The other day, we asked you what you thought Northwestern's best-case scenario was. Then we turned around and asked you what Northwestern's worst-case scenario was.
Well, with two days left to the season, a final question: what actually happens to Northwestern this year?
Everything, it seems, has gone right. The team had one of the best seasons in program history last year, won a bowl, and brought back all the good guys. It's exciting, and there's other teams that are just as talented as Northwestern out there. It's plausible for NU to go 6-6 or so, like we said the other day, and it's possible for them to win the Big Ten Championship. But in our heart of hearts, what do we believe?
Again, we asked SoP's writers, and the poll and comments are for you.
Northwestern sweeps the non-conference schedule, showing an improved passing game and several talented pass rushers. The early surge doesn't last into conference play, which begins with a pair of losses to Ohio State and Wisconsin, but wins against Minnesota, Iowa, and Nebraska leave the Cats with an outside shot at winning the division.
A pair of losses to the Michigans ends that hope, but a season-ending blowout of Illinois, capping their second straight winless conference season, gets the Cats back to .500 in conference play and into a mid-tier bowl.
Record: 8-4 (4-4)
I should probably "expect" a surprise narrative to emerge (could it be that more running backs emerge? Prater ascendance makes 'Cat WR unit the best in B1G? Ifeadi Odenigbo becomes a Jadevon Clowney on the lake?), but I don't think we'll get everything to roll our way. I see us going 4-0, but then losing a tough game to OSU. I can also see losses at Lincoln, NE and against Michigan at home (Brady Hoke has his squad moving in the right direction), and we lose a 50/50 game (either at Wisky or at Iowa.).
We end up 8-4 (4-4) and mid-tier bowl: Buffalo Wild Wings?, which seems worse than last year in numbers, but given the strength of schedule compared to '12, I'd still say it was a successful year.
NU takes advantage of a shaky debut by Cal QB Jared Goff and wins the opener. In fact, NU sweeps the non-conference, setting up the big, hyped showdown with the Ohio State Buckeyes. I've got NU pulling the upset here, but in a let-down, I also see the Wildcats losing at Wisconsin.
That loss wakes the 'Cats up, and they go on to handle Minnesota and Iowa.At 7-1, the Wildcats are right at the cusp of the top 10 in the polls, and a statement win at Nebraska vaults them in. After a bye week, though, NU is rusty coming out the gate and loses to a motivated Michigan squad. NU recovers to beat Michigan State and then Illinois, giving the team 10 wins for the second straight year, with a chance for 11 in the bowl game.
NU record: 10-2
Division standing: 2nd
Bowl: Capital One
I'll say the same thing smarter people have said: I think this team is better than last year's, just in terms of having another year of development, but I think the schedule is tougher. I think NU sweeps the non-con, but Ohio State and Wisconsin have the Cats starting the Big Ten season 0-2, and although they recover by winning the games they should and beating Michigan State -- I really think they're bad -- and one of Nebraska/Michigan.
It's not good enough for Indy since everybody else in the division has easier schedules, but it's good enough for a solid bowl and another chance for 10 wins.
Record: 9-3 (5-3)
Division standing: 3rd
What y'all think is gonna happen?
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