exposed in this game.

Purdue comes into the game against NU already bowl-eligible.  They've done what good teams do -- marched through the non-conference schedule and beaten the teams to date they should, dropping contests only to Ohio State and Michigan.  The Boilermakers are led by Curtis Painter, a QB that has the ability to shred a defense.  Painter is right behind Bacher in yards per game in the Big Ten.  Keep an eye on Doreien Bryant and Dustin Keller, the primary targets on Saturday.  Like the 'Cats, Purdue is vulnerable on defense as well, but NU will need to avoid waiting to the last seconds if they’re to capture an upset victory this week.

Coach Fitzgerald is continuing to make progress with the 'Cats, and you have to like his attitude, which is starting to take on the look of the Fitz we saw at middle linebacker a dozen years ago. "We need to be more violent..." said Fitz in his press conference this week, an attitude I feel has been missing to date in the Fitzgerald era.  Let's see it in the play of the defense this week.

Should be high scoring affair.  Over/under is 65.  Wise money says to bet the over, as no one knows for sure if either of these teams will be able to stop the other’s offense.

Pick:   Painter goes Jackson Pollock on the NU secondary.  'Cats cover, but fall short.

Purdue - 38,  NU - 31.  Take the 'Cats and the points.

Season to Date: Straight up: 6-2. Against the spread 2-5.

Iowa Preview and Prediction
By MO'Cats

Matchup: Iowa Hawkeyes (4-5, 2-4) at Northwestern Wildcats (5-4, 2-3)
Date: Saturday, November 3rd, 2007, 11:00 am CDT
Television: The Deuce, Baby (Jersey Cat and I will not have to go to a bar-- wait, is this a good thing?)
Line: NU -1 (home favorite by a point with the O/U at 45 1/2) 

The 'Cats entered last week's affair with a chance to obtain bowl eligibility. Well another week goes by, and another offensive showcase for an opposing player. This past week, Jaycen Taylor ran for 157 yards and 2 touchdowns as the Boilermakers received a free steak by hitting the bull in the second half. The 'Cats actually had a lead in the third quarter after Villareal kicked an 18 yard field goal halfway through the 3rd quarter to take a 17-14 lead. The Boilermakers had had enough at that point and wanted to make it to the show and scored the final 21 points of the game.

Bacher must have been holding it like an egg the entire day as he threw 3 interceptions with several key ones ending NU drives inside Purdue territory. You could just tell it wasn't going to be the 'Cats' day as Bacher was intercepted on Purdue's 14 on the 1st drive and the first score of the game occurred as Purdue fumbled the ball into the endzone and recovered it for the TD. Bacher kept trying to throw the fastball when he needed a curve on the next possession, as Purdue again intercepted him and scored, taking a 14 to zip lead. The second quarter could have put the game away for the 'Cats as the Purdue defense could not stop them. The 'Cats rattled home a touchdown on the first drive, cutting the lead in half while the defense held down the vaunted Purdue attack. On the next possession, Bacher was again intercepted in Purdue territory and again the defense held. Conteh wanted to get into the act and fumbled on Purdue's 28 on the next possession and again the defense held. Fitzgerald called a meeting on the mound and after candlesticks were decided upon and a live (it has to be live) chicken was sacrificed, the 'Cats tied the score on the infamous hook and lateral play. After no scoring by Purdue in the 3rd quarter, the defense imploded (it was as if the roses were in the back) and Purdue took control, winning 35-17. 

After controlling a game for 3 quarters and winning on both sides of the ball, to lose by such a wide margin is deceiving. The 'Cats could've and should've won that game (I think I sound like Behme now). Now after falling, wins this week hosting Iowa and next week hosting the Hosers is a must to get into a bowl (in my humble opinion). Too many teams are going to be bowl eligible and the 7th win is critical.  
This week the 'Cats host the Iowa Hawkeyes who beat the Spartans last week 34-27 in double overtime. By the way, how bad would the Domers be in the Big 10? Would they get a win in conference? At most one, as Minnesota is pretty bad but MSU is 10th in the conference and the Domers were manhandled by them. GO NAVY!! 
The Hawkeyes are led by their defense and linebacker Mike Humpal. Humpal is ranked 11th nationally in tackles and first in the Big 10. The team defense is 3rd in scoring and 4th in rushing defense. Problem areas will be in the middle as the starting middle linebacker and one of the starting corners are both out because of fractured extremities suffered during last week's affair. About the only good things to say about the offense is that they don't turn the ball over (8 times in 9 games) and they have running back Albert Young. Young's last visit to Evanston saw him run for 202 yards and 2 touchdowns. He will see plenty of action with at least 25 carries on Saturday. For the 'Cats, Sutton is finally healthy and had a nice 6 yards per carry average last week. The most telling stat of the season so far: in the five victories, Bacher has thrown 14 touchdowns and one interception. In the four losses, Bacher has thrown 1 touchdown and 10 interceptions. The 'Cat defense ranks 9th in the Big 10 against the run so look for Young to run wild. BUT... 
If Bacher throws one or fewer interceptions and the total turnovers are <2, the 'Cats win this game. If the turnover bug hits the 'Cats again (Iowa is not going to do it), 'Cats will lose this game. 
Pick: Bacher keeps it to the guys in purple and Sutton doesn't put it on the ground.
'Cats 24 Hawkeyes 17 take the under 
Season to Date: Straight up: 7-2 Against the Spread: 2-6

Indiana Preview and Prediction
By Joel Kanvik
Matchup: Indiana Hoosiers (6-4, 2-4) at Northwestern Wildcats (5-5, 2-4)
Date: Saturday, November 10th, 2007. 11:00 am CST
Television: ESPN Classic (wow, that's a stretch...nothing about this game will be "classic")
Line: NU -2 (O/U 61)

Well, 'Cats fans of all types, it has been an interesting and frustrating season. One check at the bottom of each Lowes Line to see our predictions, especially against the spread, confirms this in gold letters. One Lowes Line staffer, after the latest disaster against Iowa, was heard to lament that "good teams win games they should win." I suppose that confirms our suspicion that the 'Cats do not fall under the heading of "good team," but what was more interesting was the concept that the 'Cats might be considered a good team at all. This Lowes Liner remembers a far different era in NU football, one in which the goalposts were torn down after every home victory. Of course, the NU athletic department had to replace only 3 sets of them during my tenure at NU, including the historic homecoming victory in which the posts were not only torn down, but carried to Lake Michigan and thrown in. Now we're worried about being a "good team?" Have we come to "expect victory," to borrow a Barnett-era slogan? Is the reality of this season a stark reminder of the depths of NU's ineptitude with the oblong ball?

So, what happened against the Hawkeyes (other than another depressing loss)? It seems to have been an apt reminder that teams that hold on to the football win, while those that don't, lose. Quarterback C.J. Bacher was picked 3 times, compiling 27 for 54 for 264 yards and a TD. Tyrell Sutton returned with a vengeance, averaging 5.0 yards per carry on 23 carries (c'mon, we're NU grads...you can do the math). NU bolted out to a 14-0 lead on a Sutton 2-yard scamper and a Bacher TD pass. Iowa clawed its way back in, pulling to 14-7 at half and tying the game in the 3rd. After an NU fieldgoal put NU back in front, the Hawkeyes dominated the 4th quarter, rolling up 2 TDs. NU actually outgained Iowa, and held Iowa's star running back Young to less than 60 yards on the ground.

The difference, obviously, was the +2 in the turnover margin. All three of Bacher's interceptions occurred in the last 17 minutes of the game. For a team trying to regain the lead, that's utterly fatal. No better way to snuff out a comeback than to give the ball away. Special teams didn't help the cause, missing one field goal and having another blocked.

Overall, NU is the Big Ten leader in passing at 309 yards a game. Not sure if this is a good sign (because we're behind, we're throwing the ball more). Bacher has 16 TDs this season, but 14 interceptions.

In contrast to the 'Cats, Indiana has won the games it should have (including beating Iowa), and lost only to clearly superior opponents. Indiana comes into this game on somewhat of a high. The Hoosiers struggled at times against Ball State, but won 38-20, largely on the strength of a fruitful 2nd quarter. The previous week, the Hoosiers were throttled by a superior Wisconsin team, 33-3, putting the next win against the Cardinals in some perspective. Indiana is led by sophomore quarterback Kellen Lewis, who is a threat to run or pass. Against Ball State, Lewis threw for 354 yards and 4 TDs, while also leading the team in rushing with 52 yards. It should be noted that he rushed for 199 yards against Akron earlier this year, including ripping one off to the tune of 64 yards, and he leads the team in rushing by a significant margin.

NU's defense will probably struggle to contain Lewis, so look for him to have a big day against the 'Cats. If NU's defense can manage to stuff Lewis' run attempts, that will go a long way toward helping NU compete in this game. It says here they won't. Lewis will run and pass all over the 'Cat defense and score more points than NU's offense can match. Look for a shootout, and the team with the ball last might just be the winner.

Pick: Indiana 37, Northwestern 30. Take the Hoosiers and the points. Oh, and take the Over, too.

Season to date: Straight up, 7-3. Against the spread, 2-7.

Final 2007 Lowes Line record (there was no Lowes Line report before the season finale vs. Illinois): Straight up, 7-4.  Against the spread, 2-8.

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 2007 season it has returned to HailToPurple.com, for anyone to enjoy.  Thanks to the gridiron brain trust at the Lowes Line!