Northwestern has made it to four consecutive bowl games, but its win total has dropped by a game each year since its nine-win 2008 season. This year, the Wildcats bowl streak will come to an end and their dropping win total will continue.
The Wildcats will face a much easier first-half schedule this season but loses their veteran senior signal caller Dan Persa. They return the left side of their offensive line and have a deep and experienced receiving corps, but the defense still leaks like a sieve. The second half of the conference schedule will expose the true nature of this rebuilding team.
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Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald has led the Wildcats for six seasons and has compiled a 40-36 record over that time. He has had success with undersized and fast offensive players running his fast-paced offense.
Fitzgerald for years has been attempting to revamp the offensive line with a heavy focus on recruiting that position. This has not translated to success on the field yet as they have surrendered 42 sacks last season and their leading running back had only 107 carries for 471 yards.
Fitzgerald’s hurry-up offense will continue to throw short routes to speedy receivers and the defense will attempt to improve with all three starting linebackers returning. The stability of the coaching staff and schemes only help the undersized Wildcats.
Last year’s Persa has moved on after graduation and the reins will be handed off to true slash quarterback Kain Colter. Colter threw the ball 81 times last season while leading the team in rushing attempts (135) and he finished third in receptions (43).
The Wildcats run the hurry-up offense to keep the bigger, slower defensive players in the Big Ten on their heels. Colter has experience in this offense, but has not run the offense on a consistent basis.
The receiving corps returns two starters and are very athletic inside and out at the position. They will run four-wide sets with regularity, attempting to spread the field.
Northwestern will return five starters on defense, including all three linebackers. The defensive line will be flipped with a younger group that will attempt to improve on the conference-worst 17 sacks.
Along with the lousy sack total, Northwestern sported the worst passing defense as well. The Wildcats gave up 232 yards per game and 16 touchdowns through the air.
This unit will continue to struggle, depending on inexperienced players to start and cover legitimate Big Ten receivers from the likes of Michigan and Michigan State.
2012 Northwestern Wildcats Futures Odds
Bovada Sportsbook has Northwestern as a 35/1 play to win the Big Ten Title and a 15/1 play to win the Big Ten Legends Division. Neither of these lines should come into play with the much tougher Michigan, Michigan State and Nebraska in the Legends Division with them.
2012 Northwestern Wildcats Football Schedule Analysis
Northwestern did their young roster a favor by playing four of its first five games at home and their first conference game against the lowly Indiana Hoosiers. This should allow them to gain some comfort before getting slaughtered during the second half of their conference schedule.
Boston College will be an interesting test on Sept 15 as the Wildcats defeated the Eagles on the road last year. Boston College still isn’t the powerhouse of yesteryear, but it will look for revenge against an inexperienced team with a young quarterback. The Eagles should be a good play for a straight win.
Even though this Northwestern team is a not nearly as good as last season, it could realistically start the season 7-0 with the ease of the schedule. The second half of the season will be brutal against Nebraska and back-to-back road games against Michigan and Michigan State. Both the Wolverines and the Spartans will easily cover the spread in those games.
2012 Northwestern Wildcats Football Predictions
The 2012 Northwestern Wildcats have the stability of a veteran coaching staff to try and guide their new, young players. This will benefit the team over the next couple years, but this season will be a struggle, as these new starters will need to gain experience.
Colter will need to stay healthy and play the quarterback position for the majority of snaps. That will eliminate some of the surprise formations and routes that Northwestern was able to run last season when Colter lined up at wide out, running back and quarterback.
The team will depend on its fast-paced offense to try and circumnavigate the stronger and more physical Big Ten defenses and may have some success early in the schedule, but this team will not be able to keep up with the powerhouse squads of the Big Ten.
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