#65 Northwestern Football 2014 Preview

Northwestern Wildcats

Overall Rank: #65
#11 Big Ten

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The expectations were very high for Northwestern, but a tough start to Big Ten play and a few key injuries derailed what could have been a big year for the Wildcats. After four wins in non-conference play, Northwestern lost seven games in a row before picking up a season ending victory over rival Illinois. But not all seven of those losses were bad. Two of them came in overtime and two more were separated by just a field goal. The ball just rarely bounced in Northwestern’s favor in 2013.

2013 Record: (5-7, 1-7)
2013 Bowl: None
Coach: Pat Fitzgerald (55-46 at Northwestern, 55-46 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Mick McCall
Defensive Coordinator: Mike Hankwitz

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Treyvon Green, RB, 765 yards
Passing: Trevor Siemian, QB, 2,149 yards
Receiving: Christian Jones, WR, 668 yards
Tackles: Chi Chi Ariguzo, LB, 106
Sacks: Ifeadi Odenigbo, DL, 5.5
Interceptions: Chi Chi Aeiguzo, LB, 4; Ibraheim Campbell, S, 4

Other Key Returnees: RB Venric Mark, WR Tony Jones, TE Dan Vitale, C Brandon Vitabile, LB Collin Ellis, S Traveon Henry, DE Dean Lowry

Key Losses: QB Kain Colter, RB Mike Trumpy, WR Rashad Lawrence, LB Damien Proby, DE Tyler Scott, K Jeff Budzien

The offense will look different without do-it-all playmaker and quarterback Kain Colter. Colter was in and out of the lineup due to injuries, but was still a dynamic passer, rusher and occasional pass catcher throughout his collegiate career. Trevor Siemian will step into a full-time starting position after spending years playing second fiddle to Colter. With all of Colter’s injuries in 2013, Siemian did lead the Wildcats with 2,194 yards passing and 11 touchdowns. With the return of a talented wide receiver corps, led by Christian Jones, Tony Jones and tight end Dan Vitale, Siemian will have success through the air. Keep an eye on senior receiver Kyle Prater too. The former Trojan of USC is a superb talent, but has yet to break through at Northwestern. This is his last shot. The passing game will be much more effective with the healthy return of Venric Mark. Two years ago Mark burst onto the national scene, rushing for 1,366 yards and a dozen touchdowns. Last year he played in just three games and attempted 31 carries. If he can stay healthy, the Northwestern offense will quickly turn into a dangerous unit.

The numbers for the defense are pretty bad, but they did perform very well at times. It was the defense that kept the team alive in overtime losses to Iowa and Michigan. But they also looked awful against potent offenses like Ohio State and Wisconsin. Consistency will be key this time around and the return of nine starters should help. But the two departures are big. Linebacker Damien Proby led the squad with 112 tackles and Tyler Scott totaled 6.0 sacks, 10.0 tackles-for-loss, two interceptions and five quarterback hurries. This is a defense that can make big plays, most notably Chi Chi Ariguzo, Collin Ellis and Ibraheim Campbell. Big plays are nice and the defense will still look for them, but they will have to do a better job preventing big plays from the opposing offense too if Northwestern is going to reach a bowl game.

The Bottom Line:
This season could end up looking a lot like 2013 for Northwestern. They open with home games against California, Northern Illinois and Western Michigan. Those are winnable, but the Huskies will not be afraid heading onto Ryan Field. But after that, the schedule is brutal. The next seven games are against Penn State, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Nebraska, Iowa, Michigan and Notre Dame. That could be yet another middle of the season seven game losing streak. If the Wildcats can manage to get to four wins after those games, they should feel pretty good about their bowl chances with Purdue and Illinois wrapping up the season.

Projected Bowl: Music City Bowl

2013 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 172.4 (62nd in nation, 9th in conference)
Passing Offense: 227.2 (69, 5)
Total Offense: 399.6 (73, 7)
Scoring Offense: 26.2 (83, 10)
Rushing Defense: 167.3 (68, 9)
Pass Defense: 256.2 (99, 10)
Total Defense: 423.5 (88, 9)
Scoring Defense: 27.1 (68, 9)
Turnover Margin: 0.3 (41, 4)
Sacks: 2.25 (50, 5)
Sacks Allowed: 3.00 (110, 11)

Madness 2014 Recruit Rankings:
#127 Parker Westphal
#168 Justin Jackson
#199 Clayton Thorson


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