Pre-Season Countdown: #6

The sixth most difficult game on the schedule this season is . . .

NORTHWESTERN.

This game is sandwiched between home games with Purdue and Illinois. 

The Wildcats return a remarkable 17 starters, with an offense almost completely intact.  The Prince of Persa returns as starting quarterback.

Last season, Penn State fell behind by 21 points in the first half, only to roar back to a 35-21 victory that gave Joe Paterno win #400.  Interestingly, Penn State has a pretty good chance of going into this game 6-1 (with a loss to Bama) which would put Paterno at 407 victories.  A win against the Wildcats would tie Eddie Robinson’s record at Grambling.  IF–and its an if the size of an elephant–Penn State rolls into Evanston undefeated, it would be a chance to break that record.  Either way, there may be some historical excitement accompanying this game again.

I’m surprised that Northwestern doesn’t have a better defense.  They ranked 97th in the country last year and will lose three of their front seven.  I’m surprised, of course, since Fitzgerald was a tenacious linebacker.  Maybe I expect too much.

But Northwestern always seems to be one of those opponents dubbed as a trap game for some reason.  In fact, this idiosyncrasy made it into a top five list of potential message board meltdowns this season:

5. The Northwestern Trap Game – I love this argument because this year it can actually happen. If this were to happen, all of the previous meltdowns would merge into one massive meltdown where… I don’t even want to think about this one…

Obviously, Northwestern has that capability to come up with a marquee win now and then.  They knocked off Iowa last year the week after blowing a three touchdown lead to Penn State.  Then they lost to Illinois and followed up with a blowout loss to the badgers, giving up 70 points.  Of course, I believe Persa was out at that point, but 70 points off a defense has nothing to do with the starting quarterback.

But with a schedule that includes Eastern Illinois, Army, and Rice, the Wildcats look capable of keeping their head above .500 and seeking a fourth straight bowl appearance.

While we will be coming off a homecoming game against Purdue, Northwestern will be returning from a trip to Iowa.  That’s never a good thing.

Prediction:  I think Penn State will be 6-1 going into this game and building momentum.  I look for a shaky start, a solid third quarter and pulling away with a win by at least 10 points.  Don’t ask me why.  It’s just a feeling I have.  It might be gas.

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Filed under analysis, Big Ten, football, Northwestern, Penn State, Pre-season, prediction

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