A couple weeks ago I made note at how everyone in an Athlon Sports roundtable was picking Northwestern to beat Michigan this season, except for me. As I have been saying all summer, Northwestern is receiving a lot of hype heading in to the 2013 season but I just cannot buy in as much as others seem to be doing. This is no disrespect intended toward the Wildcats of course. Those who have been reading or following me for a while know how much respect I have for Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald, a coach I believe has been getting more out of less throughout his career. Now that he has some actual talent to work with, watching Northwestern has been very enjoyable these past few years.
Northwestern is a program that may lack the depth needed to make a serious run for a Big Ten championship, but they will play to the final whistle the way few teams will. Unfortunately, the Wildcats have failed at times to finish off games on a high note and better conditioned teams manage to slip away with a win. But that trend appears to be changing if last year was any indication and last year Northwestern defeated not one but two opponents from the SEC. This may be why Northwestern has become a sort of trendy pick to come out of the competitive Legends Division ahead of Nebraska, Michigan and Michigan State.
Here is what I like about Northwestern. They have one of the best coaches in the conference in Pat Fitzgerald, one of the top playmakers in Venric Mark and one of the Big Ten’s top quarterbacks in Kain Colter. What concerns me is their defensive depth, a secondary that should be able to be passed on and their schedule.
The truth is, Northwestern’s schedule is not easy but it is set up nicely. The Wildcats have a bye week out of non-conference play before hosting Big Ten favorite Ohio State, but the following week they play at Wisconsin. The Buckeyes are also coming off a home game against Wisconsin while the Wildcats rest up and prepare. Northwestern does play at Nebraska but that clearly is not something that worries this team. Northwestern also gets a bye week before hosting Michigan and they host Michigan State the following week in November. The three-game stretch in November with the Huskers, Wolverines and Spartans could be brutal, but the way it is laid out could be a benefit.
When all is said and done, I have Northwestern ending the regular season with eight wins. This is a good team and they are capable of reaching Indianapolis at the end of the year. I just don’t think everything falls in to place for Northwestern for that to happen. I like Northwestern. I don’t love them.
Check out how my picks compared to members of the Athlon Sports team as well as Big Ten Network blogger Brent Yarina. How many wins are you predicting for Northwestern in 2013?