Northwestern Wildcats vs UNLV Rebels Game Preview


The QB1A and QB1B bit didn’t work out at all for the Northwestern Wildcats, who played well enough win their opener on the road at #25 Stanford, but fell just short due to a lack of offensive productivity.

The Northwestern defense was game in Palo Alto, but the NU passing game was pretty much non-existent, and the Cats will look to get that going in week two when they host the UNLV Rebels. On Thursday, Northwestern Coach Pat Fitzgerald verified what had already been widely reported the previous Saturday- QB1B T.J. Green had foot surgery and is out for the season.

That means the gig belong solely belongs to Clemson transfer and former 5-star recruit Hunter Johnson. Perhaps not having to look over his shoulder will now accelerate his development?

In looking at the FYIs for this one, you’ll see that there’s a really big spread on this game. Northwestern is favored by 19 (-110), with some books going -20. It’s good to consult whenever you are considering betting on a game where both teams are winless agains the spread this season, and that’s exactly what we have here. The over/under is currently unavailable.

The game will kick off at 2:30 central time on Sept. 14 at Ryan Field in Evanston, Illinois. It will broadcast on BTN and WGN Radio.

hunter johnson

Out that door Baby bye bye bye…bye bye

It is very odd that Northwestern would have a bye so early in the season, in week two (Notre Dame does as well). Fitzgerald explained why the team had a bye this past week:

“I think especially after a tough game, I mean that was a tough trip. We didn’t get home until 2:30 in the morning. 88 degree day. Guys should be tired. When this years schedule, how many ever years ago, we had the option of having a game this week or a bye.

“Jim and I chose to have the bye for the specific reason of knowing the trip would be hard… we anticipated a night game, we got an afternoon game. So, it was kind of by design, especially on Monday and Tuesday to kind of get away, recharge mentally and physically.”

He later added that the bye comes at a good time for his team.

Foodstagram or Foodie Porn

“I heard there is a breaded steak sandwich. So I’m pretty stoked about that, it’s kind of right up my alley.

In addition to previewing the game, we’re also previewing the new concession stand items at Ryan Field this year,” said Fitz, before disavowing any awareness of the plant based burger (upon being asked), which is also newly available at the stadium this year.

Fitz also claimed ignorance about the well publicized Green Bay Packers pursuit of him during the holidays (the food tasting and press conference was held the morning of the Bears and Packers opening the 100th NFL season).  We more than acknowledge the beyond burger, we actually think it was one of the best items we sampled at Spiagga this past Thursday.

The peri peri chicken sandwich on naan bread is perfect for anyone who wants a game day food item with a kick. The Asian meatball, loaded nachos and bacon avocado burger are can’t miss either. Levy Restaurants continues to deliver the goods. For more on the new food items, check out my Foodstagram gallery at this link.

And the tweets embedded in this Northwestern Wildcats game preview.

Northwestern Wildcats Preview:

In addition to Green, Northwestern also saw their lead RB Isaiah Bowser leave the Stanford loss early due to injury. He has been ruled out for Saturday, as have back up DEs Eku Leota and Devin O’Rourke.

As for Johnson, well, his NU career is off to a rough start. Given how much NU, and the recruiting services hyped him up, a lot was expected in his debut. When he fell well short of those expectations, he was fair game for heavy criticism. Period.

“I thought he gave us a chance to win and I think he’s really going to learn and grow from it,” Fitz said about Johnson’s debut.

“He had a really good practice today… The sky’s not falling. I don’t want to be disrespectful to you guys [the media] but we’re in a one score game with a first time starting quarterback on the road against a top 25 team. He’s got a lot of room for improvement and he will.”

It’s just one game, so you don’t want to read too much into one result, but it certainly didn’t help that Stanford got absolutely throttled by USC, a team may expected to be mediocre, in week two.

NU’s defense is certainly well ahead of its offense right now, but that unit really needs to cut down on the missed tackles:

“It’s a fundamental technique thing,” Fitz explained. 

northwestern wildcats

“If you look at A.J.’s (Hampton) missed tackles, he ducked his head, he lunged, he was out of control. (It’s a) simple thing that can be fixed. Same thing with Travis (Whillock).”

“(He) ducked his head, lunged, out of control. Gally (Blake Gallagher), overran the ball on the one because he had (to cover) two thirds of the field.. And the other one didn’t play to his help… All things that can be fixed.

“Those are probably the three guys that missed the most tackles.”


UNLV Rebels Preview: 

UNLV, yes the name evokes so much tradition and historical glory. The Runnin’ Rebs, Jerry Tarkanian, 1991, Larry Johnson, Stacy Augmon, oh wait, this is football?!

Well, it’s a totally different story then. UNLV hasn’t been to a bowl game since 2013 and hasn’t won a conference crown since 1994, back when they were in the Big West. Coming off a 5th place showing in the Mountain West, fifth year Rebels head coach Tony Sanchez needs to find a way to scrape six wins together and get this program back to a bowl game.

They’re off to a rough start having been blown 43-17 out by an Arkansas St. team last night that many believed they were on equal footing with.


Quarterback Armani Rogers was expected to be a tour de force in the RPO game this season, but two contests in, he might be benched. His performance versus ASU was certainly worthy of a demotion.

Sanchez, whose team beat Southern Utah 56-23 in the season opener, maintains that every gig is up for grabs now. 

“We’ve got to challenge some of these young guys to fight some of these older guys for jobs” Sanchez said. “We’ve got to get going in the passing game and at the quarterback spot. If there’s got to be a little bit of a battle there, then I think we’re going to talk about that.”


Running back Charles Williams had a nice game in the opening-week win, rushing for 143 yards and three touchdowns on just 15 carries. Rogers got it done with his feet as well, adding 114 yards and two scores.

However, UNLV’s defense was porous last season, and it doesn’t look they have improved much. The Rebels also have a tendency to be their own worst enemies, as unforced errors have been quite common.

That’s a dream match-up for Northwestern, who typically don’t beat themselves and let their opponents self-destruct.

Prediction: Northwestern Wildcats 27, UNLV Rebels 6

It’s not every pre-conference season that Northwestern loses a game it really shouldn’t. It just feels that way. NU has also made a habit of losing games in September by a very wide margin match-ups that were even on paper (See Duke).

And of course the slow start eventually yields a strong finish (see last year, 2016).   

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, the author of “No,  I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” regularly appears on WGN CLTV and co-hosts the “Let’s Get Weird, Sports” podcast on SB Nation

You can follow Banks, a former writer for NBC and Chicago on Twitter here and his cat on Instagram at this link.

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