This summer, we wrote a post highlighting Northwestern’s incredible bill of clean health last season. The Wildcats lost just five starts to injury — just 1.75 percent of the total starts on the team — good for best in the Big Ten. The numbers, compiled by Phil Steele, showed that there may have been some luck involved in the Wildcats’ 2012 campaign.
Obviously injuries in 2012 have nothing to do with what happens in 2013, but it’s extremely unlikely that NU would be that healthy in any given year. So in 2013, things looked bound to get worse. We got a lot of angry comments about this post — some even claimed that 2012′s health was due to NU’s great training staff, and would thus be repeated. However, injuries are random, and it seemed unlikely NU would be such an outlier once again.
This year, the Wildcats haven’t been as fortunate. They’ve lost 15 starts to injury, which accounts for 9.74 percent of total starts so far — right behind Michigan State in last year’s season-long compilation.
The numbers are bad, but if you dig into them, it’s even worse. Venric Mark and Kain Colter have both technically “started” games they barely played in, so the numbers should be higher. And the players who have been injured are in prominent roles. Mark and Colter are the team’s offensive stars, while Sean McEvilly is NU’s best defensive tackle and is needed for what was already a shaky run defense. Daniel Jones’ injury means the Wildcats have been forced to start a freshman at corner.
All of that adds up to a team that is likely to underperform. So for the second straight year, the Wildcats’ final record likely won’t be indicative of how good the team could have been. Except NU fans certainly would have preferred last year’s illusion to this year’s.