Northwestern Football Game Preview, Prediction vs Nevada

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pat fitzgerald

Up until last season, against P.J. Fleck and Western Michigan, Northwestern football coach Pat Fitzgerald had won every single season opener of his career except one (California 2014). Considering that he’s been on the job since 2006, it’s impressively consistent. Former Chicago Bears Head Coach Dave Wannstedt articulated what the key to building and maintaining a program has been for Fitzgerald.

“He’s got the blueprint of what he wants to do from a program standpoint, they got an identity,” Wannstedt said during our exclusive with him at B1G Media Day.

dave-wannstedt

Wannstedt also coached at his alma mater, so he can relate.  

“They have great support from the administration. The situation is a little bit like what I had at Pitt he’s a Northwestern guy. He’s had success there, he’s committed to the kids and the program. That’s what you’re looking for. If you had a son or I had a son I’d love him to go to Northwestern and play for Fitz.”

SPREAD: Northwestern football -24

KICKOFF: 2:30 PM CDT Saturday Sept 1

Northwestern football Preview: 

Northwestern QB1 Clayton Thorson has slowly but steadily developed during his two years, and the next step for him could be “the league.” A year ago, when NU sputtered to a 1-3 start, and the offense plodded along in doldrums of inefficiency, not many would be talking Clayton Thorson and NFL Draft stock in the same sentence.

However, Thorson and the offense finally woke up in week five at Iowa, and they did so in a huge manner. The Cats won 38-31, and Thorson began an individual stretch that saw him throw 17 TDs and five INTS in the final nine games of the season.

The redshirt junior saw his TD-INT ratio improve from 7:9 to 22:9, with those 22 touchdown tosses setting a new school record. He also improved his completion percentage by 7.8 percentage points.

Thorson has shot up the NFL draft position rankings put out by so-called draftniks and it’s possible, if he continues to progress and has another great season, he could go early entry to the NFL

Defensively, the Cats only lose two starters from last season, and just two from the second unit. It’s the tackles however, who will be the strength of the front seven in Jordan Thompson and Tyler Lancaster. Both are disruptive, with potential for major breakout seasons.

Lancaster is simply one of the strongest men in college football. He’s entering his third year as a starter for the Wildcats, anchoring a group that’s considered to be a major strength in the team. He can deadlift 740 pounds, and also possesses a broad jump of 9’4” and a 27-inch vertical. Remember he does all this at 310 pounds!

However, the specific feat of strength most associated with Tyler Lancaster is the 37 bench press reps he did of 225. It’s an accomplishment described by teammate Godwin Igwebuike as “scary.” Here’s a link to more on Lancaster.

Here is a photo of him flexing for the crowd on Meet the Team Night at Ryan Field.

northwestern football tyler lancaster

Speaking of Meet the Team night, it was a chance for attendees to check out the new Northwestern football stadium concessions offerings this season. We give you the details on that over at this link, with this preview via social media.

If you’re going to Ryan Field this fall, then I hope you’re ready to get your #foodporn and #foodstagram on, because we’ve got a lot of mouth-watering photos posted here now, via both Twitter and Instagram.

(We also discussed this event on the weekly podcast, with WBBM News Radio’s Dave Kerner)

nevada_cheerleaders

Nevada Wolfpack Preview

Street and Smith’s picks the Wolfpack to finish 5th in their Mountain West division. Athlon goes 4th, but rates the silver state school 115th nationally (out of 130), matching their slotting of QB1 David Cornwell.  Lindy’s has these guys projected 113th, and points out how they now have a very passing oriented coach, taking over a run first kind of team with rushing game first kind of personnel.

It’s easy to see why NU are favored by three touchdowns and a field goal in this one. Maybe the most interesting thing about Nevada football (well sort of connected to the program anyhow) right now is what’s going on with their most famous individual alumnus Colin Kaepernick. Here’s a link to more on #ImWithKap

tyler lancaster

Prediction for novelty purposes only: Northwestern football 38, Nevada 10

We’re not going to learn a whole lot about who this Wildcats team is or what they could really accomplish this season. However, this opponent is the perfect way to ease into the season. Thorson really has made tremendous strides since he assumed the starting role as a redshirt freshman in 2015.

“It’s night and day. It’s totally different,” said Fitzgerald. “You’re a freshman starting quarterback, your eyes are as wide as they can be and you’re just making sure you get the snap. Now there’s no doubt that this is his offense and this is his team. It’s the maturation of a quarterback. He’s completely different. It’s been fun to watch.”

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net and TheBank.News, which is partnered with News Now and Minute Media. Banks, a former writer for the Washington Times, NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com, currently contributes regularly to WGN CLTV and Chicago Now.

Follow him on TwitterInstagramSound Cloud, LinkedIn and YouTube

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