2015 Lowes Line
The Complete 2015 Lowes Line Predictions
The Lowes Line is an
e-mailed description of NU's
football game, with an invariably fearless prediction of the outcome
how NU will fare against what the other "experts" predict. Our
friend and Brother Marcus Lowes began the broadcast mailing in 1996.
The crack Lowes Line Staff (alumni Jersey Cat,
GallopingGrapes, Eric Cockerill, Joel Kanvik, Charlie Simon, and
MO'Cats) have continued the Line in memory of Marcus.
the 2015 season it returned to HailToPurple.com,
for anyone to enjoy. Thanks to the gridiron brain trust at the Lowes
Stanford Preview and Prediction
By Jersey Cat
Matchup: #21 Stanford Cardinal at Northwestern Wildcats
Date: Saturday, 5 Sep, 11:00 am CDT
Line: Northwestern (+12)
Welcome back, Wildcat fans. Football season has thankfully
finally returned, and with it the highly anticipated prognostications
of the Lowes Line.
Northwestern comes into the 2015 season following a very underwhelming
5-7 record last year, the second consecutive year NU has failed to
attain bowl eligibility, the worst two-year sequence of Pat
Fitzgerald's nine years at the helm of the program. Like last
year against Cal, the non-conference schedule opens with a home game
against a Pac-12 opponent, as Stanford comes to Evanston. Eastern
Illinois and Ball State also visit the North Shore, while the 'Cats
lone road game out of conference is a trip to Duke.
The conference slate has Minnesota, Iowa, Penn State an Purdue paying
visits to Evanston, while the 'Cats travel to Ann Arbor, Lincoln, and
Madison. The last game of the season is a "road" game against
Illinois, to be played at Soldier Field.
The main story of the NU offseason was the speculation around who would
be the starting quarterback for the 'Cats. Coach Fitz answered
that question last week, naming redshirt freshman Clayton Thorson as
the starter. Thorson has a big build, at 6-4 and 220 lbs, with
good foot speed and a strong arm. He's highly regarded as a dual
threat, something the 'Cats will surely rely on if they're going to be
successful. Senior Zack Oliver and sophomore Matt Alviti are the
One of the few bright spots for NU in 2014 was the play of true
freshman tailback Justin Jackson, who ran for over 1,110 yards and had
10 TDs, only the second NU freshman to amass 1,000+ yards on the
ground. Now a sophomore, Jackson will likely be called upon to be
a significant component of the offensive attack for NU. In front
of Jackson, however, will be an offensive line with a few major
changes. Senior Geoff Mogus, who started every game last year,
returns, but the bulk of the offensive line is new and
questionable. Sophomore Brad Smith is the new man at center,
replacing Brandon Vitabile, who started 50 consecutive games for NU
before moving on to the NFL.
Back from an injury that claimed his entire 2014 season, Christian
Jones leads what appears to be a very solid receiving corps. I
feel like I say this every year. I'm curious to see how Jones
gets back into the swing of things after a year on the sidelines, as
well as whether Miles Shuler can finally become a playmaker and utilize
is speed. Finally, it will be a big disappointment if senior
superback and team captain Dan Vitale is not more involved in the
offense than he was in 2014.
Defensively, the ends appear in better shape than the middle along the
line. Seniors Dean Lowry and Deonte Gibson anchor the ends.
Will this be the year Ifeadi Odegnibo truly breaks out? He's had
8.5 sacks in two seasons, but he has the talent to truly disrupt
The linebackers are where the most questions lie. Sophomore
Anthony Walker is young, but had a big impact last year, and will
likely be the main man in this group. Senior Drew Smith returns
as well. The collective play of this unit will need to be
markedly better than it was at times last year, as the 'Cats were blown
out in three of their five conference losses.
With questions about the two groups in front of them, the NU secondary
appears to be strong and capable, and arguably the most athletic
unit the 'Cats have ever had. Nick VanHoose, who seems to have
been around forever, and Matthew Harris are the corners, and Godwin
Igwebuike and Traveon Henry are the safeties.
Stanford comes into Evanston ranked # 21, and off an 8-5 season a year
ago. The Cardinal defense is very tough and stingy, and will
present a big challenge to the 'Cats as far as moving the ball.
In twelve regular season games last year, only twice did Stanford
surrender more than 20 points. That's not to say the
offense is anything to sneeze at. The Cardinal can move the ball,
and senior QB Kevin Hogan will be leading the way. Hogan's 24
wins as a starter are more than anyone else in college football non
named Braxton Miller. Next to Hogan are Christian McCAffrey and
Remound Wright, who combined for over 1,400 yards rushing last year.
Stanford is an exceptional team with a load of talent, and NU could
feel like they've hot a brick wall in trying to move the ball against
the Cardinal. So a lot of respect to them, except in one area:
the mascot. Have you seen that thing they call a tree.
Really? Even Joyce Kilmer would be turning over in his
grave on that one, because any poem is lovelier than that arboresque
That said, Kilmer fittingly gets the final word in week 1: I
think that I should never see / the Wildcats beating the Stanford tree.
Pick: Stanford 28, Northwestern 17. Take the 'Cats and the points.
Eastern Illinois Preview and Prediction
By Eric Cockerill
Matchup: Eastern Illinois University Panthers at Northwestern Wildcats
Date: Saturday, 12 Sep, 3:00 pm CDT
TV: ESPN News
Line: Northwestern (Not available…I heard 31 so we’ll go with it)
What a change a week makes. After an inspired defensive effort
combined with a solid running game and the right amount of NU turnovers
(i.e. none), the Cats shocked the football world by defeating then #21
Stanford. Fitz and his staff were very careful with playcalling
to avoid making Thorson throw too much, but even with that approach the
passing game was, in a word, atrocious. Luckily, we have a few
weeks to fix that problem and won’t need to rely on the passing game
The opponent this Saturday is the Eastern Illinois University
Panthers. EIU is located in Charleston, just south of Champaign
and just west of Terra Haute. Not a hot bed of activity, but
likely a quick trip up to U of I is common when a little nightlife is
EIU is part of the state university system in Illinois. For those
of you not from Illinois and thus not in the know, our elected
officials have deemed it prudent to operate without a budget since July
1. In this game of chicken with our future, the (currently paid)
officials have decided to take the coward's path and continue to
pay state employees and construction contractors, but stop paying other
third party bills including suppliers, state lottery winners, property
tax shares to local government, social service agencies, and state
educational institutions. The Lowes Line has it on good authority
that EIU’s athletic department has been severely hit. In addition
to sub-par talent, the team will be operating under several other
disadvantages including, but not limited to:
- The team has changed its uniforms to the same as the Carolina Panthers to allow it to buy cheap seconds.
- Hiring the school tuba player to inflate game balls to exactly 1.5 psi below the allowed pressure
- Sharing the 11 mouthgards the team could afford by swapping between subs
- Attempting to spray pant Willie just before the game so that he appears more “panther-like”.
- Hiring the recently unemployed Tim Beckman as their
physical trainer with his “Tis only a flesh wound” injury diagnosis
- Tweeting plays between coach’s box and sidelines.
- Stenciling Jimmy John’s ads onto helmets for extra revenue
- Signal boards hand marked with crayons by the coach’s children
- Connecting the sideline exercise bikes to turbines to power their signal stealing video cameras
- The kicker will purposely underkick field goals to avoid losing the ball
One can only hope the additional revenue generated by sacrificing their
players to the alter of Big10 football will allow them to reduce some
of these draconian measures.
The Panthers are members of the Ohio Valley Conference and are looking
for their first win against a Big 10 opponent in their eighth try
(second against NU). Last week they lost to Western Illinois
University 33-5 (FWIW, the 2 points came off a return of an extra point
attempt, not a safety as one might expect). The EIU program is
best known for producing current Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo
(a fact we are no doubt going to hear about throughout the game).
A more little known fact to impress Cliff during commercials is that
EIU also produced current New England Patriots backup quarterback Jimmy
Garoppolo. No word on whether cell phone destruction is part of
the program’s training program.
Expect a fairly balanced, if ineffective, EIU offense in terms of
running and passing. In their first game, the Panthers turned the
ball over 5 times. Expect more of the same.
For Northwestern’s part, we can expect a similar game plan as last
week: A heavy dose of the running game behind a reinvigorated
offensive line and a very limited passing game. It would be fun
to see Thorson turned loose on a few more designed running plays after
demonstrating flashes of impressive speed last week, but don’t count on
it. The defense should stifle the Panther’s scoring plans, but
may play vanilla enough to let some points slip through unless EIU’s
turnover woes continue.
For once, it should be a yawner as the Cardiac Cats look ahead to their
test against Duke next week, which may show whether the Cats deserve
the elevated expectations after last week’s heroic win. Fitz does
not have a strong record of beating the spread in cupcake games like
this, so don’t bet on it tomorrow.
Pick: NU 34, EIU 13 (and an infusion of cash for their program). Take the Panthers with the points.
LL Record: 0-1 (1-0 against the spread)
Duke Preview and Prediction
By Hans Steckly
Matchup: #23 Northwestern Wildcats (2-0) at Duke Blue Devils (2-0)
Date: Saturday, 19 Sep, 11:30 am CDT
TV: ESPN3 and ACCN
Line: Northwestern (+3.5)
Matchup History: 8-8, but the Cats lost the
first 6 years in a row, ’85-’90. I’m sure many of us were in the
stands taking those losses in stride as we were engaged in drunken
The Blue Devils name apparently traces to some French military units
from World War I. Pardon moi if elite warfare is just not
something I associate with France. Maybe after the game we’ll
head for some laughs at the German Joke Factory and then grab a fancy
dinner at Chez Ball & Chain (meatloaf is a safe choice).
Perhaps branders at the time just got locked into a color and
alliteration, and “Denim One Directions” wasn’t yet an option.
Maybe they were going for a moniker that would somehow appeal to the
toughest kids in prep school.
Whatever the reason, their name is tres lame. They do however
have a good team this year mostly because they have a pretty good coach
who has built a respectable program. David Cutcliffe was Peyton’s
OC at Tennessee and Eli’s head coach at Ole Miss, and he’s turned Duke
from perennial whipping boys into competitors in the ACC. He’s
under .500 at Duke but 10-4 and 9-4 the last two years. His
second game at Duke was in 2008, the last time they matched up with
Northwestern. The Cats barely prevailed winning 24-20.
Besides a seven-year hiatus on traveling to Durham, the Wildcats might
not recognize Wallace Wade Stadium as it was renovated this
offseason. They removed the track, lowered the field, and
added seating closer to Brooks Field in an effort to make the crowd
more of a factor. Tracy and Gigi and I will make the 90
minute drive decked out in purple, sans face paint.
Know thy enemy:
The signal caller for Duke is built in much the same mold as Thorson
and has about the same amount of experience, even though he is a
redshirt junior. Thomas Sirk (#1) switched from safety to
qb after his junior year of high school. At Duke, he
redshirted his first year, ruptured his Achilles before the start of
his second year, and got some part-time play as a backup last
year. Around 6’4” 220 lbs, he’s bigger, faster, stronger,
and more accurate than last year’s graduated Anthony Boone.
Sirk’s a good runner (8 rushing tds last year), and an accurate short
passer, but although he has a strong arm he struggles with deep
passes. Mostly, he struggles more with spatial
relationships as it relates to defenders and tends to throw into double
and triple coverage.
One of Duke’s anticipated strengths was a deep stable of running backs,
but 3 of 4 went down in the preseason. However, sophomore
Shaun Wilson (#29) seems to have recovered from his leg injury to be
the lead horse. As a freshman, he rushed for 598 yds &
5 tds averaging 7.7 yards per carry.
The top 2 wrs graduated, with Jamison Crowder a Redskin round 4
pick. Freshman T.J. Rahming (#3) has speed as does junior
Johnell “Butterfingers” Barnes (#4). The reliable
possession guy is Max McCaffrey (#87) son of former Bronco, Ed
McCaffrey. They also have a reliable TE in senior Braxton
Duke has a good secondary with pro-bound, former Buckeye, Jeremy Cash
(#16) as the anchor at safety. He’s good in coverage but
he’s better as a run stopper. Good news, he’s one of the
few. The D-line is inexperienced and weak up the middle.
Did I mention Cutcliffe was a student assistant on Bear Bryant’s
staff? Nice to have that on the resume. He’s
brought pride to Duke’s special teams and they’ve been one of the best
in the country the last 2 years. Junior safety DeVon
Edwards returned a kick 95 yds for a td in the season
opener. Ryan Smith is a good punt returner.
Senior kicker Ross Martin is 57 of 68 on field goals and 165 of 166 on
The confident Cats:
Redshirt sophomore Ifeadi Odenigbo (if-AH-dee o-DEN-uh-bo) made
headlines with his quote “We expect to have a shutout next
week.” I like to see the confidence but Stanford did not
play well, we’re coming off a bye against an FCS team, and Duke is not
to be taken lightly. But, I’m happy to take Ifeadi’s
confidence in stride as youthful enthusiasm. According to a
Tribune story, when he got to NU at 6’3” 205 lbs, he told Fitz, “I see
myself as a Clay Matthews kind of guy.” Fitz classic
reply? “I don’t. That’s an All-Pro
player. I see you as Ifeadi and I don’t know what that
Ifeadi is part of a D-line that looks solid, the secondary loses only
Campbell, LBs Ariguzo and Hall moved on (both with injuries didn’t make
final NFL cuts recently) but sophomore Anthony Walker is stepping up as
a good middle LB. So, we shouldn’t have been surprised at
their performance against Stanford. This should continue to
be one of the better NU defenses--with credit to solid recruiting.
The biggest difference on offense this year is a qb who fits the
system. It’s going to make everyone’s job easier to have a
more mobile qb, and that had to be part of the offensive line’s strong
performance against Stanford. Thorson rushed for 68 yds on
8 carries vs Stanford. Siemian’s 2014? 68
carries for -123 yds.
Justin Jackson had a great rookie campaign at RB and looks to pick up where he left off.
Christian Jones is a year removed from ACL surgery. As our
best deep threat, he is not 100% and it’s a mixed bag of receivers
after that. Any one or couple could step up, and Vitale
will continue to play a big role.
Most of what I wrote about Sirk’s skillset could be said of
Thorson—runner, accurate passer, untested throwing deep. He
looks like he could lead NU to 4 solid years, but this being his rookie
campaign, some bumps are to be expected, and Fitz & co. are likely
to stick to ground and pound with a side of dink n dunk.
Sacre bleu! Duke is favored? I feel that NU is a better team and
would win 8 out of 10 times. Duke special teams has the ability
to change momentum. If they put together plays at the right times
and leveraged that to force Thorson to throw into mistakes, they could
take a couple games.
The Cats game plan should look similar to the template established
against Stanford. Cats O-line should be able to dominate
Duke D-line and control momentum and win the time of possession.
On the other side of the ball, Cats will ideally work to force Duke
into long 3 rd downs and get their untested qb throwing it to Igwebuike
Prediction: Northwestern plays magnifique on
both sides of the ball, wears Duke down, and hands them their first
loss in their remodeled home. In a repeat of the Vosges Campaign,
Les Diables Bleus stir up local hopes, but ultimately have little
effect on the outcome.
Pick: NU 27, Duke 17. Take the Cats and the points. Or just roll with the under (48).
LL: 1-1 (ATS 1-1)
Ball State Preview and Prediction
By Joel Kanvik
Matchup: Ball State Cardinals (2-1, 1-0) at #17 Northwestern Wildcats (3-0, 0-0)
Date: Saturday, 26 Sep, 7:00 am CDT
TV: Big Ten Network
Line: Northwestern (-18.5)
Northwestern and Ball State share more than just being geographically
located in states that abut each other. They are inexorably
linked in the world of late night TV, with an NU alum taking over the
chair that the likely most famous Ball State alumnus occupied so
belovedly for so many years. I speak of course, of Stephen
Colbert’s debut hosting the late night program recently vacated by
David Letterman. Given that connection, this Lowes Line will
weave a classic Top Ten list into the analysis.
TOP TEN COURSES FOR ATHLETES AT SMU
10. Subtraction: Addition’s Tricky Pal
The chosen Top Ten provides humorous contrast to the fact that
Northwestern has played in two games (out of three) dubbed “The SAT
Bowl”. That Stanford, NU, and Duke are fielding very competitive
teams despite extremely high admissions standards is a testament to
excellent recruiting and coaching. Coaches identify a particular
type of player who will fit into their schemes, and are able to recruit
the highly performing student-athlete. All of which makes last
year’s tenure of Trevor Siemian as the full-time starter so
unusual. He definitely did not fit the mold of the run/pass dual
threat that has led NU programs of the recent past. But NU has
reloaded with Clayton Thorson, a big dual threat quarterback.
One thing Thorson is going to have to improve is his efficiency as a
quarterback. Yes, he’s a freshman and mistakes are to be
expected. But putting up 9 for 23 for a measly 70 yards may get
it done against a non-conference opponent, but once Big Ten play
begins, that’s a recipe for trouble. Thorson also completed two
passes to the guys in the wrong jerseys, his first two of the
season. That needs to change, too.
9. The First 30 Pages of “A Tale of Two Cities”: Foundation of a Classic
But one of Thorson’s strengths is his ability to run, something that
will be a strength of the entire NU team. Thorson had an
electrifying 42-yard run against Stanford. Sharing the backfield
with Thorson is sophomore sensation Justin Jackson. Jackson
showed flashes of his potential during the 2014 campaign. Through
three games he has accumulated 332 yards on the ground and one
touchdown, and is proving himself to be a work horse, carrying the ball
35 times against Duke. Backing up Jackson is Warren Long, who
contributed a 55-yard scamper for a touchdown (and a fumble recovery on
special teams) to lead the Cats to victory.
8. Sandwich-making (final project required)
The surprise of the 2015 season thus far has been how stout the defense
has been. Wildcat fans are used to a “bend but not break”
defensive philosophy, or at times a “they may score, but we can
outscore them” theory. Through three games, the NU defense has
surrendered a mere 22 points against some pretty impressive offensive
opponents (i.e., not Eastern Illinois). Stanford, who just put up
41 on a highly ranked USC squad AT USC, managed just two field
goals. And Duke had scored 37 and 55 points in previous games,
but could only score 10. NU is also winning the turnover battle
7. Alumni-owned Hotels, Restaurants, and Car Dealerships: The Interlocking Economy
Into Ryan Field at Dyche Stadium come the Ball State Cardinals, NU’s
last non-conference test before opening the Big Ten season at home
against Minnesota. Ball State enters the tilt with an expected
2-1 record. They were able to outscore VMI, they got clubbed like
the sacrificial lambs (sorry…birds) they were supposed to be by #16
Texas A&M, and they beat fellow MAC team Eastern Michigan in a game
of spurts, scoring 28 unanswered points to come back from a 17-0
6. Pre-Law Seminar: Age of Consent in the 50 States
Ball State’s offense is led by freshman quarterback Riley Neal.
In terms of passing proficiency, Neal is what Thorson is not:
efficient. He sports a gaudy 74.5% completion percentage, and has
yet to throw a pick. He also is a dual threat, piling up 143 yards
through three games and a 41-yard touchdown run. He shares the
ball with running backs Darian Green (7.4 ypc, 4 TD) and James Gilbert
(4.5 ypc, 5 TD). On the wing, his main targets are Jordan
Williams and KeVonn Mabon, who between them average more than 10
catches per game. Given the ball, this squad will score
points. That they put up 23 on A&M in College Station is a
testament to that. The previous week, they put up 48 against VMI.
5. The Denny’s Menu: Recent Discoveries
One cannot really expect a defense from a mid-major conference to hold
back a potent office like Texas A&M, so surrendering 56 against the
Aggies shouldn’t come as too much of a shock. There is reason for
hope, Cats fans, in that VMI was able to put up 36 on the Cardinals’
defense. VMI also put up 547 yards against the Cardinal defense,
which is a shocking total for a Division I-AA team. Even A&M
didn’t put up that many yards against Ball State. Ball State’s
defense, in its victories, was able to win the turnover battle, and
that’s something to keep an eye on in this game. Taking care of
the ball will be a key to victory.
4. The Bunny and the Wolf: Hand Shadow Workshop
So what does this week’s game bring? NU’s defense will be tested
by Ball State’s running attack. NU has kept opponents to 235
yards per game so far this season (111 yards rushing). Given Ball
State’s potent running attack, expect that average to increase,
significantly, when statistics are compiled Saturday night. It
will be vitally important for NU’s front 7 to control the line of
scrimmage and keep gains small, and not allow big runs to flip field
position. NU’s secondary will also be tested, with two gifted
pass-catchers drawing significant targets. I think Ball State
will score points on NU’s defense.
3. Draw Winky
On the other side of the ball, NU’s offense should find success moving
the ball. Ball State surrenders over 400 yards of offense per
game this year, and NU should be able to exploit that weakness.
Justin Jackson should have a good game on the ground, and hopefully he
can turn his 3.4 ypc average v. Duke into 4-5 ypc, and get into the end
zone a couple of times. Ball State’s secondary yields yards in
chunks, so look for Christian Jones to get into the swing of things
with some big catches. If Clayton Thorson can solve his
efficiency woes and throw to the guys in purple, NU stands to enter
conference play undefeated.
2. From “First Love” to “Looker”: The Films in Which Susan Dey Appears Naked
Perhaps the most effective way for NU’s defense to keep the Cardinal
offense in check is to be sitting on the sidelines. Given NU’s
recent history with the spread offense, and the plethora of graphics
during games about how quickly they snap the ball (categories like
“fast” and “really fast”), it feels foreign to comment that one of NU’s
strength this season has been keeping opposing offenses off the
field. In each of the three games so far this year, NU has won
(sometimes significantly) the time of possession battle. That can
be a misleading stat, of course, if the team on the other side of the
field is a quick-strike menace like Oregon, but in most games it is a
signal that the other team isn’t scoring because their playmakers are
firmly planted on the bench. Just where we want them to be.
Pick: NU uses its running game though a weak
Ball State defense to score enough and keep Ball State’s offense in
check, but Ball State keeps it close.
NU 38, Ball State 24. Pick the Cardinals to cover.
…and the Number 1 Course for Athletes at SMU:
1. The Poetry of Hank Stram
Season to date: 2-1 Straight Up; 2-1 ATS
Minnesota Preview and Prediction
By Galloping Grapes
Matchup: Minnesota Golden Gophers (3-1, 0-0) at #16 Northwestern Wildcats (4-0, 0-0)
Date: Saturday, October 3, 2015, 11:00 a.m. (CDT)
TV: Big Ten Network
Line: Northwestern (-6.5)
We finally reached that point where there is simply too much content
for the limited capacity of cable television networks. Hard to
believe, but blame the insane proliferation of HGTV home improvement
shows. The news networks have been hardest hit. In an
effort to salvage its flagging ratings, and avoid getting beat by a
looped home video of a 4-year-old eating paste, CNBC has decided not
only to expand its upcoming presidential debate to include both major
political parties, but also to combine the debate with Pat Fitzgerald’s
press conference leading up to today's game against Minnesota. A
partial transcript follows:
CNBC Moderator: We would like to welcome everybody to tonight’s
combination presidential primary debate and NU football press
conference. Hopefully this will garner more viewers than the
reruns of 1970s Scooby Doo cartoons on Boom Network.
Fitz: Appreciate it. Thanks to everybody for being
here. First of all, let me talk about how great these Wildcats
players are. Really, really great. Big playmakers this
season. Excited to talk about the upcoming Big Ten opener for
us. Not as excited about all these politicians, but it’s a great
day to talk football. Go ‘Cats!
Trump: Thank you to everybody for coming to my debate. It’s
really wonderful to see how much you want to watch me today. I
love this love for me.
Dr. Ben: I am bemused.
Carly: I may be the only woman on the podium today…
Carly: …but even as the only woman here I know that football crosses both gender and political boundaries.
Trump: I love football. The great American sport!
Remember, I owned a team and beat the NFL at their own game! I
basically reinvented football! Also, the Dolphins stink!
Take that, Jeb!
Jeb: Don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.
Christie: Look, I’m a football guy. And a wings and beer
guy. And a pizza guy. But I’m the only person on this stage
who has actually eaten a terrorist.
Cruz (popping up from behind his podium): YEEEEAAARRRRRGGGHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Hey, Chris, how’s the heart?
Rubio: Rand? Rand? Has anybody seen Rand?
Kasich: Good afternoon gentlemen. I’m from Ohio. My dad was a mailman.
Bernie: We will place our missiles in Cuba! When is Disneyland open?
Fitz: We’re looking forward to this weekend’s game. We’ve
got to take these one game at a time. Minnesota is a tough team,
very-well coached. Go ‘Cats!
Trump: I tell you what, I love the State of Minnesota. Lots
of beautiful native Indian-type people and Swedes up there. All
alcoholics, but they love me! I’m huge in Minneapolis! You
should see my numbers!
Dr. Ben: Are you out of your Vulcan mind?!
Carly: I think Mr. Trump doesn’t even realize when he is insulting people. Not all Swedes are alcoholics.
Trump: Listen Curley, or Carly, whatever it is, I am a very smart
guy. I mean really smart. That’s why I’ve been CEO of 87
different companies, and I’ve starred on 9 reality TV shows, and I once
got a sensual foot massage from Ross Perot. It was very nice for
you to be CEO of a cute little company like HP, but to me that’s like
TP. I am freakin’ hilarious!
Carly: I don’t understand what you’re even talking about.
Trump: It’s my giant IQ! Look at it! Don’t stare at
it, but drink in that beautiful IQ! Best IQ money could buy!
Cruz: You know, I too am very smart. I went to
Harvard. Also, I eat brains.
Trump: You’re sure a cute little guy. But Harvard has put
out a bunch of very dumb people. Name one Harvard graduate that
could pilot a riverboat casino while nailing a cocktail waitress!
Bill Clinton: I did not have sexual relations with that waitress.
Hillary: Bill! Now is not the time!
Fitz: We’ve got to keep improving our offensive game play.
Minnesota has a tough defense, so Clayton is going to have to step it
up. Go ‘Cats!
Christie: Is anybody going to pay attention to me? I might as well be standing here in my garter belt!
Trump: The rose goes in the front, big guy!
Kasich: I am putting myself to the fullest possible use, which is all that any conscious entity can ever hope to do.
Jeb: Is this a good time to appear presidential, and to discuss policy issues in a rational manner?
Cruz: It’s time to take America back from the Minnesotans!
Trump: You’re just like an Ewok. Such a cute little
snuggle-bear! I just want to grab you up, in a very humane way,
and throw you back down into Texas behind a big beautiful wall.
Fitz: This is going to be a tough battle. But we’re very
excited about it, and our defense has shown they are up to the
challenge. Go ‘Cats!
Bernie: Imperialist dogs!! The workers shall overcome the
oppressive NCAA and unite! Unite against the capitalists and
their replica jerseys! Oooh, is that Jell-O?
Kasich: Look Dave, I can see you’re really upset about
this. I honestly think you ought to sit down calmly, take a
stress pill, and think things over.
Dr. Ben: D*mmit Jim, I’m a doctor not a computer repairman!
Hillary: Just wipe him.
Jeb: I’d like to discuss…
Trump: My numbers are blowing up! I’m bigger than Pac-Man!
Kasich: I know I’ve made some very poor decisions recently, but I
can give you my complete assurance that my work will be back to
normal. I’ve still got the greatest enthusiasm and confidence in
the mission, and I want to help you.
Trump: Bernie, I will give you two million dollars right now to drop outta this race and go buy me a corn dog!
Bernie: Later, hosers!
Trump: Bernie! Extra mustard on that cornie, pal!
Christie: Finally, a little space to breathe up here. Hey, is that the Vice President?
Hillary: G*dd*mm*t, Joe, I can see you peeking around that corner
over there! Get back to your room before I “wipe” you from “the
server” you sneaky s*nuvab*tch!
Kasich: My instructor was Mr. Langley, and he taught me to sing a
song. If you’d like to hear it I can sing it for you. It’s
called “Daisy.” Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do. I’m
half crazy all for the love of you. It won’t be a stylish
marriage, I can’t afford a carriage…
Dr. Ben: We’re losing him!
Fitz: Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. Sometimes, it rains. Go ‘Cats!
Trump: I’ll tell you, we are going to build a giant umbrella! It’s gonna be beautiful!
Pick: Beats the heck outta me. The only polls I’m watching
will have the Wildcats moving on up again on Sunday. NU 20,
Minnesota 17. Take the Gophers to cover.
Season to Date: 3-1 ATS, 3-1 Straight up
Michigan Preview and Prediction
By Charlie Simon
Matchup: #13 Northwestern University Wildcats (5-0, 1-0) at #18 University of Michigan Wolverines (4-1, 1-0)
Date: Saturday, October 10, 2015, 2:30 p.m. CDT
TV: Big Ten Network
Line: Northwestern (+7.5)
This week the Wildcats head east to the "Big House" to face the
Michigan Wolverines. The Wolverines are coached by Jim Harbaugh
who left/was shown the door the SF 49ers last year. Harbaugh was
brought in to try to lead the Wolverines back to the top of the B1G
after his predecessors could not. After the first game of the
year where UM was beaten by Utah, the conventional wisdom was that it
would take a while to get UM back. Four weeks later and people
are starting to sing a different song. Utah might be one of the
better teams in the country (currently ranked #6) and Mich has only
given up 14 points total in its last 4 games while averaging 30+ on
In case you are just joining us, NU is also performing well this
season. Most of us here at the Lowes Line had NU at 2-2 heading
into the B1G. Victories against Stanford and Duke are the direct
result of a surprisingly stellar defense and limited mistakes on
offense. NU's new QB is not impressive yet, but he has the
potential to be (at least that is what EVERYBODY says...). Justin
Jackson has been carrying the load for the NU offense with four 100+
yard games already this year.
The talk this week has been that this game will be ugly as these are
the top two defenses in the country in points allowed and 3rd down
conversion rate. Each team could punt 10 times as neither offense
is high powered. UM's QB is the former Iowa QB. My 10 year
old nephew saw part of an earlier Michigan game and said "no wonder
Michigan's QB stinks, he used to play for Iowa last year." Wisdom
out of the mouth of babes. Actually Rudock is serviceable but his
ceiling is not very high. NU's Thorson can do much more but being
just a red shirt Freshman, he could also try to do too much and sink
any hopes of an NU victory.
To me the interesting part is that NU has lost its last three games to
UM when they should have won all three. Three years ago NU was up
by 3 with less than 40 seconds to go when NU punted the ball to
UM. I was sitting in a coffee shop in Tokyo at 4am listening to
the game on WGN on my computer. Previously, I was politely to
told leave my capsule motel, the one above the he/she bar, but that is
another story. NU got the punt off, tackled the returner
and I thought, "that should do it, we've won". But no, on a
defensive breakdown, UM completes a pass to the NU 10 and kicks a FG to
send the game into OT. NU loses in OT. Two years ago UM
kicks a FG to tie the game as time expires to send the game into
OT. NU loses in OT. Last year NU scored in the last minute
of the game to pull within one. Instead of kicking the extra
point, NU went for the win and failed miserably. All three years
NU actually had the better team and should have won, but that is why
you play the game.
QB play, limiting mistakes, red zone proficiency, and turnovers will
all play a vital role in who will win this game. Don't let the
7.5 point spread fool you, this game with be decided by 3 points or
less. Normally with a young QB and a good defense, Fitz would be
content to play not to lose and hope his defense wins the game.
The three previous years show that that strategy against a similarly
talented team does not give you a good chance to win. I think
Fitz wants his Seniors to have a victory over UM and will actually play
to win. At least I hope he does. If the 'Cats lose but go
down swinging I will be happy. If they play to not lose it will
be a very frustrating game.
During the Iowa game last week, Gary Barnett was asked when he knew he
had a good team in 1995. He said "when we went up to UM and beat
them at their place, I knew we had a good team." We will also
know this week, after the UM game, if 20 years later, NU has another
I think the 'Cats are due, play to win, and pull off the upset.
Tell that 'hore, Ann Arbor, she can keep the points.
Northwestern 20, Michigan 17
LL Record: 4-1 (3-2 against the spread)
Iowa Preview and Prediction
By Jersey Cat
Matchup: #17 Iowa Hawkeyes (6-0, 2-0) at #20 Northwestern Wildcats (5-1, 1-1)
Date: Saturday, October 17, 2015, 11:00 am CDT
TV: ABC / ESPN2
Line: Northwestern (+2.5)
Well that was a shot of reality, eh, ‘Cats fans? The question
facing the ‘Cats last week as they marched into Ann Arbor was “how good
is Northwestern really?” We found out quickly in that 38-0
drubbing. Take away the kickoff return and the pick six and it
was still a beatdown by the Wolverines, bringing the Wildcats
back down to earth after their solid 5-0 start.
What did we learn from this sh^tshow? Well, a few things in my
mind. The offensive line is vulnerable. It was a complete
domination by Michigan’s defensive front. Yes, the Wolverines are
far and away the best defense we’ve seen to date, but the combo of
Justin Jackson, Warren Long and Solomon Vault rushed for 43 yards on 16
carries. You’re not only not winning games with those numbers,
you’re not competing, plain and simple. And if I never see
another speed option play, it will be too soon. I’m not usually
one to go nuts over play calling, but this was crazy. Pitching it
too soon, the UM defense not having to respect Thorson as a runner, you
name it. Disaster. It should also be noted that it’s not
against the rules to throw a pass on first down. Offensive
coordinators don’t lose their job for putting their teams in 2nd &
But it’s one game. A horrifically bad one, yes, but just one game. Learn from it and move on.
So this week it’s Iowa. It’s Homecoming in Evanston, and
Northwestern is celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the 1995 Rose Bowl
squad. Darnell Autry is the grand marshal of the parade, and
nostalgia will be all over the menu. If the ‘Cats aren’t
motivated for this game, there’s no hope for them. After getting
skunked in the Big House last week, they should be looking to prove
that showing wasn’t indicative of their capabilities. Add to it
the embarrassment of the no-show NU performed in Iowa City last year as
the ‘Cats were beaten, 48-7, in humiliating fashion. Top it off
with the fact that Fitz is celebrating the 20th anniversary of “those
SOBs broke my leg and caused me to miss the Rose Bowl.” Not sure
if Fitz truly continues to harbor that resentment towards Iowa or not,
but it makes a good story, and as a wise man once said, “Do it for the
Coach Fitz always says, “We want to compete for championships.” Well,
you have yourself your “put up or shut up” moment right here staring
you in the face. This is the de facto championship game of the
B1G West Division. Lose and you’re likely out, given the
relatively easy road Iowa has remaining. The Hawkeyes come
into Evanston undefeated, having marched through an admittedly
mediocre non-conference schedule. Most notable was Iowa’s win at
Wisconsin two weeks ago. Most of the time, a win at Camp Randall
would be seen as a feather in the cap, but this season it might not be
the case. Wisconsin isn’t exactly impressing anyone, and while
Iowa walked out with a 10-6 win, you’d hardly get too excited about
Iowa is no slouch on defense, but they’ll be without one of their best
defensive players, Drew Ott, a lineman out for the year with a torn
ACL. Even without Ott in the lineup, still it appears evident
that Iowa will force the ‘Cats to beat them with the pass. Until
NU establishes their passing game, teams will stack the box and dare
the ‘Cats to throw. Here comes the education of Clayton
Thorson. The ability to find the right receiver at the right time
is paramount. Hitting receivers in stride when the opportunity is
there and taking advantage of that slight window to make a big play
when available is huge. You can’t just make good choices; you
have to make the best choice. Like when I was 10, and given the
option at the multiplex to see one of Raiders of the Lost Ark, The
Cannonball Run, or Victory. Being a soccer player, I chose
Victory. Shit, it had Pele and Rocky in it. Good choice,
for sure, but in hindsight, Raiders is a top 10 film of all time and,
The Hawkeyes have been hit by the injury bug in other areas as well, as
two starting offensive linemen are likely out. Even so, the
Wildcat defense will need to contain Iowa back Jordan Canzeri, who went
ballistic on the Illini last week, rushing 43 times for 256 yards, both
eye-popping numbers. It doesn’t end there, either, as Hawkeye
receiver Tevaun Smith is also unlikely to play with a knee
injury. For the ‘Cats, NU starting cornerback Matthew Harris is
out, having suffered several fractures in his face in the game against
I still think NU is the better team here, although you wouldn’t have
believed it last week. The Wildcats can still claim more quality
wins to date than can the Hawkeyes, who beat up on 0-5 North Texas and
needed a long game-winning field goal to squeak past Pitt.
While getting some (any?) movement out of the offense would be nice,
I’d like to see a return this week to dominating defensive line
play. That will win the game for NU. Stopping the Hawkeye
running game and simply being ordinary and efficient on offense will
remove Iowa from the ranks of the unbeaten and give NU a leg up in the
chase for the division title.
Pick: Too many Hawkeyes in the M*A*S*H unit. ‘Cats take advantage of Iowa’s injury-riddled squad.
Northwestern 17, Iowa 13. Take the ‘Cats and the points.
Season to date: 4-2 straight up, 3-3 against the spread
Nebraska Preview and Prediction
Matchup: Northwestern Wildcats (5-2, 1-2) at Nebraska Cornhuskers (3-4, 1-2)
Date: Saturday October 24th, 11:00 a.m. CDT
Line: Northwestern (+7.5) o/u 51
Well %&^$. I was all excited. Took my computer to work
so I could keep up with the game and set the DVR, hoping to watch a NU
victory in “full detail” that night. Let me preface this by
saying, genetically, TTUN is my natural enemy, but I despise
Iowa. From dirty play (breaking Jay Burson’s neck when I was a
senior in high school) to “psychological games” painting visiting
locker rooms pink, I just cannot stand the Hawkeyes. A victory in
what was thought to be the de facto Divisional Title Game, would go a
long way to appeasing my inner spirit. To my uneducated eye, the
‘Cats looked flat. Larry from Bull Durham would have called them
Lollygaggers. How did this team beat Duke and Stanford?
It’s a miracle. Iowa came out and basically punched NU in the face and
steam rolled them. It felt like NU was holding the ball like an
egg and the Hawkeyes sure scrambled it. I mean come on, a 4th
string RB rushes for over 200 yards. That ballgame got out of
here in a hurry. It should have had a stewardess on it. It
What this team needs is a rain out, or Fitz needs to find a live
rooster to take the curse off of Jose’s glove and make sure Nuke’s
eyelids are not jammed. Most importantly, figure out what to get
Millie and Jimmy for their wedding present. Unfortunately, the bye week
is not until Halloween, no one knows where to get the rooster or some
candlesticks and the ‘Cats must travel to Lincoln to face the
Cornhuskers this week.
The Cornhuskers are finally getting healthy as Michael Rose-Ivey
returns to the LB corps, and, this team has lost 4 times this season on
the opposing team’s last possession. Their defense is improving
(doubt they will get beat on any more Hail Mary’s this season) and
their offense is gaining ground quickly. They have begun to use
star wide receiver De’Mornay Pierson-El in more sets attempting to find
ways to get him the ball. Tommy Armstrong again leads the team
from the QB position with 15 TD’s to only 6 picks as well as the second
leading rusher on the team. Terrell Newby averages 5.7 ypc and
broke off a 69 yard run last week for a touchdown.
The Defense of the UNL (University of Nebraska at Lincoln) struggles in
the passing game. They are near the bottom in all of FBS in yards
allowed as the likes of Minnesota, BYU and Miami all racked up the
yards against them. With the return of several key defensive
starters, their run D is only going to be better. This will be
key to the game. Can Thorson throw enough to open up holes for
Pick: This game will be decided early.
If the ‘Cats can keep up and not fall behind early, they have a
chance. If they get behind, Newby and Armstrong will run all day
and put up 350 yards between them.
UNL 34 - NU 20. Lay the points and take the Over. ‘Cats
fall behind and the Cornhusker running game is like a regular Nuclear
Meltdown as Armstrong rides off in his 911 with a quadrophonic
Season to date: 4-3 straight up, 3-4 against the spread
Penn State Preview and Prediction
By Galloping Grapes
Matchup: Penn State Nittany Lions (7-2, 4-1) at Northwestern Wildcats (6-2, 2-2)
Date: Saturday, November 7, 2015, 11:00 am CST
Line: Northwestern (-1)
Hold everything. I drew the Penn State preview?
Seriously? One year ago, I wrote a full exegesis on 1980s hair
metal that arose, like Venus on a half-shell, from my totally rational
distaste for a certain band that shares a name with this week’s
adversarial mascot. Of course, everybody must be WAITing, with
bated breath, for a song parody preview that will make the children cry.
But that would just be too, too easy. There are so many cruddy
lion songs, after all, and I can make any cruddy song even
cruddier. Hakuna matata, bitches.
If I Only Had Purple Fur
(with apologies to Harold Arlen and E.Y Harburg, not to mention Bert Lahr)
Oh, it’s sad, believe me, Fitzy
That Penn State has played such sissies
While NU’s defense whirs and whirs
But the ‘Cats have shown their prowess,
And the Lions, much more mouse
If I only had purple fur
We’re afraid there’s no denying
That they’re just some dandy-Lions
Against whom Jackson will be a blur
But the ‘Cats have shown their prowess,
And the Lions, much more mouse
If I only had purple fur
They’ll bury Hackenburg in a blizzard
And smash Saquon Barkley like a lizard
Then crush the defense in the gizzards
If Fitz is the Wizard with purple fur.
Then we’re sure to get a win
A New Year’s Bowl
We’re off to beat the Lions, the Nittany Lions of Penn
We hear that they’re an overrated squad
If ever a squad there was
If ever, oh ever a squad there was
The ‘Cats will win because, because, because, because, because, because
Of the wonderful things Fitz does
We’re off to beat the Nittany Lions of Penn!
Pick: Do I really need to say it? White Lion Sucks. NU 27, Penn State 24.
Season to Date: 4-4 ATS, 3-5 Straight up
Purdue Preview and Prediction
By Charlie Simon
Matchup: Purdue Boilermakers (2-7, 1-4) at Northwestern Wildcats (7-2, 3-2)
Date: Saturday, November 14, 2015, 11:00 am CST
TV: Big Ten Network
Line: Northwestern (-16)
So who are these 2015 Northwestern Wildcats? After nine games and
with only three to go, I really don’t know. Are they the great
defensive team that held #7 Stanford without a touchdown in an early
season victory? Are they a team that is guided by a freshman
quarterback who is still learning the game at the collegiate
level? Are they a team who has gotten much better at special
teams play? Are they a team who is still searching for their
offensive identity? Are they a team who follows their coach’s
plan of “don’t screw up on offense, and win on defense?” The
answer to all of these questions is “Yes.”
NU’s defense has been stellar in the seven games they have won this
year, holding the opposing team to an average of 12 points per
game. But in the two losing efforts the defense has not been able
to overcome a completely inept offense. The offense is still a
work in progress and it shows how important the quarterback position
is. I truly believe NU’s success over the past decade has been
because they have always had a good quarterback. Kustok, Basanez,
Bacher, Kafka, Persa, Colter, and Siemian have all been at least good,
and a few were great college QBs. Thorson might someday be a
great quarterback but he is still learning and making a lot of
mistakes. During the first half of the year NU ran more to take
some of the pressure off of Thorson but as the season progressed the
opposing defenses have crowded the box daring NU to throw. NU has
not been able to convert enough down the field to make the opposing
defense respect the pass. Until they do it makes it hard for
Future Denver Broncos Running Back Justin Jackson.
Special Teams play has definitely improved over last year where NU was
afraid to even catch a punt. Two kickoff returns for touchdowns
by Solomon Vault have been huge. Kicker Jack Mitchell is
consistent within 42 yards, though Fitz tries to push him to 45+.
Fitz still has the philosophy of get a lead and then rely on the
defense to prevent the other team from scoring, even if the game is not
even half over. On one side I can see his point for the one time
on Saturday they got aggressive and went after a punt it led to a
roughing the kicker call which led to a touchdown. But I think he
is wrong more than he is right. There have been several close
games where Fitz has given away the last possession before half
time. Up by 13 at home, down by 28 on the road, if there is less
than two minutes to go, Fitz wants to get in the locker room. I
don’t understand it. As prolific as offenses have become, a team
needs to take advantage of every opportunity to score. Think of
it this way, if there were 10 minutes left in the second quarter would
you kneel down and then punt? No you would try to score.
What is different with two minutes left? Many scoring drives take
less than two minutes. Also NU is the worst team at making second
half adjustments. There aren’t any. Ever.
Ok, on to this week’s game. NU is a 16 point favorite over
Purdue. Purdue is, well, Purdue. They are not good, as they
lost to Illinois last week 48-14. They did give MSU a scare and
beat the Cornhuskers, but NU should win this game. Purdue has one
of the worst run defenses in college football and the ‘Cats should
exploit that. Thorson will be back at QB but he should be
handing the ball off to Jackson, Long, and Vault. NU’s defense should
be fine against Purdue. I expect NU to go up by two scores in the
first half. NU never keeps their foot on the pedal so it will
remain close and a late score by Purdue will put a scare into NU.
But this will be another game where NU controls the game yet only eeks
out a victory.
Pick: Cats Win. NU 27, Purdue 21.
Season to Date: 5-4 ATS, 4-5 Straight up
Wisconsin Preview and Prediction
By Joel Kanvik
Matchup: #20 Northwestern Wildcats (8-2, 4-2) at #25 Wisconsin Badgers (8-2, 5-1)
Date: Saturday, November 21, 2015, 2:30 p.m. CST
TV: Big Ten Network
Line: Northwestern (+10) O/U 40
The 2015 Northwestern formula of get a lead and hold on for dear life
resulted in yet another victory in Week 11, this time against lowly
Purdue. Northwestern took the lead 3 times during the game, with
Purdue only able to tie the game twice. Future Denver Broncos
Running Back Justin Jackson put the Cats up for good with just over 4
minutes in the 4th quarter, and the defense made the lead stand.
Still, eking out a victory against a 2-7 Boilermaker team is nothing to
be proud of nor happy about. The Cats continue to play sloppy
football, once again losing the turnover battle 3-1. That speaks
more about how well the defense is playing than anything.
Another game in the books, and yet we are no closer to the answer
asked in this space last week: who are these Wildcats? They
clearly are a contrast to the Cardiac Cat teams of old (with “old”
being less than a decade ago, as opposed to the Ara Parseghian era) who
scored on drives of less than two minutes in duration, and for whom
defense was windowdressing…and afterthought. Northwestern is
winning games with defense this season, not in spite of it.
As this staffer wrote before the Ball State tilt, Clayton Thorson has a
lot of work to do to improve his passing efficiency. It doesn’t
seem like that will happen this year. NU is an 8-2 team in spite
of lackluster quarterback play. Thorson completes only slightly
higher than 50% of his passes, which won’t be good enough against
better competition. He has thrown for 6 touchdowns, but also
completed 6 passes to guys in the wrong jerseys. It got so bad
that Thorson was benched against Purdue for a few series, with Zach
Oliver entering the game for a much-needed spark. Thorson
finished the game, but the interception that lead to the benching was a
mistake even a true freshman should not make. So he definitely
needed the timeout in the corner.
This week brings the renewed challenge of facing a brawny member of the
weasel family. Wisconsin enters Week 12 with an identical overall
record, but sits one place ahead of the Cats in the Big Ten West
standings, having only dropped one game league game to undefeated and
#5 Iowa. (As a side note, Iowa seems to be almost comically
overrated, but that’s a discussion for another day.) The only
other Badger loss was an opening day loss to #2 Alabama, 35-17, though
the game was not as close as the score would suggest. Wisconsin
struggled mightily on offense that game, which ended up giving the Tide
many more opportunities to possess the ball against an increasingly
tired defense. Despite their 8-2 record, the Badgers do not have
a weighty win, as their non-conference schedule other than Alabama was
not full of power teams. In fact, Wisconsin does not have a win
over a team that currently has a winning record. Yes, you read
that right: each of the 8 teams Wisconsin has defeated has a
losing record. And strong Big Ten teams like Michigan State,
Michigan, and Ohio State are luckily absent from the Badger
schedule. The only highly ranked team (other than NU, of course)
Wisconsin has played resulted in a 10-6 defeat at the hands of the
Hawkeyes. And it was less exciting than even the score might
suggest, your humble narrator having seen it first-hand.
Unfortunately, the Badger offense in 2015 has made it impossible for
this Lowes Line staffer to cut and paste from last year’s preview about
the powerful running attack, and anemic passing offense. The 2015
version of the Badgers is, surprisingly, more of a passing team.
First-year Badger head coach Paul Chryst is a Barry Alvarez disciple,
but Wisconsin has not shown the ability to dominate games by running
the ball down opponents’ throats. The Badgers are averaging
almost 100 more yards through the air than on the ground, which is very
un-Badger-like. The tastefully named Joel Stave has found better
accuracy through the air, favoring senior receiver Alex Erickson, who
has a knack for getting open. A few other receivers get open,
with only Wheelwright having problems hanging onto the football.
And while Stave has been more accurate with the ball, he still can be
sloppy at times, with 8 interceptions against only 10 touchdowns.
To be sure, Wisconsin still attempts lots of running plays, but what
used to be routine gains of 4-8 yards are this year only 2-4 yards.
Part of that lack of production can be attributed to injury. Cory
Clement, who split time last year with Melvin Gordon III, has been out
the entire season except for the Halloween game against Rutgers.
He has suffered from a variety of maladies, most notably a sports
hernia. When he was inserted into the lineup against the Scarlet
Knights, his running ability was noticeably above those of Dare
Ogunbowale (say that 3 times fast) and Taiwan Deal. Ogunbowale
leads the Badgers with 612 yards on the ground. For the
season. That, alone, is very un-Badger-like.
One strength of the Badgers all season has been the defense.
While NU’s defense has been surprisingly stout, surrendering only 17
points per game, Wisconsin has been far stronger, allowing only 12.3,
which is #1 in the country. Wisconsin is also #3 in total
defense, surrendering only 272 yards per game. Comparing
opponents both NU and the Badgers have played, Wisconsin consistently
held the opposition to fewer points, especially compared to the
sphincter-tightening 40 NU surrendered to Iowa. Wisconsin allowed
them 10 points, which is all that much more remarkable when you factor
in the fact that Stave committed 4 turnovers that day.
Leading the Badger defense is the linebacking tandem of Joe Schobert
and Vince Biegel. Both are tackling machines and rush the passer
extremely well. Expect them to introduce themselves to Clayton
Thorson at every opportunity. The Badgers are a little weak at
corner, but make up for with strong safety play, and Michael Caputo
excels at run support, too.
This game comes down to one thing: can the NU offense protect the
football. If they can, then NU has a good shot of an upset at
Camp Randall. NU must protect the football so as not to give
Wisconsin short fields, but more importantly so NU’s defense can stay
rested. Despite their down year running the football, Wisconsin
still fields their jumbo-size line. If NU’s defense has to play
too much because the offense can’t hold onto the ball, then Wisconsin
will start gashing the tired NU defense for long gains in the second
At the end of the day, I think the Wisconsin defense harasses Thorson
and forces him into mistakes. An accurate passer can complete
passes against the Wisconsin secondary, but a 50% passer can’t do it
enough. Especially one who pitches one to the other team as often
as he throws touchdowns. FDBRB Justin Jackson is held under 100
yards, forcing the Cats to pass, and that spells disaster for the Cats
Pick: Wisconsin 30, Wildcats 13 The Badgers score enough points off turnovers to cover.
Season to Date: 6-4 ATS, 5-5 Straight up
Illinois Preview and Prediction
By Eric Cockerill
Matchup: #16 Northwestern Wildcats (9-2, 5-2) vs. Illinois Illini (5-6, 2-5) at Soldier Field
Date: Saturday, November 27, 2015, 2:30 p.m. CST
Line: Northwestern (-3.5) O/U 42
may be very apropos that this Satuday’s contest against the Illini is
at Soldier Field along the lake, because make no mistake, we are in a
figurative war with the Illini.
At war for the Land of Lincoln Trophy:
At war for Chicago-land recruits:
2016 Chicago-land Recruiting (via 247sports)
Commits (Offer by other)
At war for the very hearts and minds of the Chicago market
the Illini, the on field performance over the last 5 years has been
less then stellar with an 39% winning record over that period (versus
NU with a winning percentage of 57%) and two pathetic bowl appearances. To
make matters worse, the administration made a truly horrible decision
to hire Tim Beckman two years ago, an act that was widely derided in
the sports media and within football circles as everyone (except for
the Illini apparently) understood that Beckman had ridden on the back
of a potential superstar coaching prospect Matt Campbell, who served as
offensive coordinator and now head coach at Toledo. Campbell, whose roots are in Ohio football mecca Massillon, has continued Toledo’s success after Beckman’s departure. Meanwhile,
Beckman was summarily dismissed by Illinois due to an outright revolt
by his players and generally being despised by the staff and
administrators. AD Mike Thomas, primarily responsible for the Beckman hiring, was fired not long after. It’s safe to say that the Illini have made a botch of the program lately.
said, interim Head Coach Bill Cubit quickly righted the ship and led
the team to 4 wins in the first five games before hitting better
quality teams and going 1-5 since then. While able to generally score points, they have relied on defense to keep the opponent in control and hope for a few breaks. Illinois
has announced it will reveal Cubit’s long-term future at the program on
Sunday…one wonders what kind of idiots are making these decisions. No scenario seems like a winner for the program after announcing the announcement ahead of time: If they win, and he is not retained, it looks like they were leading him on. If they win, and he stays, it looks like his future was tied to a win against a 9-2 team. If they lose and he stays, it looks like they already knew and were manipulating the players and fans. If they win and he goes, it looks like a loss to a 9-2 team got him fired. My
crystal ball says that he is retained (both to reward his overall
season performance and prevent a complete abandonment of any progress
made in the last few years).
the Wildcats have achieved a 9-2 season thus far with a good chance to
go 10-2 and, being bowl bound, keep hopes alive for it’s first 11 win
season with a win in the bowl game. Unfortunately, the strategic approach has left observers feeling like they have been fortunate, not necessarily good. Close
games against Ball State, Penn State, and Nebraska, a stolen win
against Wisconsin, and blow out losses to Michigan and Iowa leave many
fans with a bad taste in their mouth. The
defense is as good as advertised, but the offensive philosophy
(including special teams) has become so conservative and
ball-protection oriented, NU will never have a comfortable lead unless
the defense pitches a shutout…difficult to do week in and week out.
I feel this philosophy led to both the horrid performance last year and
the great performance this year, based primarily on a few bounces in
critical games at critical times. Keeping
even lower quality teams close in score will lead to the very results
we’ve seen and a general dissatisfaction when watching NU appear to be
in control yet unable to safely pull away during each game (plus look
completely inept against truly good teams). Worse,
the coaching staff leading the team to an 18.8 pt/game clip this year
is the same one that was game planning 31.7 pt/game in 2012. It leaves fans scratching their heads and asking “shouldn’t I feel better about this team than I do?” If anything, this year’s team has proven that it actually does matter how a team wins…record is not quite enough.
As for this game, the reality of school enrollment and demagraphics are clear:
NU – 9100 undergrads, 29% of students from Illinois
Illinois - 31,000 undergrads, 76% of students from Illinois
There’s going to be a lot of orange and blue in Soldier Field. Plus,
clearly Illinois has a lot to play for as a sixth win would make them
bowl eligible (in a weak eligibility year) and potentially could
protect their interim coach (assuming they want that). However,
NU is also looking for the highest profile bowl game (currently
projected as the Outback Bowl with a win) since the 1995 Rose Bowl,
plus they are well aware that potential future recruits from the area
will be watching. Fitz continues to demonstrate a talent for motivation so I doubt the team will be flat (or any flatter than normal). My prediction is another game closer than it should be, but NU continues to keep the advantage in the marketing struggle.
Pick: Northwestern 24, Illinois 21. That means take Illinois with the points, Cats don’t cover.
Season to Date: 6-5 ATS, 5-6 Straight up
BTW, turns out neither is Chicago’s team
By Jersey Cat
Lowes Line 2015 - Outback Bowl Edition
Matchup: OUTBACK BOWL -- #12 Northwestern Wildcats (10-2, 6-2) vs. Tennessee Volunteers (8-4, 5-3)
Date: Friday, January 1, 2016, 11:00 am CST
Line: Northwestern (+8.5)
Here we are, Wildcat fans, preparing to watch the ‘Cats in a New
Year’s Day bowl game, after a 10-win regular season for only the third
time in school history. This autumn has been a wild ride,
with the Wildcats exceeding just about every expectation that was out
there. Even the most optimistic among us in August felt 7-5 was
the ceiling for this team. Great, right? Incredible,
even. So answer this: why are most Wildcat fans not
as excited as you would think? Be honest. Search your
feelings, if you will, to paraphrase from the blockbuster at the local
Here’s one take: After an incredibly shocking home win to start
the season against Stanford, NU kept rolling, getting to 5-0 after a
thorough dismantling of Minnesota, 27-0. Visions of the college
football playoff danced in NU fan’s heads. Excitement and
delusions of grandeur were running rampant. Then it
happened. Northwestern got exposed, and greatly, at
Michigan. That was followed up by a craptastic showing on
Homecoming against Iowa where again the ‘Cats were unable to either
stop the Hawkeyes or put up many points. What happened
next? NU fans have been basically waiting for the other shoe to
drop since late October, but it was tied on too tight to take
off: A close road win against an under.500 Nebraska team. A
last second field goal to beat a lousy Penn State team at home.
An unimpressive home win against a 2-10 Purdue squad. A gift at
Camp Randall. And finally an ugly win against a bad Illinois team
to close things out. No apologies needed, and ugly wins surely
top losing, but let’s be honest…this might be the worst 10-win team
you’ve ever seen. Admit it. You agree with this take or a
slight variation. As a result, the excitement is a bit muted,
because you feel you might have to wince and turn away if this NU team
were to get down 10-0 or 14-0 in the first quarter.
I get it: you can only play the teams on your schedule, and play them
NU did, winning 6 conference games for the first time in the Fitz
era. Give the Wildcats credit. They made their own luck,
and got wins where losses could have easily happened. And the
defense is not just good, it’s very good.
So what happened? Why the blowouts in the two losses? Are
Michigan and Iowa that much better than NU. In a word, yes, but
there’s more to it than that. In fact, it’s pretty
simple. If NU doesn’t both establish the run on offense and stop
it on defense, you may as well find something else to do, because you
won’t want to watch. In NU’s ten wins, they averaged 223
yards on the ground, with a low of 149 at Wisconsin. Against
Michigan, the Wildcat rushing attack was held to 38 yards, and against
Iowa, 51 yards. NU held its opponents to under 100 yards rushing
in 7 of 10 wins. Both Michigan (201 yards) and Iowa (294) torched
the ‘Cats on the ground.
The Tennessee Volunteers of the SEC are the opponent this New Year’s
Day, and like NU, they come in riding a five game winning streak.
Of their four losses on the season, two of them have come to teams in
the College Football Playoff, Alabama and Oklahoma. They also
dropped contests to SEC conference foes Arkansas and Florida by a
combined five points. Tennessee is led by junior quarterback
Joshua Dobbs, a tall and strong playmaker who is able to make plays
with both his legs and arm. Dobbs led all SEC QBs with over 600
yards rushing, running for 9 TDs while throwing for another ten.
NU will do themselves a favor defensively by making Dobbs throw from
within the pocket.
Speaking of defense, the ‘Cats are the country’s 11th best team in
terms of total defense, and rank 13th nationally in rushing defense,
surrendering just under 118 yards per game. The Wildcat defense
will be without the services of cornerback Nick VanHoose, who injured
his hand in practice last week. It will be very important
for NU to get on the board early or at least keep the game within one
score for multiple reasons. First, this Wildcat team, as
mentioned before, is simply not built to be able to come from
behind. Second, nobody needs to hear Rocky Top all damn
day. The song is admittedly a bit catchy, but seriously, we’re
talking about a song where folks climb a hill looking for moonshine and
never come back, a place where the soil is too rocky to farm, so folks
“get their corn from a jar.” No thanks.
This game will undoubtedly come down to Justin Jackson. Can he
get the ‘Cats in second and third and short with positive runs on first
down? (We all know the ‘Cats don’t throw on first down). If so,
NU stands a chance with their strong defense if they get the Volunteers
forced into passing situations.
Pick: Shoe finally comes off, drops with a thud. Tennessee
24, Northwestern 16. Take the ‘Cats and the points.
Season to date: 6-6 Straight up, 6-6 against the spread.