The Complete 2008 Lowes Line
Line is an e-mailed description of NU's next
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. For
the 2008 season it returned to HailToPurple.com,
for anyone to enjoy. Thanks to the gridiron brain trust at the Lowes
Syracuse Preview and Prediction
Matchup: Syracuse Orange (0-0, 0-0)
at Northwestern Wildcats (0-0, 0-0)
Date: Saturday, August 30, 2008, 11:00 am CDT
Line: NU -11.5
Football season is again upon us, ‘Cats
fans, and the permanent Lowes Line stand-in crew
returns for a 10th season of celebrating the wit and insight of its
This year, NU looks to build on a solid,
yet somewhat disappointing, 6-6 campaign from 2007 that failed to yield a bowl
berth. Coach Pat Fitzgerald, now in his
third season as head coach, leads a squad that has the ability to turn the
corner and get to the postseason.
Like last year, NU has a favorable
non-conference schedule, featuring three home games, with Southern
Illinois and Ohio coming to Evanston after a trip to Duke. As part of the conference schedule, NU
travels to Iowa, Indiana, Minnesota and Michigan, while hosting Michigan State,
Purdue, Ohio State and Illinois.
NU fans have good cause for optimism going
into 2008. There’s a lot of experience
returning, and after quality new hires at both offensive and defensive
coordinator positions, Coach Fitz can start to put his
stamp on this program.
On offense, this team has the ability to
put up some big numbers. Returning at
quarterback is senior CJ Bacher, a smart leader who
can make plays. Bacher averaged over 300 yards passing last year, and has an
equally experienced receiving corps led by seniors Eric Peterman and
Ross Lane. While the
offense moved the ball last year, they didn’t move it often enough into the end
zone, and Bacher will have to
improve on his count of 19 INTs. Adding to the offensive excitement is the
return of senior back Tyrell Sutton, who missed half of last year with an ankle
injury. Sutton has the ability to be one
of the best all-around backs in the Big Ten, and the combination of a lethal
running attack to complement the experience of Bacher
could make for an exciting year. Up
front, NU starts two redshirt freshman on the line in
Al Netter at left tackle and Ben Burkett at center. They’ll need to get some experience in the
first few games to ensure the offense is clicking come the conference
On defense, the entire front four are
returning, led by John Gill, who is suspended for the Syracuse
game, but will hopefully be spending a fair amount of time in the opposing
backfield this season. New defensive
coordinator Mike Hankwitz, who comes from the
Wisconsin squad, is looking to get more production out of Corey Wooton, Adam Hahn , and Kevin Mims
up front. His attacking style employed
with the Badgers should create some havoc for opposing offensive schemes. The linebackers will be tasked with ensuring
the opposition’s running game doesn’t get out of hand, a tall order after last
year. Malcolm Arrington leads the group
in the middle alongside (The Linebacker formerly known as) Prince Kwateng. Let’s hope
he doesn’t change his name to something like “X”
lest the folks at Big Tern Network would have a problem. The secondary is a potential cause for
concern. They need to step up and make
plays following the pressure that the front four provide in order to increase
the number of takeaways.
current Syracuse Orange (not Orangemen, anymore) is not the team that
delivered the likes of Jim Brown, Larry Csonka, Art Monk, or Donovan
McNabb. What’s so bad about Orangemen, anyway? Who is being
offended? The Dutch? George Hamilton? You tell me. This team has
been going in the wrong direction since the since the arrival of head
coach Greg Robinson, and are predicted by pretty much everyone to
finish last in the Big East. Quarterback Andrew Robinson is the best
player on the Orange offense. He’ll have to be. The best receiver on
the team was suspended from the team, and the running back situation is
questionable at best, with Delone Carter and Curtis Brinkley recovering
from a hip injury and a broken leg, respectively. On defense, the
‘Cats will need to contain Arthur Jones, a nose tackle with speed and
This is not only a game with high
expectations for NU, but also a season with them. If the ‘Cats are to make a true run at a bowl
game, 3-1 is a must in the non-conference schedule, and likely a 4-0 start is
necessary. There has been a good bit of
banter on the Internet about the possibility of a 9-0 start, which would require
road wins at Iowa, Minnesota, and Indiana. Coach Fitz was
having none of it – “[I wish] some of our fans would get off of the Internet and
get real jobs. Our focus is ourselves, especially in the opener.” So much for looking past the Orange.
be told, anything less than 7-5 and a bowl bid would have to be
considered a disappointment. But it all starts in Week 1. The ‘Cats
should come out and set the tone early, moving the ball well both in
the air and on the ground, while containing the Syracuse passing game.
Expect Sutton to get the ball early and often, establishing a strong
running game and opening up the passing game for Bacher.
Want that with pulp? ‘Cats
squeeze juice out of the Orange.
14. Take the 'Cats and lay the
Season to Date: Straight up: 0-0. Against the spread 0-0.
Duke Preview and Prediction
By Joel Kanvik
Matchup: Northwestern Wildcats (1-0, 0-0) at Duke Blue Devils (1-0, 0-0)
Date: Saturday, September 6, 2008. 6:00 pm CDT
Line: Duke + 6.5
What a difference a Tyrell makes.
All of the Syracuse commercials featuring Jim Brown couldn't help the
Orange this Saturday afternoon, as Northwestern put forth an excellent
effort in stifling Brown's alma mater, 30-10. Tyrell Sutton returned to
form after an injury-plagued 2007 season, rushing 21 times for 144 yards,
and catching 4 passes for 41 yards and a TD. Sutton did have one fumble at
NU's 9, which set up Syracuse for a go-ahead score early in the 3rd
quarter. When it was time to give Sutton a rest, Omar Conteh stepped in
and kept the pressure on the Orange defense, ripping off 71 yards on 12
carries. Despite a shaky start that saw him throw a pick on NU's first
possession, quarterback C.J. Bacher settled down and completed 23 of 35
attempts for 215 yards, including 3 TDs. He finished with just the one
pick. NU's experienced offensive line kept the pressure away from Bacher,
and it opened monster holes for the running backs. Each of Sutton and
Conteh ripped of long gains of over 20 yards.
The real MVP of NU's victory Saturday was the punter, Stefan Demos. Demos
was 6 for 6 in punts downed insde the 20. He kept the Orange pinned back
against their own goal line for virtually the entire game. The performance
earned Demos the Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week award.
On the other side of the ball, the NU defense was relatively stout,
especially as far as pass defense is concerned. Neither Syracuse running
back amassed more than 50 yards rushing for the game (how un-Brown-esque).
When they tried to pass, they found equal frustration, with veteran Andrew
Robinson going only 14 for 28 for 103 yards, and one TD - to NU. Safety
Brendan Smith jumped a slant route and took his interception to the house
in the 3rd quarter, putting NU up 23-10. Add to that the safety the Cat
defense scored in the second quarter, and NU's defense put up 9 points.
NU's defense gave up scoring drives of 63 yards (field goal) and 9 yards
(TD). In total, the Syracuse offense gained only 225 total yards, only 68
of which came after half time.
NU now travels to Durham, N.C., to finish out a home-and-home series
against the Blue Devils of Duke. The Blue Devils proved to be very rude
guests in 2007, coming into Ryan Field and authoring one of the worst
nightmares Cat fans could imagine, upsetting the favored Wildcats 20-14,
with NU a mere 7 yards away from a tying touchdown (and winning extra
point). That upset halted NU's 5-game winning streak in the series against
Duke, in which curiously each team has a winning record at the other's home
field. Duke leads the series over all 8-7.
Duke is fresh off a 31-7 thumping of James Madison, a I-AA (ahem, excuse
me, FCS division) school. Duke's running attack against JMU was almost as
impressive as NU's, with the Dukies gaining 218 yards on the ground. Duke
is led by junior quarterback Thaddeus Lewis. Lewis picked apart the JMU
defense to the tune of 2 touchdowns, finishing 17 of 28 for 141 yards.
Clifford Harris fell just short of the magic 100-yard standard, finishing
with 95 yards on 17 carries. He did rush for two 1-yard touchdowns. The
Blue Devil defense was able to hold the JMU Dukes to 240 yards of total
offense, including just 50 through the air. That the Dukes were able to
rush for 188 yards on the ground should give NU some hope that the Blue
Devil defense may be porous to the run.
One recommendation to NU players: watch the sky for an unscheduled
delivery of the game ball.
Look for all Tyrell, all the time. NU will get Tyrell another 25 touches
against the Blue Devils, and wear them out as the game goes on. NU does
need to start faster against the Blue Devils (the mere 9 points in the
first half against Syracuse can be repeated without disastrous results).
When Sutton needs a breather, Conteh will come in and keep the pressure on
the Blue Devil defense. On defense, the Cats will need to stack the front
to stop the run, but not give free reign to Lewis to pick apart the
secondary. If they fail to get pressure on Lewis, he will sit back in the
pocket and find his favorite target, Eron Riley and march down the field.
It says here that it starts close, but NU pulls away. Sutton has a field
day in the Duke secondary, especially in the second half.
NU 35, Duke 21. Take the Cats and give the points.
Season to date: 1-0 straight up, 1-0 against the spread.
SIU Preview and Prediction
By Eric Cockerill
Matchup: Southern Illinois Sulukis (1-1, 0-0) at Northwestern Wildcats (2-0, 0-0)
I believe everyone will have the same first question:
Date: Saturday, September 13, 2008. 11:00 am CDT
Television: Big Ten Network
Line: NU -21.5 (wow, that was tough to find)
What the hell is a Saluki?
I'm glad you asked since I spent several valuable moments researching
that very question. To make a short answer of it… it's a
prissy-looking, skinny-a-- dog. Seriously, take a look (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saluki).
I think their original mascot was better albeit boring (the
Maroons). Apparently, Salukis was an attempt to reference the
fact that the area is called "Egypt" by the locals, which they try to
spin as related to the Nile Delta aspect of the agriculture in the
area. But having been there before, I think they just are
politely leaving the B--- F-----g off the front of Egypt.
The Salukis are a member of the Mississippi Valley Football Conference,
but before you ask what class high school is that, know that they have
beaten Division 1A schools to start the year twice in a row coming into
this matchup. In 2006, they beat Indiana and in 2007, they beat
Northern Illinois, so other teams have overlooked them in the
They've only played (and won) one game this year against Hampton
University (yet another burning question: Where is Hampton?
Answer: Virginia) and are currently ranked #11 in Subdivision
football. They do have a history of sending players to the NFL
including current New York Giants running back Brandon Jacobs among
In their only game of the season they were lead by first time starting
senior running back Larry Warner with 350+ total yards and 2 TDs and
first time starting quarterback, sophomore Chris Dieker with 216
passing yards and 3 TDs. Primarily, they won with special teams
and a defense lead by three interceptions.
Northwestern comes off a win against Duke that showed mixed
results. Although the defense seems improved with several key
stops, particularly at the end of the game, it continues to give up
yardage like it's going out of style and lost the time of possession
battle by a large margin.
In addition, QB Bacher continues to demonstrate a tendency towards
streaks of good and bad play. On the plus side, this year he's
had both good and bad streaks in each game instead of extended bad
streaks, but let's hope it's just rustiness that will work itself out
and allow him to show more consistency through the game. In
addition, when compared to last year's average total yards per game of
440+, this year's 400 yards per game against poor teams also suggests
there's work to be done. Luckily, there are two more exhibition
games before the Iowa game.
Keys for the Game:
NU needs to focus on two aspects of the game to avoid a close
game. One, they need to protect the football early and avoid
interceptions or fumbles. I'd look for a lot of running early to
protect the ball and take advantage of a rare size advantage. If
successful, the game should be well in hand by the end of the third
quarter as SIU's defense tires.
Two, NU has to show better fundamentals in special teams play.
This includes kicking and return coverage. The momentum of any
early success on offence can easily be lost if the ensuing kickoff is
returned for big yardage. Better special teams play will be
critical as conference games begin in two weeks and the next two games
are an excellent opportunity to sharpen this aspect of the team's
NU runs early then steps on the gas with the passing attack in the 2nd
quarter to put the game out of reach by the end of the 3rd.
NU's defense should have a good day against an inexperienced Saluki
NU 35, SIU 14. Cats win but don't cover the (informal) spread.
Season to date: 2-0 straight up, 1-1 against the spread.
Ohio Preview and Prediction
Matchup: Ohio University Bobcats (0-3,0-1) at Northwestern Wildcats (3-0,
Date: Saturday, September 20, 2008, 11:00 am CDT
Big Ten Network
Line: NU by 11
University is located in Athens, Ohio in the southeast corner in the hills of
Appalachia. It is known more for drinking and partying than anything else in the
state of Ohio. OU has lost at Wyoming, at Ohio State and lost a barnburner at
home last week to Central Michigan 31-28. After jumping out to a 14-0 lead last
week, the next 24 points were scored by Central Michigan. Ohio University is
coached by former Nebraska coach Frank Solich and led by quarterback Boo Jackson
(no seriously Boo Weekly is not the only athlete named Boo) who threw for 365
yards and 3 touchdowns. However, for the season (he didn't play much in the
Wyoming game), he only has 465 yards with 3 interceptions to go along with the 3
touchdowns. He does run the ball well, rushing for over 100 yards on just 16
attempts. This aspect of his game may the hardest part for NU to control. OU
otherwise has not much to write about. They rank 97th in the nation in rushing
with only 110 yards per game and 91st in the nation in points scored. They have
already played against one Big 10 foe when they traveled to Ohio Stadium in
Columbus. They played well, but lost 26-14 in a defensive struggle. The
Buckeyes couldn't put the ball in the end zone in the first half, while a fumble
recovery in the end zone put them up 14-6.
Last week, NU won big against
SIU, 33-7. The game was never close after the second quarter: the 'Cats put up
10 points, mainly on the legs of Tyrell Sutton. Sutton had 17 carries for 102 yards
and scored on plunges of 2 yards, a run of 15 yards and a gallop of 44 yards.
Villarreal had a career day with 4 field goals as the 'Cats had trouble
finishing off drives and settled for 3 field goals in the first half. Bacher was
efficient in a steady rain, throwing for 184 yards, completing 21 of 29 passes.
The defense really stepped up with 5 sacks and 12 tackles for loss. Corey
Wootton accounted for 2 sacks and 3 tackles for loss.
Final Score: 28-14. Take the 'Cats and give
needs to bury Ohio early and will. Give Tyrell the ball and let's hope he has
nearly 20 touches in the first half. Look for the 'Cats to wear them down and
put them away in the late 2nd quarter. The defense shuts down Boo and the
Bobcats crawl back to Athens 0-4
Season: 3-0 straight up and 1-2 against the spread
Iowa Preview and Prediction
By Charlie Simon
MSU Preview and Prediction
By Galloping Grapes
The Northwestern Wildcats (4-0, 0-0) at the Univ. of Iowa
Date: Saturday, September 27th,
2008, 11:00 am CDT
Line: Iowa minus
The big question for the 'Cats this week is the health of stud RB
Tyrell Sutton. Last week against an over-matched Ohio Univ., NU was in control
until Sutton went down near the end of the first half. They were up 16-0 at
half and could move the ball fairly easily up to the departure of Sutton. On a
31 yard run right before half Sutton appear to have hyper extended his left
leg. He did not return to the game, nor did the NU offense.
The NU defense saved
the day, collecting 4 turnovers from OU and blocking two field goals. There were
numerous sacks and tackles for loss. OU ended up with only 4 rushing yards
TOTAL. If the defense continues this way and becomes the strength of the team,
then good things will follow.
This week NU enters
Big Ten play against Iowa. Sutton is supposed to start and “be fine” but the lack
of clarity about the injury by head coach Pat Fitzgerald (Fitz won’t confirm the
injury type or even which leg it is to) makes me think that Sutton will be
slowed by the injury. NU needs to be on top of its game as Iowa currently has
the statistical best defense in the Big Ten. They are holding their opponents
to a single touchdown per game. Bacher needs to have a steady game. He must
limit it to one INT max. He does not need to win the game for NU, but he must
not lose it through his mistakes.
Iowa’s offense is
their running game, lead by 23 year old (how can anyone be 23 and
a junior?!?!?) Junior Shonn Greene. Greene has 506 yards rushing in
4 games. The Hawkeyes use two QBs, though neither should be intimidating. As
always it will come down to rushing, turnovers and the kicking game. Can NU
stop Iowa’s rushing? Hopefully. Can Iowa stop NU’s banged up Sutton?
Probably. Can either team give the game away with multiple interceptions? Yes,
though hopefully Bacher got rid of all his picks last week. In the Kicking game
NU has the experience advantage and it should be enough.
NU 23, Iowa 21
Take the ‘Cats and the
Season: 4-0 straight up and 1-3
against the spread
Matchup: Michigan State Spartans (5-1, 2-0)
at Northwestern Wildcats (5-0, 1-0)
Date: Saturday, October 11, 2008, 2:45 pm CT
Television: ESPN 2
Line: MSU (-1.5)
Northwestern has had an extra week to prepare (and to rest Tyrell
Sutton's left leg) after winning a tough road game at Iowa two weeks ago. The
Hawkeyes gave NU's defense a stiff test with stud RB Shonn Greene. NU briefly
knocked Greene out of the game in the second half, and managed to take advantage
of several turnovers and big offensive stops to win their conference opener,
Wildcats face the Michigan State Spartans in their Big 10 home opener this
week. The defense faces a very similar threat in the opposing RB this week, as
Heisman candidate Javon Ringer comes to Evanston. Ringer is having a banner
year so far (although he was outperformed last week by Iowa's Greene). Ringer
is second in the nation in rushing ypg, and is first in rushing TDs. Most
telling is the fact that he carries the ball 35 times per game, and the man's
got legs like treetrunks. The 'Cats can expect to see a steady diet of Ringer
tomorrow. Unfortunately, MSU's offense is not a one-trick Spartan. Fifth-year
senior QB Brian Hoyer is experienced and efficient (especially at handing
the pumpkin off to Ringer). But he's deadly when throwing to WR Mark Dell, one
of the top WRs in the conference. So far this season, 19 of Dell's 20
receptions have gone for first downs or TDs, at a 22-yard/catch clip. There
will come a point tomorrow when the 'Cats pack the line to stop Javon Ringer,
and end up getting burned by a long pass to Dell. Bank on
defense, the Spartans won't exactly remind anybody of Leonidas at Thermopylae
(did we use that same analogy last season?). But they aren't pushovers. The
beast that will be tasked with stopping Sutton is LB Greg Jones. Jones is a
tackling machine, but Sutton will get his yards on him. On the outside, MSU
will need to play a bit of a chess game against NU QB C.J. Bacher and his WRs.
Rasheed Ward's career game against Iowa two weeks ago (10 rec., 94 yards) was a
welcome sight for 'Cats fans, and it should give the Spartans reason
for concern, as Bacher has been very good at spreading the ball around to
receivers other than Eric Peterman. But Bacher cannot afford to make any
mistakes in the area of the field being patrolled by SS Otis Wiley, who leads
the Big Ten in interceptions and passes defended (and who also will be MSU's
primary punt returner). Wiley is one (but not the only) reason why the Spartans
rank near the top of the conference in turnover margin. On special teams, MSU
has one of the better kickers in the league in Brett Swenson...at best, that
matchup is a wash for NU.
it sounds like the Spartans will be a tough team, doesn't it? Although NU is
boasting a terrific scoring defense so far (3rd in the Big 10, 13th nationally),
their yardage stats suggest that there is a market correction coming. Um, bad
analogy. Let's put it this way...NU and MSU haven't been playing to scoreless
ties in recent years. They also haven't been playing nice in each others'
yards. In 2005, NU put up a 35-point win at Spartan Stadium. In 2006, Michigan
State returned the favor by making the biggest comeback in NCAA history in a
41-38 win at Ryan Field. Last year, behind a record day from Bacher, the 'Cats
won a barnburner on the road, 48-41 in overtime.
Northwestern's best chance to win and go 6-0 will be to
keep the score low, and win with defense, rushing and NO TURNOVERS. But I've
got a bad feeling that I'm going to be throwing something at the television
before the final gun sounds.
Prediction: MSU 31, NU
Take Michigan State and lay the
Season: 5 - 0
straight up, 2 - 3 ATS
Purdue Preview and Prediction
Matchup: Purdue Boilermakers (2-4, 0-2) at Northwestern Wildcats (5-1, 1-1)
Date: Saturday, October 18th, 2008, 11:00 am CDT
It's homecoming, baby!!
Television: ESPN 2 (let's hope the deuce is better luck this week)
Line: 'Cats by 4
Galloping Grapes called it. A low scoring game won by defense and no
turnovers was a recipe for success for the Wildcats last week that just
didn't seem to work out. GG reported he was going to be throwing things
at the TV if things went awry. Well, the first quarter was bad. After a
poor special teams effort on a punt, MSU scored from NU territory and
was up 7-0. The ensuing kickoff was fumbled and MSU was in business
again at the NU 25. The defense held and the Spartans were up 10-0.
Bacher was intercepted on the next possession, and the Spartans again
opened up in NU territory and punched it in with Ringer right, Ringer
left and Ringer up the middle and it was 17-0 with 2:34 left in the
second quarter was a different story and it looked like the 'Cats might
have turned it around. Bacher rushed for a touchdown and the defense
held the Spartans in check. After a punt each way, the 'Cats began
driving again. A score here and the Cats would have cut it to 3 with
only 3:30 left and Big MO on their side. That is where the heartbreaker
occurred. Bacher threw another interception at the MSU goal line and
the game was over. The Spartans drove the length of the field and went
up 24-7 at halftime and the game was over.
the Cats didn't look bad. Ringer (a Heisman candidate) actually had a
rougher day when you look closely. He carried the ball 35 times for 124
yards which only comes to 3.5 yards per carry, well below his yearly
average. Sutton actually performed much better with 23 carries for 139
yards and 6 yards per carry. Bacher's 2 interceptions were killers and
can't happen. For the Cats to bowl this year, he must contain the
to the Boilermakers. Purdue has had all kinds of offensive
troubles recently. The Boilers have lost 3 in a row and their victories
this season have come against Northern Colorado and Central Michigan.
They lost to Oregon in OT and were smoked by Notre Dame, Penn State and
Ohio State last week. The once-vaunted offense seems to have gone away
as they were only able to score 3 points against the Bucks and 6
against the Nittany Lions. The Boilermakers are led by Curtis Painter
at quarterback who last week became the fourth quarterback in Big Ten
history with 10000 yards passing. Kory Sheets is an admirable mid level
Big 10 running back but is no Javon Ringer. Purdue's defense seems to
be a strength this season as they held Penn State to 20 points (who
just demolished the Badgers last week) and OSU to 16 and no offensive
game is going to come down to turnovers and field position. Fitz needs
to pound Sutton over and over again, and the 'Cats have to come away
with touchdowns and not field goals when the opportunity presents
itself. Painter can be picked off and I think he will at least twice
this weekend. Look for a race to 20 for both team and whoever gets
there will win.
Prediction: Look for a homecoming victory and the 'Cats obtaining bowl eligibility, winning 20-14.
Take the Cats and give the points.
Season: 6-0 Straight up and 3-3 ATS
Indy Preview and Prediction
By Jersey Cat
Matchup: Northwestern Wildcats (6-1, 2-1) at Indiana Hoosiers (2-5, 0-4)
Date: Saturday, October 25, 11:00 am CDT
TV: Big Ten Network
Line: NU (-8)
It's been a long year so far for Indiana. After opening the
season 2-0 against Western Kentucky and Murray State, the Hoosiers have
dropped five in a row, surrendering an average of forty points in those
losses. As a motivational tactic, Hoosier head coach Bill Lynch
brought in Gene Hackman to reprise his role as Norman Dale. The
first thing Hackman did was take the Hoosiers out onto the field,
stretching out a tape measure to QB Kellen Lewis. Hackman stood
on the goal line while Lewis stood on the ten-yard line. "How far
is it?" said Hackman, placing the tape measure down on the
ground. "Thirty feet," replied Lewis. "That's right. Ten yards,"
Hackman shot back. "Distance to get a first down is the same in
the Big Ten schedule as it was against the non-conference punks you
were playing." Nice try, but until Jimmy Chitwood starts breaking
tackles, this team is in trouble.
NU looked good against Purdue, bouncing back from a bad loss the week
prior against Michigan State. Most importantly, they created and
took advantage of turnovers. CJ Bacher threw the ball well, the
'Cats were able to effectively move the ball on the ground, and the
defensive line was able to get good pressure on the quarterback.
This all added up to one of the more convincing wins of the season for
Of note was the running of the football by Bacher. He ran the
option on several occasions and looked pretty good doing it. In
the spread offense employed by NU, having another potential weapon in
the backfield adds to the confusion caused to opposing defenses. Tyrell
Sutton looked strong with the ball as well, getting 96 yards on 18
carries. Throwing the ball, Bacher shows he plays no
favorites, distributing the ball to eight different receivers against
the Boilermakers. Receiver Eric Peterman even got in on the act,
tossing a 30-yard TD pass off a reverse.
The 'Cats should gain some confidence after a strong showing last week,
and while they lost star middle linebacker Malcolm Arrington to a
season-ending knee injury, the Hoosiers are beset by so many injuries
the team picture looks like an x-ray. QB Lewis, who didn't play
last week for Indy, is listed as questionable, both starting guards are
yet to be cleared, and leading Hoosier receiver Andrew Means is
sporting a cast on his hand, although his status is uncertain for
NU has to avoid a letdown in this one, and get off to a quick
start. This contest should absolutely be the one that gets them
from "bowl eligible" to "bowl certainty." A balanced attack of
throwing and running the ball should do it. The defense should
contain an anemic Hoosier offense. Key to the game will be
avoiding turnovers, since, let's face it, NU is clearly the better
squad. There, I said it. If no looking past Indy, no
Pick: 'Cats run gridiron equivalent of the picket fence at Indy.
Hoosiers get caught watchin' the paint dry.
NU 34, Indiana 21.
Take the 'Cats and lay the points.
Season to date: 7-0 straight up, 4-3 against the spread.
Minny Preview and Prediction
By Joel Kanvik
Matchup: Northwestern Wildcats (6-2, 2-2) at BCS #17 Minnesota Golden Gophers
Date: Saturday, November 1, 2008 @ 12:00 pm EDT
Line: Minnesota (-5.5)
Weather: Doesn't matter. In the 'Dome, it's a balmy 72F
One Lowes Line staffer described the game against the Hoosiers as ruining his
weekend. Another staffer might well have destroyed his television during the
4th quarter. NU continues to frustrate its fans by playing very sloppy
football. Apparently NU's "picket fence" (to use the words of last week's Line)
involves giving the ball to the other team and pointing the way to the end zone.
Boy, did NU make the Hoosiers look like a football juggernaut.
How did the lowly Hoosiers beat the 'Cats? One stat line spells it out very
clearly: NU had 5 turnovers, Indiana 0. C.J. Bacher threw two killer
interceptions, one in the first quarter and one in the 4th. Each was in Indiana
territory (the 1st quarter was in the red zone). In the second quarter, Tyrell
Sutton fumbled in NU territory, leading to a Hoosier touchdown for a 14-9 lead.
Also significant is the two drives that moved well into Hoosier territory, but
eventually stalled, resulting in field goals instead of touchdowns.
C.J. Bacher finished 21 for 34 for 155 yards and zero touchdowns, but with 2
picks. He was hurt in the 4th and ended up being replaced by Mike Kafka, whose
performance on the closing drive was every bit as uplifting as the works of the
writer with the same last name. Bacher seemed to have injured his right
hamstring, which probably factored into his 4th quarter interception. Tyrell
Sutton rushed for only 2.9 yards per carry, finishing with only 77 yards on the
Indiana was the classic trap game, with the resurgent Gophers up next. And
Northwestern's focus on the Gophers was exposed glaringly.
The NU offense also suffered a huge loss: senior running back Tyrell Sutton
injured his left wrist in the 3rd quarter, and it will require surgery to
repair. His return has not been determined. Another major injury to watch this
week: C.J. Bacher's aforementioned hamstring. He is listed as questionable for
tomorrow's game. Given how it affected his last throw on Saturday (pick), we'll
see if he can be effective. On a side note, key middle linebacker Malcolm
Arrington is out for the year.
Depending on how the season progresses, NU's next opponent might be the Big
Ten's representative to the Rose Bowl this year. Yes, sports fans, the Gophers
might end their 46-year Rose Bowl drought this season.
These are not Glen Mason's Gophers. Gone are the days of running up the score
against inferior opponents only to choke to Big Ten foes. Coach Tim Brewster
has the Gophers playing good football this season. The Gophers' only loss in
2008 was to the Buckeyes in Columbus, dropping the game 34-21, which is not a
bad result in Columbus.
(FYI - there will be no "Caddyshack" references in here, tempting though that
may be. It was done a few years ago by another staffer, and done so well that
to try to recreate it would only do the previous piece of art injustice.)
The Gophers are led by sophomore quarterback Adam Weber. Weber has completed
67% of his passes in 2008, including 10 touchdowns against only 3 interceptions.
His quarterback rating is a gaudy 141. On the ground, DeLeon Eskridge has
averaged 3.9 yards per carry and rushed for 7 touchdowns. Of note, wide
receiver Ralph Spry was suspended for 2 weeks for violating team rules. That
should not make too much of a dent in the Gophers' offense, as he has had only 7
catches this season, none for touchdowns.
The Gopher defense has been steady. Only Ohio State has scored more than 30 on
them, and they held Indiana to 7 and Purdue (in West Lafayette) to 6 points.
Prior to the game against the Boilermakers, the Gophers lead the nation in
turnover margin, and they managed 4 more takeaways against the Boilers. Given
NU's propensity to give away the ball, this is a troubling statistic.
Statistically, the Gophers and Wildcats are quite similar. Both tend to employ
a bend but don't break defense. Most games the Gophers won were close, but they
did win those games (unlike NU's choke effort against the Hoosiers). The
question is who will "break" this weekend in the Metrodome. Since NU can't hold
on to the ball, and Minnesota is good at stealing it, this does not bode well
for the Cats.
Pick: 'Cats continue their generous ways. Minny 34, NU 21.
Take the Gilded Hamsters and give the points. The 'Dome will be a house of
horrors the day after Halloween.
Season to date: 7-1 straight up, 4-4 against the spread.
OSU Preview and Prediction
By Charlie Simon
Matchup: Northwestern Wildcats (7-2, 3-2) vs. The Ohio State Buckeyes (7-2, 4-1)
Date: Saturday, Nov. 8, 11am CST
TV: The Deuce
Line: OSU by 11
After committing 5 turnovers and losing to Indiana two weeks ago the
bowl hopes for the Wildcats started to look like a crap shoot.
This past Saturday at Minnesota Lady Luck smiled on the 'Cats as a
twice deflected ball landed in Brendan Smith's hands and he returned
the interception 48 yards for a the winning touchdown with a mere 12
seconds to spare.
It was a crazy ending to a very strange game. The 'Cats rushed
out to a 10-0 lead behind the arm and especially the legs of "cockroach
fast" back-up quarterback Mike Kafka. Kafka seemed to run at will
against the Gophers through most of the game. He was rarely
stopped unless it was a critical play and then he would transform back
to a slug (Damn it if it is 3rd and one and there are 9 guys in the box
for Minn. and NU has 3 receivers out wide, THROW THE BALL).
Minnesota gained the momentum in the 2nd quarter aided by a pick 6
thrown by Kafka. NU and Minnesota traded scores to end the half
tied at 17. The second half was like watching a pillow fight (and
not the Animal House variey). NU would make a big play and get
close to scoring and then turn the ball over. Minnesota would
march down the field and then miss a FG. Repeat, Repeat. It seem
like neither team was good enough to take advantage of the other.
Each team had the ball 2 times within the final five minutes of the
game and tried a little to win the game but more just not to
lose. Finally luck broke towards the 'Cats and Minnesota
did lose, but it was just that, LUCK. Neither NU nor Minnesota
are really good football teams (even though their records might
indicate otherwise). They are both decent but in a bowl game I
think they will be exposed and again diminish the sinking rep of the
This week the Buckeyes head into Evanston. The Bucks were beaten
in Columbus two weeks ago by Penn State in a close defensive
battle. It was a game enjoyed by everyone outside of Ohio as the
country can now be confident that OSU will not go to (and lose in) the
BCS title game for the 3rd year in a row. Last week OSU had a bye
to lick their wounds. I don’t see this game being much of a
contest. NU is without Sutton, the ‘Cats best player and
possibly without first string QB Bacher. Unless OSU is looking
past the ‘Cats it should be over by midway through the second
quarter. The Buckeyes will be too physical for the ‘Cats on both
sides of the ball in the run game. NU will have a hard time
stopping the Bucks’ fleet footed freshman QB Tyrell Pryor. NU
will appear to have the Buckeyes stopped but Pryor will sneak away and
change a 3rd and long into a 25 yard romp. The ‘Cats QB’s will be
under constant pressure as the run game will be non-existent without
Sutton. I predict 3 picks between Bacher and Kafka.
Since Northwestern's 33-27 overtime victory over then-No. 7 Ohio State
in 2004, the Buckeyes have outscored the Wildcats 160-24 in three
straight wins. I don’t see any reason why that streak will not
continue. NU just does not have any area where they are currently
better than the Buckeyes (OK maybe Defensive Line, but that is it).
Pick: Stay outside and enjoy the tailgates. Do a Keg Stand
or two. There will be nothing you want to see inside Ryan Field.
OSU 45, NU 16
Take the Buckeyes, they will cover.
Season to date: 7-2 straight up, 4-5 against the spread
Michigan Preview and Prediction
By Eric Cockerill
Matchup: Northwestern Wildcats (7-3, 3-3) at Michigan Wolverines (3-7, 2-4)
Date: Saturday, November 15, 2008 11:00 am CST
Line: Michigan - 4
Ultimately, last week was a horrendous showing by Northwestern
(excellent prediction by Charlie, by the way). However, while OSU
would likely have won no matter the extenuating circumstances, the
Wildcats are hurting and hurting big time. Bacher was out, Sutton
was out, Conteh was out, Malcolm Arrington was out. That is not a
formula for success against any team, particularly against a team that
has an advantage in both front line talent and depth of talent.
Unfortunately, things are not looking much better for this week.
Bacher is questionable at best and Sutton, Conteh and Arrington are out
for the remainder of the regular season. Let’s also be honest,
having Kafka run for 300 yards in two games is a bad sign, even under a
spread offense where the QB is expected to run occasionally.
For this week’s opponent, the 'Cats face the Wolverines. Oh how
the mighty have fallen. If you don’t have any friends who are
Michigan fans, be assured there is a level of embarrassment in their
voices this year that may have never been reached before. There
are a great many theories, but ultimately, the overriding theory is a
combination of the wrong personnel for the scheme, a coach that refuses
to modify the scheme to fit the teams’ strengths, and a coach that has
not gotten the team to buy in. If that sounds like a lot of
heaping on the coach (the new Rich Rodriguez), it is, but just read any
of the articles coming out of Michigan and you’ll see that most
followers agree. Just listen to this stat…this year will be the
first year since 1974 that Michigan will not go to a bowl game…that’s
34 straight bowl games. Ouch.
Michigan is lead by a strong defense that is consistently let down by
an inept and confused offense. Rodriguez has installed a spread
style offense that so far is not working…at all. Names to watch
are Obi Ezeh on defense (LB) and Threet on offense (QB).
Northwestern will have a tough road to go with the injuries, which have
resulted in a fairly one dimensional attack on offense (i.e. Kafka
runs). Last week, the RBs achieved only 80 some yards (plus 83
from Kafka) and there were only 177 passing yards. Clearly, the
'Cats have got to make Michigan pay through the air if they focus on
stopping the run. That will be the secret to this week's game,
assuming the defense can keep Michigan’s offense under 20 points, which
should be doable. Unfortunately, without Bacher, that’s going to
be a challenge. Before the injuries, NU would probably have been
the favorites, but not this week.
If Kafka plays, look for Michigan to eke out the win by less than the 4
points, while if Bacher plays, I look for the 'Cats to win.
Unfortunately, I think Fitz will save Bacher for the equally winnable
game next week against Illinois and the bowl game, particularly
considering NU’s lack of success at bowl games. It looks like
rain, so the scores should be low.
Michigan 17, NU 14. Take the 'Cats and the points.
Season to Date: 8-2 straight up, 5-5 against the spread
Illinois Preview and Prediction
By Galloping Grapes
Matchup: Illinois Fighting Illini (5-6, 3-4) v. Northwestern Wildcats
Date: Saturday, 22 November, 2008, 2:30 p.m. CST
Place: Ryan Field
TV: Big Ten Network
Line: Illinois (-2.5)
This line illustrates the difficulty in handicapping the Northwestern
football team this season. It's not often you'll see a ranked team listed as a
home 'dog to a team with a losing record. Indeed, this is a scary game for NU. Illinois is the top offense (statistically)
in the Big Ten, thanks in large measure to QB
Juice Williams. In another sense,
however, all the pressure is on Illinois to get a huge road win in a rivalry
game. The Illini need this win to become
bowl-eligible, and even then they may need Ohio State to sneak into a BCS bowl
as an at-large team in order to open up a slot in Detroit. NU, on the other hand, is going someplace
warm in December; this game merely sets the travel itinerary.
Last week, for the first time in memory, the
Wildcats were actually looking forward to a game at the Big House against the
Wolverines. Michigan is suffering
through a horror-show of a season under Rich Rodriguez. (The final insult being the line for this
weekend’s grudge match against Ohio State – the Buckeyes opened as 24 point
favorites!! It doesn’t matter if the
line is now down to 20 or 21 (Mich+24 was too sweet to pass up), nor does it
matter if the game is close or a blowout…the fact that the Buckeyes are favored
by over 20 points is by itself the low point of the season for the
Wolverines.) The weather was lousy, but
it did not deter several loyal Lowes Line readers from braving the hostile
environs to cheer the ‘Cats on to victory.
For our purposes, the most significant part of the Michigan game was the
Wildcat defense, which held the Wolvies to just 264 yards of total offense (102
in the second half), and pitched their 4th second-half shutout of the
season. Even with all the injuries
suffered by the ‘Cats this season (DT Corbin Bryant joined the list of
season-ending injuries last week), their defense has been locking down late in
weaker teams, that is.
Illinois is not a weaker team. QB Juice Williams is only 85 yards away from
breaking the Illinois career total offense mark, and as a team the Illini need
to post 420 yards of total offense to set a new school record for season ypg.
Individually, Williams is averaging 326 ypg (270 passing, 56 rushing). If you
can bear to recall NU's matchup against Ohio State a couple weeks ago, you'll
have a pretty good idea of how NU can struggle against a versatile QB. In last
season's game, Illinois pinned 541 yards of offense on the 'Cats, including 321
yards rushing, and Williams personally accounted for 220 yards passing and 136
yards rushing. So, yeah, this could be a tough matchup. While Williams is the
team's top threat (duh), he gets plenty of help from WR Arrelious Benn and
several running backs, including leading rusher Daniel Dufrene. Oh, and the
Illini posted over 200 yard rushing on Ohio State last week, in a tough 10-point
loss. So this might not be the week that NU's own running game suddenly comes
back to life. The Illini defense is aggressive...Illinois ranks near the top of
the conference in sacks and tackles for loss. The Illini passing defense is
probably the weak spot. This would be a great time for CJ Bacher to get his
passing mojo on.
Illinois's losing record this season is deceiving:
their 6 losses have come against teams boasting a combined 50-16 record. They
are quite simply much better than their record. To win, NU must control the
ball and the clock, limit possessions by the scary Illini offense, and (most
importantly), be efficient. Juice will get his yards, so NU will need to force,
and capitalize on, turnovers. NU must do a much better job with its running game
this week (last week they had a terrible yards per rush average). That's tough
with Sutton out, and with CJ Bacher healthy we might see the Wildcats finally
put a little "wildcat" in their formation, with both Bacher and Kafka in the
backfield at times. Don't expect the Wildcats to completely ressurect their
running game, but if they can at least show a credible rushing attack, Bacher
should be able to exploit the Illini pass defense.
NU's fortunes turn on its own offense, and you'll be
able to tell early in this one. If the 'Cats get a turnover or two in the first
half, grind out some good drives, and give Bacher time to make his throws
downfield, it could be a thriller. On the other hand, if the Illini are teeing
off on Bacher at will, and if he throws a pick or two before halftime, you might
as well pack it in and find something better to do during the second half.
Personally, as much as I really want to pick NU, they have too many injuries,
not enough balance, and the karma is just all wrong for a win. The Illini are
too good to go 5-7, and they are going to take out a season's worth of
frutration on the Wildcats. So, to quote Joel Goodson, "It looks like the University of
Prediction: Illinois 38, NU
Take the Illini and lay the points.
Season to date: 8-3 straight up, 6-5
2008-2009 Northwestern Hoops
While the Northwestern football team will end the season someplace warm,
the men’s basketball team will be heating up at Welsh-Ryan Arena. Although you might not suspect it based on
last season’s struggles, NU hoops has a lot going for it this season, including
some dynamic players and (gasp!) some actual beef in the frontcourt that will
immediately address NU’s most glaring weakness.
The 2007-2008 NU basketball campaign was painful, for players, coaches
and fans alike. The team finished with
an abysmal 8-22 record overall (1-17 in the Big Ten). The team’s struggles were understandable, on
several levels. First, NU was forced to
navigate its entire non-conference schedule without its best all-around player,
Kevin Coble, who spent the Fall quarter at home in Arizona to be with his mom as
she battled cancer. Second, the Wildcats
were handicapped by a nearly complete lack of size in the frontcourt. The team was forced to rotate their larger
guards into forward positions, and to match forwards up against the bigger
players populating opposing teams in the Big Ten. Over the course of the season, this proved to
be an incurable and fatal weakness. As
an illustration, NU finished the season dead last in rebounding margin, with a
negative 10.8 rpg for the season. The
only other team in the Big Ten to finish negative for the entire season was
Michigan, and their deficit was a mere 1.8 rpg to the negative. Aside from rebounding, the distinct lack of
size also meant that NU gave up an astonishingly high FG% to its opponents. In short, NU just got beat to pieces last
season by bigger teams. Anybody who has
followed my past hoops previews (or NU basketball in general) knows that this
has historically been the main bugaboo for the Wildcats, year in and year
out. Last season was a nadir. Hopefully, NU has finally found some young
size to start correcting that weakness.
Northwestern has a lot going for it this season. NU is one of only three teams in the
conference to return all five starters, and overall the Wildcats welcome back
over 80% of their offensive production from a year ago. Often, welcoming back
5 starters from an 8-22 squad might not be great news, but in this case
that experience will go a long way toward keeping the ‘Cats
competitive this season. Add to that
experience a very promising freshman class, and NU hoops fans will have
something fun to watch right up to the Big Ten tournament in March.
The Wildcats revolve as a team around junior forward Kevin Coble. When Coble returned to action last January,
he stepped right in and led the ‘Cats in
scoring and rebounding for the second season, and finished among the conference
leaders in scoring as well. This year,
Coble will have the benefits of maturity and a full preseason camp to help him
get off to a running start. Coble was
honorable mention all-Big Ten last season, and will surely be among the best
all-around players in the conference once again this season.
Senior guard Craig Moore is another returning starter who garnered
honorable mention all-Big Ten last season.
With three-pointers in NU’s season-opening wins over Central Arkansas and Texas A&M-CC, Moore has already passed former Wildcat Vedran Vukusic’s school
record. Moore ranked among Big Ten
leaders in three-point FG last season, and his sharp-shooting will be a key part
of NU’s offense again this season.
For the third season in a row, NU introduced a freshman sensation; in
05-06 it was Moore; in 06-07 it was Coble; and last season saw the debut of
electric PG Michael “Juice” Thompson.
Thompson started all 30 games last season as a true freshman, and set a
school record for assists by a freshman (128, the fifth best season assist total
in school history). Thompson also was
among the conference and national leaders in assist-to-turnover ratio. Aside from being one of the best pure point
guards in the conference, Juice is also a dynamic scorer. With Coble and Moore, Thompson was able to
focus on running the team’s offense, but it’s nice to know he has the
versatility to contribute points when necessary.
Senior G/F Sterling Williams started most of last season,
but this year he will fill the role of valued sixth man. If Coble is the star, and Thompson the floor
general, then Sterling Williams is the glue that holds the team together. Williams is one of the team’s best defensive
players, and by all accounts he provides stable, veteran leadership, in games
and in practice, on the floor and in the locker room.
The Wildcats welcome back a nice complement of role players from last
season, including forwards Ivan Peljusic and Mike Capocci, guard/forward Jeff
Ryan, and guard Jeremy Nash. Peljusic
stepped forward during the final 8 games last season, despite playing out of
position at center. Capocci is an
athlete who can sneak a few rebounds on sheer leaping ability. Ryan also was forced to play out of position
last season, usually guarding the opposition’s best post players, but still
managed to show some low-post ability himself.
Nash brings the defense off the bench, but
won’t be counted on to contribute
Coach Carmody has notched one of his best
recruiting classes this season, highlighted (as usual) by some foreign-born
players upon whom he has pinned high
hopes. F/C Luka Mirkovic hails from
Serbia, by way of LaPorte, Indiana, and he is a 6-11, 235 lb. beanpole. Like many of the European players that have
preceded him, Mirkovic has good hands and shooting touch for a big man, and he
gives Carmody the passing center that the coach always wants for his Princeton hybrid offense. Sharing time with Mirkovic at center this
season will be NU’s first true 7-footer in some time, big Kyle Rowley (7-0,
280(!) lbs.). Rowley is inexperienced,
but he has rare size that NU hasn’t seen on campus, well, maybe ever. It’s unlikely that Rowley will be ready to
play 25-30 minutes per game against Big Ten talent, but he will still get plenty
of chances to trade shoves with the big boys.
If nothing else, NU now has two players who can create some sort of a
presence in the paint (or, in Rowley’s case, fill the paint almost
In addition to the two really big men, Carmody has also found a couple of
potential impact players in forward John Shurna and guard Nick Fruendt. It appears that Shurna has already shown
enough to land a starting gig opposite Coble (he
put up a 17 point, 9 rebound, 3 block effort this week in a win over Texas
A&M-Corpus Christi). Shurna
was all-state at Glen Ellyn as a high school senior, and last year he won the
state 4A slam dunk title. Fruendt also
had an outstanding prep career, and promises to be another scoring threat as a
true freshman. Do not overlook the fifth
member of the freshman class, forward Davide Curletti. The Michigan product was injured prior to his
senior season in high school, but he has already impressed the Wildcat coaches
enough to get a start in the team’s exhibition game against Robert Morris. He will bring a ton of energy off the bench
if (or rather, when) given the
Now to the bottom line – can this team finally get into the
post-season? I’m going to say no. Coble is a stud, Juice Thompson is for real,
and we’ve got young talent coming in, but it’s just too big a hill to climb in
one season. The freshmen (especially
Mirkovic and Rowley) are probably too raw to get the Wildcats into the top half
of the Big Ten this season. The schedule
won’t help. Several years ago, NU began
the process of toughening up its non-conference schedule, and it was the right
thing to do. NU had a few seasons in
which they coasted through a pathetic non-conference schedule before finishing
at or just below .500 in the Big Ten, but their RPI in those seasons was
terrible, and probably kept them out of the NIT, much less the NCAA. That schedule will be a meat grinder this
year, as NU plays 15 games against 9 teams that made the NIT or NCAA last
season, including Stanford, Butler and Florida State. Carmody will easily get the 5 wins he needs
to make the 200-career win milestone, but he likely won’t get the 17 wins he
needs to make it to a post-season tournament.
But don’t let that stop you from enjoying NU basketball in
2008-2009. They will be fun to
Prediction: Northwestern finishes a respectable
7th in the Big Ten, losing in the first round of the Big Ten
tournament in March.
Alamo Bowl Preview and Prediction
By Jersey Cat
Matchup: Alamo Bowl - Northwestern Wildcats (9-3, 5-3 Big Ten) vs. Missouri Tigers (9-4, 5-3 Big 12)
Date: Monday, December 29, 2008, 7:00 pm CST
Line: Northwestern (+12.5)
After a season that has to be looked at as a pleasant surprise by even
the most ardent Wildcat fans, NU heads to the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio
for the second time in their history. A 9-3 season certainly
exceeded most expectations, both in record alone and by being able to
overcome injuries. Any ‘Cat fan being honest with themselves in
August would have taken 7-5 and been happy. To go through the
non-conference schedule unbeaten, something that hadn’t been done in
40+ years, and to take advantage as they mostly did of a down year for
the Big Ten (although two teams are in BCS bowls), provided for a
strong Year 3 for Coach Pat Fitzgerald.
NU should come into this game with plenty of confidence. They
finished the year strong with two victories, are getting running back
Tyrell Sutton back on the field from what had thought to be a
season-ending injury, and are itching to get the first bowl victory for
Northwestern since the famed 1949 Rose Bowl. The Alamo Bowl for
NU is a sound reward for a solid campaign.
For Missouri, their season is one steeped in disappointment. What
had thought to be a season that would culminate in a national
championship game appearance and a Heisman trophy for quarterback Chase
Daniel, ended with an embarrassing loss to Oklahoma in the Big 12
championship game. The Alamo Bowl for Missouri would seem to be a
That said, it’s not just frame of mind that shapes the game – it’s also
talent, and Mizzou has plenty of it. Daniel threw for over 4,000
yards, completed 74% of his passes, and had 37 TDs (none of those is a
misprint) for a Tiger offense that put up points like it was going out
of style. His primary receiver was Jeremy Maclin, who caught 95
passes for over 1,200 yards and 12 TDs, followed closely by Chase
Coffman who won the Mackey award as the nation’s best tight end.
It’s a sure bet that in order to stay competitive, the ‘Cats will have
to have their offense clicking and get to the end zone rather than
settle for field goals. They simply will have to score points,
and likely more than 30 in order to have a shot at winning. But
it’s the defense for NU that will decide the game. Without a pass
rush to unsettle Daniel, this game could be ugly. Defensive end
Corey Wootton could well be the most important player on the field for
the ‘Cats. Although the NU secondary is much improved over years
past, they won’t be able to withstand the flurry they’re likely to see
from the Tiger offense without plenty of help from the front four.
On the other side of the ball, NU should be able to take advantage of a
Missouri defense that is not nearly as impressive as its offense.
The ’Cats should be able to move the ball without too much
trouble, and if they can keep Daniel & Co. off the field for
extended periods of time, they could be in business. Since a
ball-control offense is not the hallmark of NU, this could look like a
basketball score by the time it’s finished.
Pick: Bowl woes for NU continue. Tigers offense too much for ‘Cats. NU covers, but fails to get the W.
Missouri 45, Northwestern 38. Take the ‘Cats and the points.
As a lead in to the Alamo Bowl, noted lyricist Chris “Snowman” Torkelson offers the little diddy below to Wildcat fans:
Bowl Bound and Down
(with apologies to the late Jerry Reed)
Bowl bound and down, loaded up and truckin',
We're gonna do what they say can't be done.
We've got a long way to go and a short time to get there.
We’re Alamo bound, just watch ol' Willie run.
Keep your foot hard on the pedal, Fitz, never mind them brakes.
Let it all hang out 'cause we got a run to make.
We’re thirsty for a bowl win and there's beer in San Antonin’.
The ‘Cats will win no matter what it takes.
Bowl bound and down, loaded up and truckin',
We're gonna do what they say can't be done.
We've got a long way to go and a short time to get there.
We’re Alamo bound, just watch ol' Willie run.
Mizzou’s got quite an offense, it’s a Tiger by the tail.
But Chase Daniels can’t rest with Wooten on his trail.
Sutton’s got to dodge 'em and Bacher’s got to duck 'em,
You got to keep that spread offense truckin'.
Just put the hammer down and give ‘em Wildcat hell.
Bowl bound and down, loaded up and truckin',
We're gonna do what they say can't be done.
We've got a long way to go and a short time to get there.
We’re Alamo bound, just watch ol' Willie run.