Lowes Line
2008 Posted


The Complete 2008 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 2008 season it returned to HailToPurple.com, for anyone to enjoy.  Thanks to the gridiron brain trust at the Lowes Line!

Syracuse Preview and Prediction
By Jersey Cat

Matchup: Syracuse Orange (0-0, 0-0) at Northwestern Wildcats (0-0, 0-0)
Date: Saturday, August 30, 2008, 11:00 am CDT
Television: ESPN2
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 namesake. 

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 schedule.

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.

The 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 strength.

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.

Truth 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. 

Pick:   Want that with pulp?  ‘Cats squeeze juice out of the Orange.

NU 31, Syracuse 14.  Take the 'Cats and lay the points.

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

Television: None

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. http://sports.espn.go.com/ncf/news/story?id=3562873

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.

Pick: 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)

Date: Saturday, September 13, 2008.  11:00 am CDT
Television: Big Ten Network

Line: NU -21.5 (wow, that was tough to find)

I believe everyone will have the same first question: 

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 past. 

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 others.

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 performance.


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 team.
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
By MO'Cats

Matchup: Ohio University Bobcats (0-3,0-1) at Northwestern Wildcats (3-0, 0-0) 
Date:  Saturday, September 20, 2008, 11:00 am CDT 
Television: Big Ten Network 
Line: NU by 11 
Ohio 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. 
Prediction: NU 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 

Final Score: 28-14. Take the 'Cats and give the points. 
Season: 3-0 straight up and 1-2 against the spread

Iowa Preview and Prediction
By Charlie Simon

Matchup:  The Northwestern Wildcats (4-0, 0-0) at the Univ. of Iowa Hawkeyes (3-1, 0-0)

Date: Saturday, September 27th, 2008, 11:00 am CDT

Television:  ESPN Classic

Line:  Iowa minus 8


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.

Prediction:  NU 23, Iowa 21

Take the Cats and the points

Season:  4-0 straight up and 1-3 against the spread

MSU Preview and Prediction
By Galloping Grapes

Matchup:   Michigan State Spartans (5-12-0) at Northwestern Wildcats (5-01-0)

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, 22-17. 

The 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 it.

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.

Wow, 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 24 

Take Michigan State and lay the points

Season:   5 - 0 straight up 2 -  ATS 

Purdue Preview and Prediction
By MO'Cats

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

Wow, 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 first quarter.

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.

Statistically, 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 mistakes.

On 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 scores. 

This 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 the 'Cats. 

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 Saturday.

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 problem.

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 (7-1, 3-1)

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 ground.

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 big Ten.

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
Television: ESPN2

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 (8-3, 4-3)

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 games.  Against 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 Illinois!" 


Prediction: Illinois 38, NU 17.

Take the Illini and lay the points. 

Season to date: 8-3 straight up, 6-5 ATS


2008-2009 Northwestern Hoops Preview


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 much offense.


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 completely). 


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 opportunity.


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 watch.


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

Television: ESPN

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 consolation prize.

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.


Go 'Cats!!