WIN, LOSE OR DRAW: Northwestern

Part eight of a 12-part series outlining Indiana football’s opponents this season.

IU football

Indiana wide receiver Damarlo Belcher scores a touchdown last season against Northwestern. Chris Howell | Herald-Times

OPPONENT: at Northwestern

DATE: Oct. 24

TIME: Noon

TV: TBA

TICKETS: Click here.

FOLLOW THE TEAM: Northwestern’s official site.

Coverage from The Daily Northwestern, the student newspaper.

HISTORY VS. INDIANA: Indiana is 34-42-1 against Northwestern. The teams last played in 2008, with the Hoosiers pulling out a 21-19 win at home.

WHO ARE THEY: The Wildcats have quietly emerged as one of the more consistent teams in the Big Ten. After a 9-4 season in 2009, coach Pat Fitzgerald was awarded a contract extension that gives him security and allows the young coach to continue building the program. Indiana surprised Northwestern a year ago at Memorial Stadium, with Ben Chappell engineering a 21-19 victory. Expect the Wildcats to be ready this time for what is coming. SI.com has Northwestern as the No. 42 team in college football, and predicts the Wildcats will end up in the Motor City Bowl. Indiana was No. 99 in the same ranking.

OFFENSIVE STAR: Northwestern is looking to replace the team’s two offensive standouts from a year ago — running back Tyrell Sutton and quarterback C.J. Bacher. Both were among the best at their position in the school’s history. The Wildcats will turn towards senior Mike Kafka at quarterback this season. Kafka played in eight games a year ago, but all but two were mop-up duty. He played the final series against Indiana, throwing one pass for eight yards. He was sacked on the next two plays, and dropped the football the second time. He’s known as a dual-threat guy, having rushed for 217 yards against Minnesota. Senior quarterbacks starting for the first time are always a tricky bunch — they either flourish once handed the job, or show there is a reason why they have been a backup for so long. With Kafka, the presumption seems to be that he will be long in the former, not the latter, category.

DEFENSIVE STAR: A year ago, the defense was a major concern for the Wildcats. But Northwestern ended up having a very solid year, allowing only 20.2 points per game. A big part of that was defensive end Corey Wootton, who is now one of the better ends in the country. The 6-foot-7, 270-pound senior is a Playboy All-American and near-consensus first-team preseason All-Big Ten pick. He had 42 tackles last season, but 16 were for a loss and 10 were sacks. At 6-foot-7, he has extraordinary length for the position and will be a load for either Rodger Saffold or James Brewer to handle. He did well last season against the Hoosiers, with five tackles (three for a loss) and a sack.

WHY INDIANA WILL WIN: After last season’s triumph, maybe the highlight of a very difficult 2008, the Hoosiers will come into this game believing and knowing they can beat the Wildcats. Could again be a low-scoring affair, with one or two plays making the difference. If that’s the case, go with the guys who have already shown they can make those plays — Chappell threw for a 43-yard touchdown and also ran for a score last year. He’ll also be trying to erase the memory of the second attempted pass of his career — an interception thrown at Northwestern in 2007 that resulted in a touchdown and, for one week, delayed Indiana’s dream of playing 13.

WHY NORTHWESTERN WILL WIN: Northwestern’s defense will be very good once again and with the game on the road, the Wildcats will have that advantage. Also keep in mind the emotional factor — the Wildcats were embarrassed a year ago and are likely to have that in their minds when Indiana comes to town. Kafka is a solid quarterback, the wide receivers are talented and this could very well be a game that finishes 17-14 or 21-17. If that’s the case, it might be Northwestern on top.

NOW YOU: Call it — win, lose or draw? Well, ok, just win or lose. State your reason, as well.

9 comments

  1. NU and Purdue are the only potential B10 wins this year (barring a miracle). I think the two teams are fairly evenly matched, so it may well come down to game day coaching. Last year, I really think the game was Coach Lynch’s best … hopefully he can repeat.

  2. This may be my road trip this year. Hopefully we can get a win. I would say that it will depend a great deal on season momentum. If things are going reasonably well, we have a good shot, but I don’t like our chances for a big “turnaround” game.

    Go Hoosiers!

  3. Never fear KevinK, according to my predictions, we will be 4-3 going into this game. We will have been playing ok and we will win this game to go 5-3.

  4. Hope your right GF, I’m saving your predictions.

    :<)

    Do you have any $tock Tip$ you might $hare too?

  5. GFDave, I hope you are right.

    KevinK, I am taking my family to this game. We hope to take our kids to every stadium in the Big 10 as they grow up. If you go, we should try to meet up. IU must play well!!!

  6. Nah, we’re all homers here aren’t we? The down-side is we might be 1-7! That’s why I hope you are right!

  7. NU has a game every year which you look at the teams on paper and you question why NU lost. 2008 was Indiana; 2007 Duke; 2006 UNH; 2004 Hawaii and TCU; 2003 Bowling Green and Air Force. That’s one of the things Fitz and company need to accomplish this season in order to take NU to the next level. Beat the teams you’re supposed to beat.

    NU isn’t the same NU it was the last 10 years, Walker was an experienced mid-tiered coach. He never really got better or improved the program. At the beginning of the year, NU would be looking at 8 games they could win, and hopefully pull off 6-7 of them and maybe a miracle or two. Fitz is the guy that constantly gets better in all aspects, recruiting, wins, game management, team management, press conferences… Now this NU team and community has higher expectations. A bowl game was all anyone expected last year. I remember talking to some NU alums that asked me what I seriously thought NU’s record would be after we were 3-0. I said there is no reason why we couldn’t have 9 to 10 wins, they thought I was crazy. 6 to 7 wins satisfied their expectations, but that doesn’t satisfy Fitz. When we played Indiana last year, we were a bowl eligible 6-1. We came out fat and happy. There is no chance, NU is going to come out against Indiana flat again. Final score NU 27 IU 14.

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