Preview 2018: Previewing and looking ahead to the Northwestern Wildcats season with what you need to know.
Preview 2018: Northwestern Wildcats
– What You Need To Know: Offense | Defense
– Top Players, Key Game, Fun Stats
– What Will Happen & Win Total Prediction
– Recruiting Class Analysis | Schedule Analysis
– Northwestern Previews 2017 | 2016 | 2015
The staying power is finally here.
With a second ten-win season in three years and a third in six years, Northwestern is well past the point of just being some try-hard, feel-good-story program under Pat Fitzgerald.
After years and years of pushing, on the low end, this is a regular team in the bowl pecking order, and in a perfect world, Fitzgerald might be on the verge of creating another Stanford.
The pivot to go from Point B to C – meaning being a player in the conference championship race – could be coming soon.
The practice facilities are amazing, Fitzgerald just landed former Clemson super-recruit quarterback Hunter Johnson for 2019, and the results are there to finally recognize Northwestern football as a true success.
How good have the Wildcats been? They have more double-digit win seasons over the last six years than Penn State, Michigan, Nebraska and Iowa. In the Big Ten, only Ohio State, Wisconsin and Michigan State have done more over the span.
But this year can’t just be another stepping-stone to something potentially better. This is it. This is when the Cats have to take that terrific 2017 season and do even more.
Northwestern going to a bowl game – and winning it – is no longer just a cute novelty. It’s a demand, no matter how tough the schedule appears to be.
There’s no Ohio State or Penn State to deal with from the East, and Nebraska, Minnesota, and Illinois – while improved – aren’t going to be loaded quite yet.
There are dangerous games against Purdue, Michigan State and Iowa on the road, but the Cats have the self-proclaimed “best home schedule in college football,” getting Michigan and Wisconsin in Evanston.
But even with the increased expectations and the overdelivering over the last several years, this year’s team will still be disrespected and underrated – and for good reason.
Is QB Clayton Thorson really ready to go coming off his knee injury?
Is it really possible to replace RB Justin Jackson, will the line be better in pass protection, and can there be more explosion from the receiving corps?
Can the Big Ten’s worst pass defense replace three strong starters and be better? Is there enough developed depth on the front seven to once again be great against the run and in the backfield?
And can this program continue to find ways to get the job done, winning four tight battles over the final seven games that could’ve easily have gone the other way?
The answers to most of those questions is probably either “no” or “not sure yet.” But you go try telling Fitzgerald that this team can’t win ten games again.
You try telling him that Northwestern can’t play for a Big Ten championship.