Last year Northwestern spent most of the season duct taping and trying to keep Dan Persa on the field, because when he was Northwestern was a decent football team. Injuries took their toll and Pat Fitzgerald saw his Wildcats fall to 6-7 after a 9 win season. Northwestern has lost nine bowl games in a row, but I don’t see them losing one this year. Because they won’t be going to one. Their out of conference schedule is one of the toughest in the Big Ten, with games against Vanderbilt, Boston College, and Syracuse. Yes, none of those are juggernauts, but most Big Ten teams are playing cupcakes in the non-con. (See Indiana).
The only good part about Dan Persa being hurt last year was Kain Colter emerged at the beginning of the year to get experience at quarterback. Colter is a great athlete that could cause problems for some defenses with his running ability if Northwestern can get them to respect the pass. The wide receiver corp has little to no experience and is easily the weak spot on the team. USC transfer Kyle Prater was granted eligibility to play this year from the NCAA and should start on the outside immediately. The offensive line has some experience but they weren’t that great last year. Colter was the team’s leading rusher and with him now under center the Wildcats will be looking to Mike Trumpy to take over rushing duties after being out last year with an ACL tear.
Northwestern was last in the Big Ten in quarterback sacks in 2011, only registering 17 in 13 games. These numbers will improve in 2012 as I think Northwestern has one of the faster defenses they have had a while. Freshman and 4 star recruit Ifeadi Obenigbo will join the team as a weakside defensive end but also see some time at linebacker. In addition, David Nwabuisi and Demien Proby are returning starters to a linebacker corps that is shaping nicely. The defensive line and secondary will see plenty of new faces, but Fitzgerald has a knack for getting the most out of his players. Northwestern has to continue their bend but not break mentality, eliminating big plays and letting their air it out offense win games.
Special Teams (C+)
Jeff Budzien will once again be kicking for Northwestern in 2012 and doesn’t have a whole lot to show on his resume. He made just 6 of 10 field goals, only 2 of those were over 40 yards. Also, on his Wildcat profile he listed his favorite songs as “Dive In” and “Grey Street” by Dave Mathews Band as well as “My Dougie” by Lil’ Will. I am changing my grade for Northwestern special teams. F.
Pat Fitzgerald has had bigger schools coming after him since his success at Northwestern but he keeps turning them down to don the purple. I really view him as one of the better coaches in the conference. Mike McCall and Mike Hankwitz are both coming into their fifth years as offensive and defensive coordinators respectively.
2012 Win/Loss Prediction: 4-8 (6th in Legends)