2013 NU CFB Schedule First Look

You know you do it. You’ve already peaked ahead to the 2013 schedule and done the mental checklist of “win” or “loss” in your Malcolm Gladwell-esque instant reaction to the opponent. Let’s take a peek at the 12-game slate and offer some nuggets of wisdom on trying to hopelessly predict what could be.

8/31/13 – @ Cal – Sonny Dykes is the new sheriff/head coach in town after a very successful stint as the head coach of Lousiana Tech, where he finished up his third year with a 9-3 mark.  The 2011 WAC coach of the year inherits a 3-9 Cal squad that will be looking for Dykes to replicate his instant impact turnaround skills which he flexed at La Tech.  Fans of LTP are clamoring for Seal-gate – a non-conference fan infiltration to the Bay Area, which we haven’t been to since we played Stanford in the early 1990s. The ‘Cats will be favored, but this is a danger game as Dykes unleashes his new system on the Cal Golden Bears.

LTP Pick: Northwestern win

9/7/13 –  Syracuse: The 2012 season-opening win at Syracuse looks a hell of a lot better in January of 2013 than it did in early September. The ‘Cuse won the Big East and won 9 games, including a blowout Pinstripe Bowl win over West Virginia.  QB Ryan Nassib has become one of the top NFL prospects at the glamour spot and thank God he’s gone. Doug Marrone left Syracuse to take on the head coaching job of the Buffalo Bills, which means this off-season will include serious transition time both at the head coaching spot and at QB.  The changing of the guard is enough to likely have NU as a single digit favorite over New York’s Big East Team.

LTP Pick: Northwestern win.

9/14/13 – Western Michigan – This is the Jim Phillips scramble to fill the schedule game.  Vanderbilt was on the docket for a Nashville engagement, but pulled the plug in less-than-credible fashion earlier this year. NU scrambled to fill the vacant date with any team, and MAC lower tier Western Michigan, fresh off a coaching change, was just what we could muster. Bill Cubit got the axe after a 4-8 season and former NIU Husky standout, PJ Fleck, assumes the reigns of the Broncos.  Fleck has become Fitz junior as one of the youngest head coaches in America.

LTP Pick: Northwestern decisive win.

9/21/13 – Maine – The ‘Cats annual FCS opponent should likely pose little challenge to NU.  The Black Bears, known for launching the career of Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz, have struggled in year 20 under head coach Steve Cosgrove. Maine went 5-6 in the CAA last season, including a 34-3 loss to common opponent, Boston College.

LTP Pick: Northwestern blowout win.

10/5/13: Ohio State – After a bye week, Northwestern willl open the B1G season with a home date with Ohio State. It’s been four years and two coaching changes since we last faced the Buckeyes and this will be as hot as a ticket as could be in Evanston. Assuming we go 4-0 as predicted and buoyed by a preseason Top 20 ranking, NU will likely be mid-teens, hosting a Top 5 Buckeyes squad coming off a 12-0 season.  The Buckeyes must replace essentially their entire defensive line, but you can bet, backed by Braxton Miller , they’ll be heavy favorites in a guaranteed sellout at Ryan Field.

LTP Prediction: Ohio State wins in close one.

10/12/13 – @Wisconsin – The ‘Cats will open the B1G road slate with a tough one, a date in Camp Randall against newbie coach, Gary Andersen. Wisconsin returns to the ‘Cats schedule after a two year hiatus and will be looking once again to try and find its offensive identity as the Badgers look to restock the skill positions. Here’s to NU eking out a classic barnburner in Madtown.

LTP Prediction: Northwestern win in nailbiter fashion.

10/19/13 – Minnesota – This is the classic quick glance “win” response from NU fans, yet, games against the Gophers always seem to come down to the last possession. Northwestern will be favored in this one, but if the past is any predictor of current/future games, it should be a Cardiac ‘Cat type game.

LTP Prediction: Northwestern win.

10/26/13 – @Iowa – Oh, Iowa. That program which we’ve managed to own during the Pat Fitzgerald era.  Kirk Ferentz has been under relatively intense scrutiny after a dismal 4-8 campaign and the ongoing challenges of a vanilla offense and a cursed RB position.  By now, Iowa has Northwestern marked as a rivalry game, so they’ll be ready to go, but, this one is too important for NU to let slip away.

LTP Prediction: Northwestern narrow win.

11/2/13 – @Nebraska – The ‘Cats return to the site of their monumental 2011 upset win over the Huskers.  The mystique of Nebraska is gone, and it is now a full-fledged, burgeoning rivalry, as NU looks to avenge the 29-28 comeback loss from 2012. Rex Burkhead may be gone, but the key pieces of the Huskers are back for battle in 2013. This one promises to be yet another dogfight.

LTP Prediction: Heartbreaking loss.

11/16/13 – Michigan – Buoyed by OL stud Taylor Lewan returning for another year, and a full year of prep for rising star QB Devin Gardner, the ‘Cats sure sellout home date with Big Blue has the potential to be another classic. ‘Cats fans are still in knee-jerk pain when they see the Michigan name, as we had them dead to rights in the Big House last season before a Hail Mary play saved the day.  This is one of those season make-or-break games and could very well be for the division title. As evidenced by our on-field match-up last year, Northwestern and Michigan may very well be the most evenly matched teams in the entire conference. It’s coin flip time.

LTP Prediction: Loss on last possession

11/23/13 – Michigan State – Fitz and company had a watershed win over Sparty, ending a seemingly never-ending slide against Mark Dantonio. The Spartans will be a work in progress this season and have lost their three biggest playmakers – RB Le’Veon Bell, DE William Gholston and TE Dion Sims – to early entry in the NFL draft. It’s a crushing blow to a team that was mediocre in 2011, but still scared the hell out of you. Expect the Spartans to be down again this year, and this is one that Northwestern has a chance to make a statement in.

LTP Prediction – Northwestern double-digit win

11/30/13 – @ Illinois – The LOL trophy is alive and well in Evanston after this year’s blowout win over Tim Beckman’s Illini.  The 2013 fortunes don’t look to be too bright for our in-state rival and on paper, this one looks like a decisive advantage to the men in purple and black.  The ‘Cats take care of business and await their January 1 bowl selection.

LTP Prediction – Blowout win

So, there you go. A way-too-early schedule surf of 2013.  You could make an argument that we could go 11-1 or 7-5.  The Ohio State game, which we very well could win, is the only one on the schedule that you know we’ll be a decided underdog entering the game. Every other game we’ll be favored or a very slight underdog. Most people will look at the Ohio State, Michigan, @Wisconsin and @Nebraska games and say “if we win X out of those four…” while counting on us to win out on the rest of the schedule.  Let me hear you…







  • Carl the Cat

    I do not agree with your prediction of a loss to Michigan at home. We can and will beat them.

    • I don’t disagree with you. Little mental sandbagging on my part

  • CatAlum06

    Here’s another idea, if both Northwestern and Ohio State are undefeated, you would have to imagine this would end up as a night game, right?
    And if this ends up as a night game, do we have the potential for College Gameday in Evanston?
    I have no idea what other games are slated for that week, but it’s hard to imagine there would be many that would be significantly better!

    • Stephen Zgrabik

      I was thinking/hoping the same thing!

      • CM

        I have also been thinking that. The SEC slate is fairly quiet for October 5 (LSU/Miss St is the probably the most intriguing). The Pac-12 slate is also uninspiring. Oklahoma and TCU face-off in the Big 12, but that is the only “heavy-hitting” match-up that I’ve found. If NU and Ohio St take care of business in September, Gameday will be a VERY real possibility…

        • PDXCat

          And we get them coming off of one of our bye weeks.

    • A quick look at fbschedules.com shows a few possible Gameday competitors to our game vs. Ohio State (based for no reason at all on preseason rankings I found on HuffPo). These are matchups featuring two teams ranked in their top 35.

      Oklahoma – TCU
      Stanford – Washington
      Arizona State – Notre Dame

      Unknown schedule, possible match-ups:
      Some combination of Florida State/Clemson/Virginia Tech

    • Ron

      Night games are generally announce before the season starts, aren’t they?

      Also, off topic, but thanks LTP for providing all of this football content at this normally very dry time of year!

  • DarkSide

    I cannot wait for the season to start. Frankly, spring practice cannot come fast enough. LTP, stop thinking like an objective journalist. Stop over analyzing and thinking like a Northwestern graduate. Embrace the mantra of the ‘Great Ones’-the team that brought us out of the Dark Ages. EXPECT VICTORY! We can and we will beat everyone on our schedule. We must believe.

  • Wildcats99

    I disagree. ‘Cats are going 12-0 this year. I’ve already booked my ticket to Pasadena!

    • Noah Kimmel

      12-0 and were going to a national championship!

      • JimB

        That would require beating Ohio State TWICE. Not sure we could do it once but maybe, twice no.

        • Richard

          Rose Bowl’s more reasonable (though still a slim chance). Win our toss-up of a division then pull the upset in the CCG.

      • Wildcats99

        Yes, but fortunately the National Championship is in Pasadena this year too, so the stars are aligned for a game at the Rose Bowl!

  • Noah Kimmel

    This is the kind of rigorous schedule that will determine if this team is the “real deal” or the product of good scheduling this past year. Given that we faced a ton of teams after their bye weeks and were competitive in every game, I have to believe that we have a chance at 12-0. However, it requires discipline as the teams we play this year are a higher caliber and mistakes will have consequences. There are a ton of opportunities for Top 15 wins (or painful losses) in this schedule, which could finally put and keep NU on the map (or send us back to the bubble).

    I expect a lot of ESPN / ABC and games. I expect to play under the lights. I expect sweet black uniforms. And I expect victory!

  • NorCalCat

    I think 12-0 is definitely possible but my gut says 10-2. We lose to tOSU but only lose one of the Wiscy/Mich/UNL games. Depending on how the division plays out that might be enough to get us to the title game and a shot at revenge against tOSU.

  • cheesemacaroni

    I’ve had the Berkley game circled on my calendar for years. It’s a great place to watch a game and I’ll be making the trip from Chicago. I also know that the Bay Area is a huge area for NU alums. How much interest is out there? Could we make it a goal to turn the tables and sell the place out with purple the way Ryan Field has been known to be overtaken by visiting B1G fans sometimes? Pipe dream, maybe..But isn’t that how all good ideas start?

    • NorCalCat

      I want to say that interest is very high, but my view maybe skewed as the alums i’m in touch with are the ones going to the game watches every week. There was good turnout to watch the bowl game in SF and I would think a live game would bring a lot more alums from all over the Bay Area.

      I too would love to see 10-20k purple clad fans at Memorial Stadium, but I think that will require a lot of fans coming in from out of town. I’m hoping that like you cheese’, a lot of people have circled this game and will be making the trip out to the Bay. I believe that’s Labor Day weekend too so a chance to make a long weekend out of it and enjoy the area. My plan is to get a big group of my undergrad friends out and rent a house and make this game Homecoming West.

    • AdamDG

      FWIW, the Bay Area is the 3rd largest metropolitan area for NU alumni behind, Chicago and NYC.

  • Danhamb

    While I love all of the optimism, and definitely believe it’s warranted coming off one of the best seasons in program history, this schedule is TOUGH. Starting with Ohio St. and at Wisconsin frightens me with the possibility of Northwestern getting off on a bad foot in B1G play like in 2011, which almost jeopardized their bowl streak. Secondly, Northwestern avoided one of it’s classic pitfalls this season by not giving one way against an inferior opponent. A Minnesota or an Iowa or somebody rearing its ugly head and dealing a devastating defeat is a real threat. Given the increased difficulty of NU’s slate this year, it really can’t afford to lose one of those.

  • PurpleHayes

    We can quibble with individual games, but the net result of LTP’s predictions was a same-as-2012 record of 9-3. This despite the fact I think most of us believe next year’s team will be better. I think that’s the point–schedule is much tougher with OSU and Wisconsin on it, so it is definitely possible to be better but not have more to show for it. (That schedule opportunity is what made the losses in 2012 so maddening.) That said, take a step back, everyone: we’re debating whether 9-3 is a good enough prediction to hold the Cats. This is rare air. Before last season, I told friends I thought 2012 was one of those bellwether years that would determine whether we would be good occasionally, or whether Fitz had really developed a PROGRAM. True programs compete year after year. Many of our earlier bowl teams were distinguished-senior-class led squads. The Gator Bowl team was young. Not there yet, but evidence points to Fitz having a program, and that suggests we don’t rebuild, but rather we reload. Like the sound of that!

  • Alaskawildcat

    OK, I’ll go on record by repeating last year’s preseason prediction of 10-2. At least I got the 10 wins right if you add our bowl game win. Assuming one of our losses is to Ohio State and they end up undefeated again then we could still make it to Pasedena on January 1st to play our likely opponent Stanford while Ohio State takes on Alabama. Under that scenario I see the B1G finally winning two BCS bowl games in the same season, something that would make history.

  • Great call on Gameday. Based on that schedule and the overwhelming purple mafia in Bristol I’d say it is borderline no brainer if both undefeated. Osu will be top 5 and we’d be like 13th.

  • NUMBalumDave

    I have only this to say: Thank goodness they play the games one at a time and that the only thing that counts is the score on the field. I’ll take ’em one at a time, just like the team does, thanks.

    • Sir Mark

      What fun is that, Dave?