Game Preview


Northeastern (I-AA) at Northwestern
Ryan Field
Saturday, Sept. 1.  Time: 11:00 am CDT
WGN radio internet coverage.

Game Preview: Northwestern vs. Northeastern
by Jonathan Hodges
The season finally kicks off for Northwestern on this Saturday, September 1 at 11AM in Evanston (you'll be able to watch from home on the Big Ten Network only if you have DirecTV), as the fans eagerly await some live football.  This game will most likely be the easiest on NU's schedule this year, and unlike last year's I-AA (or football championship subdivision, nowadays, but that is too long/confusing) New Hampshire, Northeastern is not ranked and is not expected to cause many waves.  It is somewhat frightening for the 'Cats, though, since UNH beat NU handily last year then proceeded to lose to Northeastern by a slim margin later that season.  But, since this is the first game for Northwestern this year and virtually everyone has that UNH loss ingrained in their minds from 2006, I would expect the Wildcats to come out ready for action and making sure that they win that first game on the schedule.

Line: There is no official line on the game, but the CBS Harmon Forecast has a final score prediction of NU 35 - Northeastern 6

Who Should Win:   Northwestern should win the game handily.  The talent level is far in the Wildcats' favor, although we saw what a I-AA team did to NU last year.

What to Look for:   Look for NU to win the line of scrimmage battle early and often.  This means NU should attempt to show its offensive line's superiority and hand the ball to the likes of Sutton, Conteh, and Roberson quite often - look for a ton of rushing yards.  The offense may mix in some passing, but it should not be necessary.  On defense, this is where the big surprise may be - look for NU to actually hold an opponent scoreless.  That's right, I'm going to call it right here, Northwestern will log its first shutout in a decade (since the Oklahoma game in 1997), although it came close twice last year: giving up one field goal to Miami OH and two to EMU.   This is definitely the 'Cats best chance to log a shutout this year.  Northeastern's offense isn't threatening and the Wildcat defense should be vastly improved and includes an actual threat on the line.  The game may be close at halftime (think 7-0 or 14-0, in the 'Cats favor), but the win will come by grinding out yards on the ground, of which many will come in the second half (including big runs if the offense is successful in wearing out the Northeastern defense). 

Opponent Player to Watch:  Mele, a linebacker transfer from Illinois, has watched the 'Cats run by before.  He will have the biggest impact on if NU will be able to do it again.

Upset Factor:  We all know UNH beat the 'Cats pretty well last year (although that game featured multiple NU turnovers and the "BREWFKA" offense which basically meant inept), and Northeastern beat UNH.  If Northwestern makes a ton of mistakes, can't get an offense going, and reverts to a typical Colby defense (yards given up by the bunches), then Northeastern can make this challenging.

Miscellaneous:  This is the first taste of on-the-field action for the 'Cats to prove themselves in many areas: will the OL be effective (which will be tested with the absence of Rees), can the LB corps hold up, will the D-line finally muster a pass rush, will the special teams specialists be any good, and can the offense click and move the ball?  Also, the coaches have a lot to prove as this year they come in with a full year under their collective belts and experience on the field coupled with plenty of time to get to know their new positions and the players available to them.  While the opponent shouldn't challenge NU this game should give fans and the team a good idea of what to expect in 2007 since it is a real live game.

Injury Report: Rees (center) - suspended/1 game, Brewer (wide receiver) - broken arm/out for season, Smith (safety) - shoulder/day-to-day.  There were some dings during Kenosha (Sutton, Diaz, etc.) but Fitz claims everyone else will be ready to go come September 1.

Prediction: Northwestern 31 - Northeastern 0.

Go 'Cats!!!


e-mail: j-hodges@alumni.northwestern.edu

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