Northwestern has already eclipsed last season’s win total, and they did so in just four weeks. They have also finally found a QB again, as Ben Bryant has now locked down the position. They have a legit WR1 now too, in Bryce Kirtz, the reigning Big Ten offensive player of the week.
Just in time too, as the #6 Penn State Nittany Lions come to town as massive favorites. It’s too bad Northwestern fans are MIA this season, because the chance to see a top ten team in your background doesn’t come around all the time.
SATURDAY, September 30, 11 a.m. CT
#6 Penn State vs. Northwestern | Ryan Field, Evanston, Illinois
The world’s smallest student field rush. pic.twitter.com/5a8InQjZtA
— Louie Vaccher (@WildcatReport) September 24, 2023
As you can see from the tweet above, barely anyone was on hand to see the Wildcats come from behind to beat the Minnesota Golden Gophers in overtime.
It was an exciting game, to be sure, but NU fans just haven’t shown up at all this far this season. The attendance has been absolutely abysmal.
And the Wildcats’ rally caught so many people off-guard that even the Chicago Tribune, the paper of the Joseph Medill himself, totally dropped the ball.
I woke up this morning to read a line in the Chicago Tribune stating “Northwestern’s furious rally falls just short in a 31-24 loss to Minnesota in Evanston “.
Guess we were at different games. pic.twitter.com/ld51SZ4gds
— Tony Powers (@tpowers60) September 24, 2023
Northwestern (2-2, 1-1) Preview
Kirtz, a senior wideout, racked up 10 receptions for 215 yards last week, marking the fourth highest single-game receiving yard total in school history.
He also had an 80-yard TD reception that is tied for the sixth longest pass play in school history. Bryant finished 33-49 for 396 yards, 4 TDs, no INTs.
It feels like forever since Northwestern had a near 400-yard passer!
The Cats really need to shore up their run defense though, as Minnesota freshman Darius Taylor toted the rock 31 times for 198 yards and two touchdowns.
The Detroit native currently leads the Big Ten is rushing yards (532) and attempts (87). Nicholas Singleton and Kaytron Allen can easily exploit this.
#6 Penn State (4-0, 2-0) Preview
Sophomore Drew Allar was the #2 rated recruit, overall, in his class, and the top quarterback prospect. When all is said and done, how many Heisman trophies will he win?
Will he end up more productive and efficient than Sean Clifford? Or as overrated as Christian Hackenberg?
Or somewhere in between?
Until proven otherwise, James Franklin remains the new Ron Zook- elite recruiter, lacking as an actual gameday coach. He is what he is. To his credit, Franklin gets the 5-stars, and this group is as talented as he’s ever had.
Maybe this is the year PSU finally does what 2015 Michigan State did- found a way to usurp the Big Ten’s big two (both from the East division), and to make the playoff.
You got to love what the defense did to Iowa and their laughably incompetent OC Brian Ferentz last week. The Nittany Lions really threw a nail into the tire of Ferentz’s incentive based pay ride.
The most notorious nepotism hire in Big Ten football history is hoping to average 25 points per game, and that goose egg certainly drops the average.
Penn State 42, Northwestern 20
Northwestern has actually only played two real halves of football so far this season, the only two times their offense showed up (second halves versus UTEP, Minnesota). They keep starting slow, and if that happens again here, they will get absolutely buried.
However, I still wouldn’t pick PSU to cover, because NU will likely window dress the score in garbage time.
Paul M. Banks is the owner/manager of The Sports Bank. He’s also the author of “Transatlantic Passage: How the English Premier League Redefined Soccer in America,” and “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry.”
He’s written for numerous publications, including the New York Daily News, Sports Illustrated and the Chicago Tribune. He regularly appears on NTD News and WGN News Now. Follow the website on Twitter and Instagram.