2017 Prespring Rankings: No. 35 Northwestern Wildcats
The 2017 prespring college football rankings, taking the first look at the Northwestern Wildcats
No. 35: Northwestern Wildcats
Northwestern Wildcats Prespring Status
Forget that the 7-6 record wasn’t as strong as the 10-3 2016 run, but in several ways it was an even more successful season in terms of fight. The team could’ve gone into the tank after a 1-3 start, bottoming out with a home loss to Illinois State, but instead it went 6-3 the rest of the way, battled to get into a bowl game, and shocked a high-powered Pitt for just the program’s third ever postseason win in 13 tries.
This year’s team should be even more interesting. This might not be Pat Fitzgerald’s best team, but it’ll be one of the most experienced. Top target Austin Carr is gone, and tackling machine Anthony Walker left early, but nine starters are back on offense to who along with the nine returning to the D.
Northwestern Wildcats Biggest Issue
Yeah, there are only a few personnel losses, but they’re major for a program that doesn’t just instantly replace one top talent with another. Carr led the team with 90 catches for 1,247 yards and 12 scores, while the second-leading receiver caught just 40 passes. Third-leading target – at least in terms of yards – Andrew Scanlan is gone, too. Walker is the bigger problem, coming up with 225 tackles over the last two seasons and turning into one of the Big Ten’s most dangerous playmakers in the backfield.
Northwestern Wildcats Biggest Positive
Is Clayton Thorson the hidden NFL starting quarterback that Trevor Siemian became? The 6-4, 220-pounder is coming into his own, and while he needs to be more accurate, he showed last year he could bomb away when needed, adding a downfield element to the Wildcat offense. He doesn’t have Carr to throw to anymore, but he’s got 1,524-yard, 15 touchdown back Justin Jackson in the backfield to hand off to, and a solid line to work behind. The Cats have to be a bit better in pass protection, but four starters return up front.
Really, Why Are The Northwestern Wildcats Ranked Here?
There’s not enough talent to take the Big Ten title, but the offense has as good a backfield as anyone in the conference, the lines should be solid, and the Godwin Igwebuike secondary should be terrific. The Cats need a new kicker for Jack Mitchell, and again, the few losses are big, but there’s no reason to expect anything less than another bowl season.