Monday, August 07, 2006

Season Preview: Northwestern

Last Season: The Wildcats were an impressive 7-5 with a loss to UCLA in the Sun Bowl 50 – 38. In a season that most experts had them picked for dead, Northwestern managed to beat the likes of Wisconsin, Purdue, Iowa, and come within a 4th down and long conversion of beating the Nittany Lions. With a Swiss cheese defense that got run over more times then the Brooklyn Bridge, Northwestern did it with offense, plenty of it, all by a school know for academics; a testament to the coaching staff.

Outlook: Nothing could be more devastating then a death in the family and the Big Ten lost one such person when Randy Walker died of a sudden heart attack at the age of 52. Given the unenviable task of picking up the pieces is tough as nails, former Wildcat linebacker Pat Fitzgerald. At the age of 31, Fitzgerald is the youngest coach in the Big Ten, but he knows from winning: he was part of the 1995 Rose Bowl team for the Wildcats. His job is a daunting one, with early games at Penn State, at Wisconsin, and later games at both Michigan and Iowa. An early loss to Miami (OH) or Nevada could be disastrous, and no one would blame them if they gave up along the way but hey, it’s Northwestern, they’ve been proving people wrong for a long time now.

Returning starters: 8
Key Losses:
QB Brett Basanez (3,622 yards, 21 TD, 423 yards rush, 7 TD)
OT Zach Strief (7th Round draft pick)

Key Returnees:
WR Shaun Herbert (862 yards, 6 TD)
WR Kim Thompson (326 yards, 1 TD)
RB Tyrell Sutton (1,474 yards, 16 TD, 396 yards rec, 2 TD)
OT Austin Matthews
OG Ryan Keenan
C Trevor Rees (returning starter back after academic suspension for the year)
OG Joe Tripodi
OT Dylan Thiry

Sutton says: I've got your Butkus right here baby!

Returning starters: 8
Key Losses:
LB Tim McGarigle ( 156 tackles, 2 sacks, 7 TFL)
DT Barry Cofield ( 64 tackles, 2 sacks, 6.5 TFL)

Key Returnees:
DE Kevin Mims (41 tackles, 2 sacks, 4.5 TFL, 1 INT)
DT John Gill (26 tackles, 1 TFL)
LB Nick Roach (77 tackles, 1 sack, 3.5 TFL, 1 INT)
LB Adam Kadela (71 tackles, 1 sack, 3.5 TFL, 1 INT)
CB Marquice Cole (46 tackles, 5 INT)
FS Brendan Smith (29 tackles)
SS Bryan Heinz (5 tackles, 1 INT – missed most of last season with a torn ACL)

Game Outlook: Penn State will be Northwestern’s first big road test after four non-conference games and could be pivotal for both teams. The Nits will be coming of a tough road game at Ohio State and if the Wildcats can make it through the first four games undefeated, this game could be on upset special alert. NU will have a strong offensive line and tough running game with Wunderkind Tyrell Sutton who could cause headaches for the Penn State D. If Sophomore QB C.J. Bacher can be half as decent as Basanez was last year, this will be a potent offense.


Cool Hand Mike said...

I can't think of a team put more behind the 8 ball than these guys. I'll be pulling like hell for them this year.

Galen said...

How can you NOT root for these guys?!? Except when they play Penn State, of course, of course.