We are t-minus 10 days away from Northwestern’s opener against Syracuse. Hard to believe that it is coming up that fast. But September 1 is right around the corner. I hope the Orange are getting scared/ready.
Until that first kickoff, everyone wants to know and predict how the season is going to go. Is Kain Colter ready to be the starting/full-time quarterback? Is Kyle Prater going to make a big impact on the offense? Did the secondary fix their communication issues? Will the defensive line be able to generate any pressure?
These are big questions that Northwestern will have to answer immediately when the team travels to upstate New York to face Syracuse. That game is going to be a big challenge and Northwestern will need to be ready.
Let’s worry more about the Orange next week (GAME WEEK!). This week we are still in the fantasy land of preseason predictions and expectations.
Northwestern fans have a building excitement for every year. As LTP always points out, you never know what year will be 1995 part 2 (or 3 or 4). That is the power of unbridled optimism.
Those outside Northwestern? They are not as gung-ho on the Purple as we.
Our brightest predictions might have Northwestern solidly winning seven or eight games and making a bowl game. Those outside the program may be thinking at a much more precarious situation — possibly five wins or eking into a bowl game with six — for Northwestern. Maybe that is looking at the youth at quarterback and all the weapons NU has to replace on offense and the questions on defense. These are legitimate concerns.
We have our preseason answers to them, for sure. Kain Colter is hardly an inexperienced quarterback thanks to all the playing time he got last year. The secondary cannot be any worse than it was last year (right?). And Kyle Prater, because he seems to be the answer to everything.
Let’s take a step back and examine some of the predictions the non-Northwestern media are posting for our digestion.
The logical place to start is with optimistically pessimistic Northwestern alumnus and ESPN blogger Adam Rittenberg. Rittenberg had admitted in his writing that he is done raising his hopes up for Northwestern. We have all been there. And we will all still jump on the bandwagon when hopes get raised.
Rittenberg is on the low end of predictions for Northwestern. He and Brian Bennett set the over/under for Northwestern at 6.5 wins, and that seems to be the consensus for the over/under. Rittenberg picked the under (predictably, but we still love you Adam) as he wrote he was torn between 6-6 and 7-5. He picked 6-6. Here is hoping the team can give Rittenberg a reason to believe this year (seriously, you are still the man, Adam).
Brian took the over and has Northwestern going 7-5 with the typical upsets Northwestern has every year (one for, one against) and a strong offense with Colter and the receivers.
For many, seven wins seems to be the ceiling for Northwestern. Maybe the most optimistic of us see eight wins. Six is the precarious position of possibly out of a bowl game, especially with the Big Ten thinking of raising their floor to seven wins for bowl eligibility. With the Wildcats having those three tough non-conference games, the Cats are going to have to perform in the Big Ten to get where they want this year — back to a bowl game and back in the win column at the end of the year.
So other predictions…
Sports Illustrated’s Andy Staples has Northwestern at 6-6 and 3-5 in the conference, a copy of last year’s record. That seems to be the sinking suspicion for where this team might fall. Staples has Illinois going 9-3, so take that for what it is worth.
Back over at my old blog network, Bloguin, College Football Zealots talked to The Saturday Edge for their predictions on the Big Ten. Their writers have Northwestern running the gamut. One has NU surprisingly finishing last in the Legends Division (seems unlikely) and does not trust the team can replace all the players the team lost. Another has NU doing its normal work in going 7-5/6-6 with the requisite upset and disappointment. Another believes the Wildcats could be the dark horse in the division and challenge for the title. Here is what The Saturday Edge writes:
Northwestern has a chance in 2012 because of the setup of the schedule. The Wildcats start Big Ten play with Indiana and then take road trips to Penn State and Minnesota. There is a decent chance that when Northwestern welcomes Nebraska to Evanston in late October that the Cats will be sporting a 3-0 conference mark. Wins over the Huskers and the following week on homecoming against Iowa, could send Northwestern in the home stretch need just a win at either Michigan or Michigan State to have a chance at the title. Dual threat quarterback Kain Colter is back but he will need help. Colter is the leading returner in passing, rushing, and receiving yards. If he stays healthy and coach Pat Fitzgerald patches together a defense, Northwestern could have a say in this division come November.
Certainly an interesting thought.
The consensus though from the peanut gallery feels like this is a team destined to squeak into a bowl game at 7-5 or 6-6. That has been the life of Northwestern the last two years. At that appears to be NU’s destiny and expectations from outside the program this year.
That is where I suspect Northwestern will end up, 7-5. There you have my prediction… until I decide they go 8-4 tomorrow. No, seriously, 7-5.
Please draw your own conclusions and feel free to remain optimistic. Just NINE MORE DAYS!
Swimming Nets Top Recruit
In non-football news, Northwestern’s women’s swimming team received a commitment from a top-20 recruit. Braden Keith of Swim Swam reports Lacey Locke of Carmel High in Indiana has committed to Northwestern.
Locke is rated by collegeswimming.com as the top swimming recruit in Indiana and among the top-20 in the country. Locke is already an extremely skilled backstroker. She posted Olympic qualifying times in both the 100 and 200 backstroke. Swim Swam also reports Locke could be an IMer in the future too.
Northwestern finished seventh in the Big Ten last year, so her presence for the 2013-14 season will be a nice boost. And Locke is not used to losing. Carmel has won the state championship in Indiana 26 straight times(!).
This is a really great get for coach Jimmy Tierney. The future looks bright for Northwestern’s swimmers. Maybe Locke and Matt Grevers will have a backstroke sweep in Rio? Is that putting too much expectation on her? Maybe.