Four days in and we've finally reached Northwestern, red headed stepchild of the Big Ten. So can I get some Charlton Heston (NW '45) up in this motherfucker?
There. Now I'm inspired.
So, where do we start with the Wildcats? They were the only team in the country last season to pull a Michigan State against Michigan State. They were the only 1-A team to lose to New Hampshire (to be fair, they were the only 1-A team to play New Hampshire). And, after an absolute hammering of Iowa in November, they enter the season as the only team on this year's schedule with a 2-game winning streak against our beloved Hawkeyes.
The Good News? Well, the schedule is about as easy as they come. NU opens against Northeastern, Nevada, and Duke (the Duke game will actually be played in a chemistry lab) before opening Big Ten play. The Cats also sandwiched in Eastern Michigan in mid-October (St. Mary's School for the Blind and Retarded was already booked). That should be four wins. That's important, because Northwestern can win at most three games in the conference, and that's only if they catch every single break along the way.
Head coach and local legend Pat Fitzgerald, coming off the successful prosecution of Scooter Libby, is another year older and another year wiser (though still not wise enough to lose the douchebag sunglasses). Cats fans are hoping to say the same about quarterback CJ Bacher, who had a Drew Tate-esque ability to throw the ball into triple coverage at precisely the wrong moment. It's going to be difficult to improve on last season, though, as Northwestern's best receiver graduated and the new #1 just went down with a broken arm. That probably won't help halfback Tyrell Sutton, especially when the Cats' ninja running attack is predicated on spreading the defense. Sure, the spread offense is always scary to us Iowans, but the question remains: Is there anyone on this offense that actually scares you?
As for the defense, there's still no D in Northwestern. The defensive line is average at best, the secondary is Adam Shada bad, and the linebackers (which you would presume to be a strong suit, given the coach) are atrocious beyond words. They fucking suck (OK, so maybe not beyond words). When Northwestern plays Minnesota, the team that wins the toss better receive, because nobody's getting stopped by either of those defenses.
Probably the best news of all for Northwestern fans comes off the field. First, they finally got a legitimate blog at Lake the Posts (when counting down the 10 worst losses in the history of the program this July, LTP ranked the 2000 loss to Iowa as #2 AND #6). Second, their first three games will be shown on the Big Ten Network, thereby ensuring casual fans can't watch on television and might be compelled to actually show up. Well, that or they sit in a froo-froo coffee house and discuss Robert Frost and the Pythagorean theorem. Fucking nerds.
As for the prognosis, I tipped my hand earier. The Cats can and should win their four non-conference games. They get Minnesota and Indiana at home, both probable wins. But, while they could catch Iowa flat-footed (again) or take it to ILLINI or Sparty on the road, I don't see another win on the schedule. That is a 6-6 season, 2-6 in the conference. Bank it.