Before the start of the 2013 season we looked into our (BCS) crystal (foot)ball and released 10 bold Northwestern football predictions. Needless to say they didn't go all that well. We only got two correct: NU lost a game it was expected to win and the Cats cracked the top-5 in Big Ten pass offense. So naturally we are back at it this year. We aren't putting a number on them this time around, but there will be more prophecies to come.
Bold Prediction: Trevor Siemian will pass for at least 3,000 yards and 20 touchdowns and throw no more than 10 interceptions.
Now this might not seem like the most daring prediction. The stat line above doesn't look outrageous. College quarterbacks have seasons like this all the time. Right?
Not quite. Plenty of quarterbacks pass for over 3,000 yards and 20 touchdowns, but not nearly as many also throw 10 or fewer interceptions. Last year, only 21 quarterbacks met all three benchmarks. None was from the Big Ten.
How many Northwestern quarterbacks do you think have accomplished such as feat? Take a guess. The answer may surprise you.
Only one. Brett Basanez threw for 3,622 yards and 21 touchdowns and was picked off 8 times in 2005.
Thus, according to the history books my prediction is probably bolder than you (or I) initially thought. Combine the rarity of such a season with the recent loss of NU's two best skill position players and you might think my prediction is more insane than bold. But hear me out.
The season-ending knee injury to Christian Jones is a big loss. But even without his favorite target, Siemian is poised for a big year. The Cats are deep at wide receiver. Miles Shuler should replace most of C. Jones' production in the slot; Tony Jones is a big play threat on the outside; and Cameron Dickerson and Kyle Prater should threaten defenses in the red zone.
Furthermore, Siemian will be well protected this year since the offensive line returns all five of its starters. Sure the running game won't be as strong without Venric Mark, but the Cats have enough capable runners to keep defenses honest on play-action fakes.
While Siemian recorded just 2,149 passing yards, 11 touchdowns and 9 interceptions in 12 games last year, keep in mind that he was sharing snaps with Kain Colter and that he was injured. And it's worth repeating that with Colter gone, the Cats are shifting to a more pass-oriented offense. This means more chances for Siemian to pad his stats.
Colter missed most or all of five games last year. In those games Siemian averaged nearly 263 passing yards. If Siemian were to average that over 12 games this season, he would throw for over 3,150 yards. So reaching 3,000 passing yards seems reasonable. What about 20 touchdowns?
Touchdowns will be harder to come by, but Siemian has plenty of targets to choose from. Just to be bold, I'll predict all 20 scores right now. T. Jones will step up in Christian's absence and haul in seven touchdowns (he's averaged four the last two years). Shuler will account for five more. Dickerson and Prater will have three each. And running backs will catch the remaining two. Easier said than done, but possible.
Now for the interceptions... This is the trickiest of the three stats to predict. Siemian only threw nine last year, but he'll be throwing more passes this year and he has struggled with decision-making in the past. This could mean more picks.
But I'm convinced the two quarterback system prevented Siemian from establishing rhythm at times last season. And I'm confident Siemian has improved as a decision-maker this offseason. He should be more comfortable in the pocket in 2014. I predict 10 interceptions.
There you have it. Another (really) bold prediction brought to you by Doritos (again, kidding). If I'm right, Siemian will go down as one of the best quarterbacks in Northwestern history. If I'm wrong, he won't. It's that simple.