Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Big Ten 2010-Northwestern Wildcats
2009 Record: 8-5 (5-3)
Head Coach: Pat Fitzgerald (5th season, 27-23)
Offensive Coordinator: Mick McCall (3rd season)
Defensive Coordinator: Mike Hankwitz (3rd season)
2009 Bowl Game: Outback Bowl, lost to Auburn 38-35 (OT)
Offense: Mike Kafka is out at QB, where he was one of the most productive QBs ever at NU. Enter Dan Persa, who played well in small stints last season. Persa is athletically a perfect fit at the position for the spread read offense. There will be a renewed effort towards the run game, as Kafka had to pass 78 times in the bowl game. The running game will be in the hands of Scott Concannon and Andy Fields on a rotating basis in the one back scheme. Jake Schmidt will also be in the mix. TE Drake Dunsmore caught 47 passes last season, and could end up being one of the top two targets for Persa, along with WR Sidney Stewart. Jeremy Ebert and Demetrius Fields were both role players a year ago, but now both are starters coming into fall camp, and increased production is a must. There are only two returning starters on the line, which will make having an increasingly productive rushing game difficult at best.
Defense: 5 of the front 7 are returning starters, but only one player returns from the starting lineup in the secondary. 196 career starts went away with graduation from this unit as a whole from a season ago, and that experience is hard (almost impossible) to replace in one season. That will be the task in 2010. There is not one starter that goes over 300 lbs on the line, but the LBs are big and athletic. Quentin Davis was the defensive leader at LB a season ago, and he will return to run the D on the field. There will be depth in that group, but the secondary will have questions, as CB Jordan Maybin is the lone returning starter.
Special Teams: Stefan Demos is an ok PK, but was horrible as a punter last season, so he is likely to lose that job in 2010. Brandon Williams will get first shot at the punting duties in fall camp, but has not locked up the job yet.
Wins: 9/4 @ Vanderbilt, 9/11 Illinois State, 9/18 @ Rice, 9/25 Central Michigan, 10/30 @ Indiana, 11/20 Illinois
Toss Up Games: 10/2 @ Minnesota, 10/9 Purdue, 10/23 Michigan State
Losses: 11/6 @ Penn State, 11/13 Iowa, 11/27 @ Wisconsin
Ohio State is not on the schedule. The Wildcats must steal one of the toss games to bowl qualify, as one of the wins would come against 1-AA Illinois State. Due to strength of schedule, I would suggest stealing 2. It is very possible that the Cats can steal one out of the loss column too, but don't bet on it being against Iowa this season.
Outlook: There is enough athleticism on this team to be better than they look on paper. There are also enough questions on the horizon to see them fall apart. I predict a mid-tier bowl, but this is a high wire act, and the act can end in disaster.