Each week at InsideNU, we’ll have a couple preview/prediction features, including picks from a number of people who cover or blog about Northwestern football. Check out the picks for week two.
Kevin Trahan, Inside Northwestern: Vanderbilt 31, Northwestern 28 — I think Vanderbilt is a bit overrated and about the same caliber team as Northwestern — maybe even a little worse. However, the Commodores’ forte is their deep passing game, which is NU’s weakness. The Wildcats will have an easier time scoring on the Vanderbilt defense than South Carolina did, but the Commodores will have a couple big passing plays that help them pull ahead in the fourth quarter. NU’s last-minute comeback won’t be successful this time.
Chris Johnson, Inside Northwestern: Vanderbilt 35, Northwestern 27 — The main questions Northwestern faced entering this season were exploited in full against Syracuse, particularly in the secondary. The sheer ineptitude of NU’s defense in the second half had the looks of something serious and foundational, something coordinator Mike Hankwitz can’t correct in one week’s time. If NU couldn’t stop Syracuse, it won’t be able to stop Vanderbilt, who boasts a deep and talented receiving corps, one of the SEC’s best tailbacks in Zac Stacy and an emerging quarterback in Jordan Rodgers. Plus, there’s the added responsibility of preparing for their Wildcat package, which -- according to all dispatches from Nashville -- is lethal. Rodgers will torch NU’s secondary with junior wideout Jordan Matthews and Stacy will rebound after a bad game against South Carolina last week. Venric Mark (surprise!) won’t run back any punts or kicks for touchdowns, and Colter will struggle against the Commodores’ experienced secondary. NU will lead in this game, but, like last week, they won’t sustain that lead and, unlike last week, they won’t do quite enough to regain it when they need to.
Chris Emma, PurpleWildcats.com: Vanderbilt 35, Northwestern 24 — Northwestern snuck out of Syracuse with a one-point win last Saturday, but that game exposed many flaws in which this team has. A difficult Vanderbilt team won’t allow the Wildcats to get away with those issues this weekend. I’m predicting that Northwestern jumps to a lead, but Jordan Rodgers finds a groove and takes advantage of a weak secondary. Bold prediction, sure. I just don’t believe the necessary improvements and changes have been put in place. Of course, the coaches feel a turnaround is in store, and their opinion matters more than mine does.
Jon Davis, Northwestern Highlights: Northwestern 28, Vanderbilt 24 — I’m not sure I can take much away from Vandy’s opening loss to South Carolina, who played with a QB who had no zip on the ball even when healthy. Rodgers will do more on the ground and hit some big plays through the air. Stacy will also have a nice game, but NU’s defense will force them off the field just enough on 3rd downs to keep Vanderbilt’s scoring in check. The secondary will also have a significant interception on a forced Rodgers pass across the field. On offense, Colter will have some big gains on the ground and rely on his legs to keep the chains moving. He and Siemian will start to pick apart the Vanderbilt secondary in the second half with 5-10 yard passes to move the chains. NU will also keep the red zone conversion momentum going another week. Vanderbilt will have at least one semi-shanked punt while trying to keep the ball away from Mark.
Dan Ryan, The Daily Northwestern: Northwestern 38, Vanderbilt 35 — I think home field advantage gives the Wildcats a slight edge in this one. It won’t help the secondary any, and I fully expect Rodgers to do mean, terrible things to those unfortunate gentlemen. However, Colter, Mark, and the rest of the offense should fire on all cylinders, especially against the questionable run defense of Vanderbilt, and keep pace with the aerial onslaught of Aaron Rodgers’ little brother. A late field goal and a surprising defense stop gives the Cats the win.
Philip Rossman-Reich, Lake The Posts: Vanderbilt 31, Northwestern 24 — The Wildcats have the fight again for this one. They will have the fight most of the season. But Northwestern's struggles with the defensive line and in the secondary really make it difficult against this capable Vanderbilt team. Jordan Rodgers is too good of a quarterback when he has time to throw. Too many times in this game, he will have too much time to throw and Vanderbilt squeaks this one out.
Jonathan Hodges, Hail To Purple: Northwestern 31, Vanderbilt 38 — Once again, this game should be high scoring thanks to the iffy NU defense and the slew of fast players on NU's offense. Vandy will throw the ball around early and often and will be able to put up some points. While NU's offense has speed and will be able to keep up, the Commodore defense will prove to be the deciding factor as they get one more stop than the Wildcats can manage.
Josh Walfish, The Daily Northwestern: Vanderbilt 42, Northwestern 24 — The one thing I know about the Wildcats is they find a way to make wide receivers look like Heisman contenders. The Commodores have a star studded wideout in Jordan Matthews and I expect him to gain more than 250 yards in the air and the Vanderbilt defense is better than we all think. NU will take the lead early and will get another big special teams play from Venric Mark, but it won’t be enough for the Cats to survive a tough test at home under the lights.
Nick Medline, PurpleWildcats.com: Vanderbilt 34, Northwestern 14 — Let’s look at some facts. Last season, Vanderbilt was ninth in the nation in pass defense efficiency. The Commodores allowed 67 passing yards to South Carolina on Thursday. I am an avid Colter supporter, yet still think he will struggle. On the other side of the ball, Vandy tailback Zac Stacy (1193 yards last season) needs a comeback performance after a clunker against the Gamecocks. Chances are, he’ll get it. The NU secondary might struggle all 12 weeks, and I don’t think that necessarily rules the Wildcats out of ballgames. But Mr. Rodgers provides a running threat as well. The whole “Cardiac Cats” refrain is getting tired. This team will hit the wall, now.
Jay Sharman, Lake The Posts: Vanderbilt 31, Northwestern 30 — Well, last week I was pretty close. I predicted that NU would win 37-35, but it would come down to the final Cats drive and on 3rd and goal from the 8 and Kyle Prater would make a great snag in the end zone. And then fans would sweat what little time was on the clock. Right result, similar concept, wrong score and wrong player. Let's hope I'm way off in week two. Jordan Matthews makes it five straight games with 130 rec yards as Jordan Rodgers throws for nearly 400 yards. The Cats, opportunistic on two key TOs, take a lead with a few minutes to go. This time, Vanderbilt drives on NU and scores a game-winning FG with under :30 to go. All hope goes to Venric Mark, but Vandy kicks it through the spiffy endzones and NU fails to get in FG territory and loses 31-30.