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10 bold Northwestern football predictions: No. 8

The wait is nearly over. At long last, after eight trying months, the 2013 college football season is upon us. In just 10 days, Northwestern will meet Cal in its primetime season opener. This last week and change can be excruciatingly slow, so to ease your anxiety, we’re rolling out 10 bold predictions, one each day, to lead you into August 31. Some of these may sound crazy (some of them won’t), and we probably won’t be looking back four months from now celebrating our foresight, but preseason sports predictions aren’t meant to be perfect, anyway, and erring on the bold side is much more fun than playing it safe. With that said, let’s begin: the real stuff, the actual football, will be here in no time.

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No. 8: Chi-Chi Ariguzo will lead Northwestern in tackles.

Not all of these predictions are particularly daring or exciting, and this one requires no large stretch of the imagination. In 13 games last season, Ariguzo compiled 91 tackles, third-most among Wildcats behind senior Damien Proby (112) and now-graduated David Nwabuisi (96). The competition for tackle king this season will likely come down to Ariguzo and Proby. It bears asking, then: what will change this season to allow Ariguzo to exceed Proby’s total?

For one, Ariguzo is changing positions in 2013. After starting last season at SAM (strongside) linebacker, he will step into the WILL, or weak side, spot this season, where he will be freed to operate in space and make plays at the point of attack.

The position switch in and of itself should put Ariguzo in better position to rack up more tackles. There’s also the small matter of Ariguzo’s own personal development, and after watching him in spring practice and (briefly) in training camp, he looks ready to take the next step along the linebacker development curve. Ariguzo was already one of the better linebackers in the Big Ten last season – he was named an All-Big Ten honoree – but with another year of seasoning in coordinator Mike Hankwitz’s system, along with a position switch that should facilitate more playmaking opportunities, it’s hard to think he won’t at least match last season’s production.

With Proby returning to his comfortable middle linebacker spot, dislodging NU’s 2012 tackle champ will not be easy. It should be a heated race – one Ariguzo, now switched to a position amenable to tackle-stacking proficiency, and having tucked away a season hinting at All-Big Ten potential, can win.