Preview 2018: Northwestern Wildcats. Is This Really A Power Program Now?

Preview 2018: Northwestern Wildcats. Is This Really A Power Program Now?

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Preview 2018: Northwestern Wildcats. Is This Really A Power Program Now?


What You Need To Know About The Northwestern Offense

The Northwestern offense roared over the second half of last season, putting up 31 points or more five times in the final seven regular season games – all wins – even though it struggled on third downs, didn’t do much deep, and wasn’t anything special on the ground. Fourth in the Big Ten, NU averaged 408 yards and 29 points per game, Now it gets back seven starters, but loses the stars in the running game.

– The O line was mediocre in pass protection and gave up a few too many plays in the backfield, but four starters are back, starting with all-star Tommy Doles at one of the guard spots. This isn’t a big line, but it’s versatile, and it can move. This year, it’ll have to do even more to pave the way for a ground attack that loses four-time 1,000-yard back Justin Jackson.

Jeremy Larkin is the leading returning rusher coming off a 503-yard, five-score year averaging six yards per carry. In a perfect world, new recruit Isaiah Bowser makes a bit early splash, and other veteran parts – like 203-pound John Moten and speedy Jesse Brown – can play bigger roles.

– Is Clayton Thorson healthy and able to go? The pro prospect quarterback announced he was coming back for another year, and then blew out his knee in the Music City Bowl win over Kentucky. He’s expected to be ready to roll by September, but that would be just nine months past the injury. Even when he was 100%, he gave up 12 picks for a Wildcat passing game that was fine, but hardly amazing.

If he can’t go, it’s panic time. Clemson super-transfer Hunter Johnson won’t be eligible until next season, meaning relatively untested options TJ Green and Aidan Smith have to try making up for Thorson’s experience.

There aren’t a slew of household names in the Wildcat receiving corps, but leading targets Bennett Skowronek and Flynn Nagel are effective enough to work around after combining for 93 catches for over 1,100 yards and seven scores.

Biggest Key To The Northwestern Offense

Just don’t turn the ball over. What was the biggest difference over the 8-0 finish after the 2-3 start? The turnovers slowed down.

The defense was good enough to win with, and it will be again, but it’s not good enough to be put in bad positions. With the way the Northwestern world works, there can’t be a slew of mistakes, and there’s a problem when the offense has to press.

Throw in the win over Maryland to kick off the big streak, and Northwestern gave up the ball 14 times over the first six games of the season as the team was in the negative on turnover margin four times and -6 overall. Over the last seven games? Four turnovers, never lost the turnover battle, and the team was a +13.

NEXT: Defense Breakdown, Top Players, Final Prediction & What Will Happen

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