Northwestern Wildcats Preview 2022: Previewing, predicting, and looking ahead to the Northwestern season with what you need to know and keys to the season.
Northwestern Wildcats Preview
Pat Fitzgerald: 109-90, 17th year at Northwestern
2021 Preview: Overall: 3-9, Conference: 1-8
Keys To The Season
Season Prediction, What Will Happen
Northwestern Top 10 Players
Northwestern Schedule & Analysis
Northwestern Wildcats Preview 2022
You try to figure out what Northwestern is going to do.
Miserable in 2019, it came back from a 3-9 season to go 7-2 with one of those losses to Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship.
Last year’s team was supposed to be better in a whole slew of ways, and …
Very, very nope.
Bad defense, worse offense, and another 3-9 season with a team that didn’t score more than 14 points in any of the six games and in seven of the last eight. So of course …
Book tickets for Indianapolis in early December.
Pat Fitzgerald had two straight 5-7 seasons in 2013 and 2014, and that’s been the only time in 16 years the program that was once synonymous with losing had two straight losing seasons.
This year’s team has the experience to be better, but the execution has to be there and the style has to work.
Northwestern has to make teams play its style, and that only works if the defense is great because …
Northwestern Wildcats Preview 2022: Offense
The Northwestern is the Northwestern offense. It’s not like the 2018 version that went to the Big Ten Championship lit it up, and the 2020 O only scored more than 28 in the opener and the bowl game.
For this all to work, the offense has to hit its third down conversions (it didn’t), it can’t turn the ball over (not even close), and the passing game has to be efficient (nyuh-uh). However …
This year’s offensive line should be a positive. Four starters are expected back around terrific left tackle Peter Skoronski, and there’s a little bit of depth to play around with. The running game that averaged 144 yards per game now has to do more.
The Wildcats ripped up Ohio and Indiana State on the ground, and that was about it. The 2020 version wasn’t great, but the 3.74 yards per carry were actually slightly more than they came up with in 2020. The combination of Evan Hull and Andrew Clair are experienced enough to be at least as good as last year.
The Wildcats couldn’t settle on a quarterback, and now it’s down to two. Hunter Johnson went back to Clemson, and Andrew Marty is done, but former South Carolina starter Ryan Hilinski and redshirt freshman Brendan Sullivan will keep battling it out through fall camp.
No. 2 receiver Malik Washington caught 44 passes for 578 yards and two scores, but the Wildcats need more downfield playmakers. Hull will make a slew of catches out of the backfield.
Overall, here’s the part that gets lost over the years. Even when Northwestern is winning the offense isn’t any good. That’s sort of part of the deal and the style – in a weird way – however …
Northwestern Wildcats Preview 2022: Defense
Northwestern can’t win unless the defense is great. The 2020 version allowed just 4.86 yards per play, and the program hadn’t given up more than five yards per snap since allowing 6.13 in 2011. Last year? 6.15 yards per play.
The defense didn’t generate any pressure, was the second worst in the Big Ten overall, and was totally miserable against the run with the worst production in the conference. Unfortunately, this might take a little more work.
The Wildcats have a great one in Bryce Gallagher in the middle of the linebacking corps, but 141-tackle Chris Bergin is gone from the outside. It’s Northwestern – Pat Fitzgerald’s linebackers are going to be great – but there could be a learning curve.
The defensive front is also undergoing an overhaul. Adetomiwa Adebawore is a good veteran pass rusher, but the tackles are coming from the transfer portal. Taishan Holmes (UMass), Ryan Johnson (Stanford), and Henrik Barndt (Indiana State) had better be great, or this will be a long season.
The secondary lost a future NFL starter in safety Brandon Joseph. Two problems: 1) Northwestern only came up with six interceptions and 2) none of those are coming back – Joseph led the team with two.
He’s off to Notre Dame, but the other three starters should be back including good tackler Coco Azema at the other safety spot and the corner tandem of Cameron Mitchell and AJ Hampton.