It's what you all been waiting for, ain't it?
It's August 26th, eight days from the start of Northwestern's season, seven days from Sippin' on Purple's first "what do you think will happen tomorrow" post, and time for us to lay out our predictions.
The offseason isn't over quite yet, but Monday starts game week. In case you've noticed, posting has become kinda frequent around here, and I hope you guys can keep up, because get used to it. I expect to have at least two posts a day on the site throughout football season - all the dumb features you're used to, plus more stuff you haven't seen, plus the podcast, plus breaking stuff whenever it happens. I think we have the best NU comments section on the internet - seriously, things are, like, logical in there, also, you like jokes - my goal has always been to match it with the best NU blog content on teh internet, and I hope to actually do it this year. My point is, get excited and help me do it.
We've had Fanposts asking for predictions but none of them really had full participation. So LET'S DO IT. We got a poll, but don't be afraid to bust out what you think in the comments section. Herman, Loretta8 and I have our time on the soapbox after the jump.
Record: 8-4 (5-3)
Finish: 3rd in Legends Division
Bowl?Meineke Car Care Bowl
EXPLAIN YOURSELF: When you’re making preseason predictions on a team’s performance, there are basically two methods: the go-with-your-gut prediction and the number-crunching, stats-tastic analysis. I think when it comes to college football, the stats can be deceiving, given the small sample sizes, especially in the preseason, since we’re crunching last year’s numbers that are somewhat dependent on now-graduated players. So I tend to throw more of my gut into my predictions.
I break down the schedule into likely wins, toss-ups, and reach games based on entirely unscientific criteria.
Likely wins: E. Illinois, Army, Indiana, Rice, Minnesota.
Toss-up: Boston College, Illinois, Michigan, Iowa
Reach: Penn State, Nebraska, Michigan State
We’re definitely capable of sweeping the likely wins, though Army has a unique offense and Indiana and Minnesota feature new coaches, so nothing’s a guarantee. I project we split the toss-ups, then pull one upset out of the reach games. Five wins out of the likelies, two from the toss-ups, one from the reaches = 8-4.
I think the high ceiling for the team would be winning all the likelies, going 3-1 in the toss-ups, and 2-1 in the reaches, for a total record of 10-2. It’s plausible, but highly dependent on Persa’s health, our defense emerging, and our special teams being special.
On the other hand, we’re entirely capable of dropping one of the likelies, going 1-3 in the toss-ups, and losing all three of the reaches, for a record of 5-7.
The key game for me will be Army in Week 3. I can see the BC opener going either way, and while Week 2 against E. Illinois should be an easy win, the third game will show whether the team has fixed any early problems, has the mental fortitude to recover from a loss if they drop the opener, or on the flip side, is capable of putting the pedal to the metal and being solid in all three phases of the game in what could be a three-game winning streak to start off the year. Also, by Week 3, we’ll know how Dan Persa’s health is holding up, or, if he’s still gimpy, what Kain Colter brings to the table. If we can get off to a 3-0 start, I’ll be feeling pretty good about the season.
In conclusion, I’ll stick with the middle-of-the-road prediction, erring on the side of homerism, and predict 8-4 overall, 5-3 in conference, with another bowl trip to Texas.
Record: 8-4 (4-4)
Finish: T-3rd in Legends Division (Specific enough for ya?)
Bowl?: Meineke Car Care Bowl
EXPLAIN YOURSELF: Let me summarize: I have no clue about how Northwestern will do. Well, actually, I have one clue, but unfortunately for me, the clue is hidden inside Dan Persa's lower leg. However, even for a season with so much riding on one man's possibly healed tendon, a large amount of NU's season is knowable. Unless something goes wrong, the Cats will not drop games to EIU, Rice, Army, Indiana, or Minnesota. We also know a win against Nebraska looks unattainable and I'm starting to think Michigan State will do unspeakable things to NU's defense. Let's imagine for a second that Northwestern doesn't have Dan Persa. Even with Replacement Level Northwestern Quarterback in, I like to think NU still wins those games. Remember that NU lost - but looked alright against - a team that won seven games in the Big 12 last year and beat a ranked Mizzou squad. Now those backup QB's have had a year - we've seen what a year can do to a hastily summoned backup QB - and lots of other units on the team, like the secondary, seem improved. I have convinced myself the offensive line will come together and allow NU to have a running game.
The question is, what will Dan Persa's Value Over Replacement Northwestern QB, or, as it's abbreviated in sabermetric circles, VOEW, be? I don't think he'll be as good as he was last year. I think Colter will play a big role. But I think with semi-good Persa and an improved Colter, NU is a team poised to do some things. I think Northwestern will beat Boston College next week, but just for whatever's sake, let's pretend it's half a win.
Between Illinois, Iowa, Penn State, and Michigan, I wouldn't be surprised if NU went 4-0 or 0-4. These four games are the crux of NU's season. (supposing I'm right about them being able to do their job in the non-con.) Show up, NU is a Big Ten contender. Limp instead of pimp walk, we're near missing a bowl. Be Northwestern, they'll probably go 2-2. Michigan and Iowa are in pretty much the same 8-winny boat, I think we'll finish around them but get jumped.
CAVEAT: This all goes in the tank should NU lose against BC.