Northwestern Season Win Total Prediction
After two straight 5-7 seasons, Northwestern exploded for 10 victories in 2015. But will Pat Fitzgerald have enough weapons to keep the program moving forward?
The majority of experts agree that the offense can’t afford to rank last in the Big Ten in scoring again. In addition, the Wildcats must replace several NFL-bound stars on the other side of the ball. Even so, online sports book Bovada.lv projects the squad for 6.5 wins.
It’s a pretty lofty goal, but last fall’s breakthrough galvanized the Chicagoland area. Fitzgerald watched as his troops raced to a 5-0 start, frequently dismantling conference foes with a defense that led the country in fewest passing touchdowns allowed (five). National awards candidates pepper the back seven this time around, too. Anthony Walker captains the linebacking crew, while cornerback Matthew Harris and safety Godwin Igwebuike establish the tone in the secondary.
The front four becomes slightly tougher to evaluate without Deonte Gibson and Dean Lowry. Said tandem combined for 12 sacks and 26 tackles for loss a year ago. If Ifeadi Odenigbo (13.5 career takedowns) proceeds to display every-down value in a hurry, that helps immensely. The coaching staff also loves the abundance of young tackles on campus. C.J. Robbins, Tyler Lancaster and Jordan Thompson represent the headliners. Their girth should go a long way toward upgrading the run D, which represented the only mediocre part of Mike Hankwitz’s most recent unit.
Of course, the Wildcats crave merely average results from their signal-caller and wide receivers. Clayton Thorson threw for 1,522 yards and seven scores as a redshirt freshman, but the Illinois native rarely pressed the issue downfield. Simply put, Northwestern won’t take the next step unless Thorson and his fleet-footed targets demonstrate substantial growth. On the outside, Austin Carr and Charlie Fessler appear destined to gain prominence as the schedule heats up. Still, we’re troubled by the fact that recently converted individuals like Solomon Vault (tailback) and Marcus McShepard (defensive back) are being viewed as borderline linchpins right away.
When in doubt, though, OC Mick McCall knows he can lean on Justin Jackson. A workhorse of the highest order, No. 21 has amassed at least 245 carries in each of the past two campaigns. Look for McCall to find more snaps for senior Warren Long and incoming blue chip John Moten IV as well.
For all the great things that materialized last season, the Wildcats did lay an egg in the Outback Bowl, dropping a 45-6 verdict to Tennessee. What happens when titanic rivals such as Ohio State, Michigan State and Iowa roll into town? October promises excruciating tests galore, and we’re not sold that Northwestern’s equipped to handle a graduate-level course load just yet.
TUESDAY COLLEGE FOOTBALL FREE PICK: NORTHWESTERN WILDCATS UNDER 6.5 WINS