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Finally, Sippin' on Purple's 2011 Northwestern Wildcats Football Season Prediction Thread

This whole predicting thing would be a lot easier if we knew about one man's Achilles.
This whole predicting thing would be a lot easier if we knew about one man's Achilles.

It's what you all been waiting for, ain't it?

It's August 26th, eight days from the start of Northwestern's season, seven days from Sippin' on Purple's first "what do you think will happen tomorrow" post, and time for us to lay out our predictions.

The offseason isn't over quite yet, but Monday starts game week. In case you've noticed, posting has become kinda frequent around here, and I hope you guys can keep up, because get used to it. I expect to have at least two posts a day on the site throughout football season - all the dumb features you're used to, plus more stuff you haven't seen, plus the podcast, plus breaking stuff whenever it happens. I think we have the best NU comments section on the internet - seriously, things are, like, logical in there, also, you like jokes - my goal has always been to match it with the best NU blog content on teh internet, and I hope to actually do it this year. My point is, get excited and help me do it.

We've had Fanposts asking for predictions but none of them really had full participation. So LET'S DO IT. We got a poll, but don't be afraid to bust out what you think in the comments section. Herman, Loretta8 and I have our time on the soapbox after the jump.



Record: 8-4 (5-3)

Finish: 3rd in Legends Division

Bowl?Meineke Car Care Bowl

EXPLAIN YOURSELF: When you’re making preseason predictions on a team’s performance, there are basically two methods: the go-with-your-gut prediction and the number-crunching, stats-tastic analysis. I think when it comes to college football, the stats can be deceiving, given the small sample sizes, especially in the preseason, since we’re crunching last year’s numbers that are somewhat dependent on now-graduated players. So I tend to throw more of my gut into my predictions.

I break down the schedule into likely wins, toss-ups, and reach games based on entirely unscientific criteria.

Likely wins: E. Illinois, Army, Indiana, Rice, Minnesota.

Toss-up: Boston College, Illinois, Michigan, Iowa

Reach: Penn State, Nebraska, Michigan State

We’re definitely capable of sweeping the likely wins, though Army has a unique offense and Indiana and Minnesota feature new coaches, so nothing’s a guarantee. I project we split the toss-ups, then pull one upset out of the reach games. Five wins out of the likelies, two from the toss-ups, one from the reaches = 8-4.

I think the high ceiling for the team would be winning all the likelies, going 3-1 in the toss-ups, and 2-1 in the reaches, for a total record of 10-2. It’s plausible, but highly dependent on Persa’s health, our defense emerging, and our special teams being special.

On the other hand, we’re entirely capable of dropping one of the likelies, going 1-3 in the toss-ups, and losing all three of the reaches, for a record of 5-7.

The key game for me will be Army in Week 3. I can see the BC opener going either way, and while Week 2 against E. Illinois should be an easy win, the third game will show whether the team has fixed any early problems, has the mental fortitude to recover from a loss if they drop the opener, or on the flip side, is capable of putting the pedal to the metal and being solid in all three phases of the game in what could be a three-game winning streak to start off the year. Also, by Week 3, we’ll know how Dan Persa’s health is holding up, or, if he’s still gimpy, what Kain Colter brings to the table. If we can get off to a 3-0 start, I’ll be feeling pretty good about the season.

In conclusion, I’ll stick with the middle-of-the-road prediction, erring on the side of homerism, and predict 8-4 overall, 5-3 in conference, with another bowl trip to Texas.


Record: 6-7 (3-5)

Finish: 5th in the Legends

Bowl? Motor City Bowl loss

The Dan Persa injury situation is a huge problem. Last season with Persa healthy and playing at an elite level, Northwestern went 7-3 against a less than challenging schedule, and beat such juggernauts as Vanderbilt, Indiana, Minnesota and Central Michigan by a combined 11 points. Then when Persa went down, Northwestern was terrible. Given how vital Persa was to NU's modest success last season, it's difficult to imagine this year's team doing anything unless Persa maintains his All-Big Ten caliber play. Yet we're just over a week away from the season opener and Persa is limping around in practice and Pat Fitzgerald is apparently giving serious consideration to starting Kain Colter against Boston College.

I do not mean to disparage Colter. He showed promise as a runner last season, and got a lot of reps with the first team offense during the spring. Northwestern's spread offense has consistently developed quarterbacks over the past 10 years or so, and I'm sure Colter will do a servicable job. He'll certainly be more than the glorified Wildcat QB he was last season.

However, this is not the 1995 Northwestern team that could win with an average QB. Darnell Autry is not walking through that door, fans. Pat Fitzgerald is not walking through that door and Sam Valensizi is not walking through that door. For the 2011 version to win, they need elite play from the quarterback position. The running backs are among the weakest in the Big Ten. Most of last year's defense is back, but that's not necessarily a good thing; that defense got shredded on a regular basis. Field goal kicking is a huge question mark as usual. And now, Chicago's Big Ten Heisman candidate may be the most hyped up clipboard holder in college football history come next Saturday in Chestnut Hill.

This is not a good scene, ladies and gentlemen. With outstanding quarterback play last season, Northwestern won 7 games and with some bad fortune down the stretch they may have won just 5 or 6. And now that outstanding quarterback may be so far from a full recovery that he could lose his job to a guy with 3 pass completions in his career. Uh oh.


Record: 8-4 (4-4)

Finish: T-3rd in Legends Division (Specific enough for ya?)

Bowl?: Meineke Car Care Bowl

EXPLAIN YOURSELF: Let me summarize: I have no clue about how Northwestern will do. Well, actually, I have one clue, but unfortunately for me, the clue is hidden inside Dan Persa's lower leg. However, even for a season with so much riding on one man's possibly healed tendon, a large amount of NU's season is knowable. Unless something goes wrong, the Cats will not drop games to EIU, Rice, Army, Indiana, or Minnesota. We also know a win against Nebraska looks unattainable and I'm starting to think Michigan State will do unspeakable things to NU's defense. Let's imagine for a second that Northwestern doesn't have Dan Persa. Even with Replacement Level Northwestern Quarterback in, I like to think NU still wins those games. Remember that NU lost - but looked alright against - a team that won seven games in the Big 12 last year and beat a ranked Mizzou squad. Now those backup QB's have had a year - we've seen what a year can do to a hastily summoned backup QB - and lots of other units on the team, like the secondary, seem improved. I have convinced myself the offensive line will come together and allow NU to have a running game.

The question is, what will Dan Persa's Value Over Replacement Northwestern QB, or, as it's abbreviated in sabermetric circles, VOEW, be? I don't think he'll be as good as he was last year. I think Colter will play a big role. But I think with semi-good Persa and an improved Colter, NU is a team poised to do some things. I think Northwestern will beat Boston College next week, but just for whatever's sake, let's pretend it's half a win.

Between Illinois, Iowa, Penn State, and Michigan, I wouldn't be surprised if NU went 4-0 or 0-4. These four games are the crux of NU's season. (supposing I'm right about them being able to do their job in the non-con.) Show up, NU is a Big Ten contender. Limp instead of pimp walk, we're near missing a bowl. Be Northwestern, they'll probably go 2-2. Michigan and Iowa are in pretty much the same 8-winny boat, I think we'll finish around them but get jumped.

CAVEAT: This all goes in the tank should NU lose against BC.