Commentary: Preseason Prediction for 2012
by Jonathan Hodges
the countdown is on for the 2012 season and you may have noticed that I
have not posted much content at HTP. Unfortunately, life has finally
begun to catch up with me and in addition to being out of the country
and offline for two weeks in mid-August, between work and home
responsibilities I will no longer have enough time to write the most
thorough analyses of Northwestern football on the internet. Fortunately
for those craving NU football content online, there are now a plethora
of news sources and blogs to follow so one will not be starving for
reading material. I do plan to post shorter predictions leading up to
each game as well as a quick analysis following the game along with a
commentary here or there as well. Finally, I'll also continue to be on
Twitter and Facebook and feel free to contact me at either of those
places or via e-mail.
Now, on to my seventh annual Northwestern preseason prediction.
actually let's review my track record on preseason predictions over the
prior six years (coinciding with Fitz's tenure as NU's head coach). On
an individual basis, my picks have been 70.8% accurate (51-21); last
year I went 8-4 on my preseason picks. Over that six year span I
predicted the 'Cats to have a 45-27 record, while NU actually has a
40-32 record, so I'm within 7% of the 'Cats' actual winning rate.
Although I try to be balanced in my predictions and analysis,
apparently I am lean slightly towards the optimistic side (but not too
the predictions, along with my personal level of confidence in a
Northwestern win, ranging from 0 (sure loss), to 5 (toss-up), to 10
(sure win). I'll provide a brief explanation to justify each one since
I didn't do a thorough schedule breakdown.
@ Syracuse: 6, W
tough game but NU is set on offense and will be looking to avenge that
tough loss in 2009 and will do so with a slew of points.
vs. Vanderbilt: 4, L
Vandy may be NU's toughest test until late October and will likely get yet another night game spoiled.
vs. Boston College: 7, W
BC has a few weapons but as we saw down the stretch last year they seem to be a regressing team under their current regime.
vs. South Dakota (FCS): 9, W
A medicore FCS team should prove to be no real threat to NU this season.
vs. Indiana: 8, W
has a ton of freshmen and they will still be young as they have to hit
the road to face NU who dropped 59 on them last season.
@ Penn State: 6, W
PSU lost a ton of key players and the 'Cats should have enough offense to pull off Fitz's first win over this team.
@ Minnesota: 6, W
This has the makings of a trap game for NU, though Minny's weak D should allow the 'Cats to pull out a challenging road win.
vs. Nebraska: 3, L
comes the tough stretch, and Nebraska with their invading fans will
certainly want to get payback, and they have the talent to do so.
vs. Iowa: 5, L
toss-up game given NU's recent history vs. the Hawkeyes, although they
likely have too much in the passing game against a still inexperienced
@ Michigan: 2, L
comes the real tough games following NU's bye week: a trip to the big
house to face a team that will likely be contending for a division
@ Michigan State: 2, L
that by facing what should be one of the toughest defenses in the
nation, and the offense will certainly have their feet under them by
vs. Illinois: 5, W
rivalry game heads back to Evanston for the first time since 2008, and
although Illinois will be tough, look for NU to use the home field to
bring the Land of Lincoln trophy back to NU.
Predicted Record: 7-5 (4-4)
feel somewhat cheap by following the crowd of others who have also
predicted a 7-5 record for Northwestern this season, but given the
level of experience and the tough back end of the schedule it seems to
be the most likely outcome. Fortunately, college football is wacky and
one never knows what will happen, and the upgraded recruiting talent
we've been hearing so much about may finally help propel NU to eight or
nine wins, which is entire possible with wins in potentially close
games at home against the likes of Vanderbilt and Iowa. But 9 wins
seems to be the ceiling for this club with Nebraska, Michigan, and MSU
likely holding down the front of the Legends Division standings.
terms of performance of NU's units, the offense should continue to
improve with QB Kain Colter having already proven himself last season
and the fact that he is surrounded by talented skill players,
particularly at receiver. Although the offensive line continues to be
questionable, his speed should allow him to get out of trouble. On
defense, the team is too young to get a good read. It helps that NU's
schedule is back-loaded so that they can hopefully gain experience
early on while still winning games which will give them a fighting
chance later. The secondary is a big unknown with three new starters,
while the defensive front certainly needs to create more havoc in the
backfield, otherwise NU fans could be facing deja vu from opponents'
passing games. Finally, special teams are essentially all set, although
it will be interesting to see how Fitz approaches the new kickoff rules.
Predicted Trip to Big Ten Championship? No
stated above, Michigan and MSU are the front-runners for the division
crown, and Nebraska will likely have a say in the matter. NU is too
inexperienced, particularly on defense, to challenge this year. Their
only realistic hope is that the front runners all knock each other off
while the 'Cats win all of the toss-up games and steal an upset against
one of them to tie and maybe earn a trip via tiebreakers.
Predicted Bowl: Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl (formerly known as Insight)
have to pat myself on the back for correctly predicting a trip to the
Texas Bowl last year (although a strange set of circumstances involving
PSU certainly led to that result). This year I believe that seven wins
will be enough for NU to get a trip to Phoenix thanks to two Big Ten
teams being ineligible for the postseason (PSU and OSU) who would
otherwise likely be bowl bound. Also note that the Gator Bowl will pick
ahead of the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl this season, so this will in
effect be the fifth pick; sixth if the Big Ten gets a second team into
the BCS (which they likely will given the fact that they have done so
more than any other conference).
that it will be imperative for the Wildcats to rack up as many Ws early
in the season as possible given that the back have of the slate is so
difficult. But, I have NU pegged for the 7-9 win range given the
relatively easy early schedule, which should allow them to reach bowl
eligibility before the tough stretch of the schedule, much like 2008
& 2010. Now, time to sit back and enjoy the ride (though NU fans
should always keep the heart medication handy).
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is the primary content provider of HailToPurple.com. His commentary
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