It's almost gameday! Here are our picks for the first game of the year. Not surprisingly, since Cal is bad at football, we're unanimous on this one, but some people think it will be pretty close.
I'm on record saying this isn't really going to be a game. I think NU jumps out early and keeps piling on, given that Cal is so terrible at defense. The Bears will get a couple big plays, but they won't be nearly consistent enough to keep up for the whole game.
Prediction: Northwestern 45, Cal 20
It's pretty clear NU's the better team, but I get the feeling Cal's going to find a way to keep this close. Wildcats will get out to a nice lead, only to watch it shrink as Bears QB Jared Goff throws a couple of touchdowns. An Ibraheim Campbell pick late in the fourth quarter will seal the win for NU.
Prediction: Northwestern 34, Cal 27
I think this game is going to be really, really similar to last year's: a 14-point win for Northwestern. It should be a decently high-scoring affair but, again, Northwestern's defense will ultimately make the difference by forcing a turnover or two. Look for Dean Lowry to have a big game off the edge. And, as you may often see in this section, I will make a Kyle Prater prediction: 2-3 catches, 30-35 yards, looks awesome while doing it.
Prediction: Northwestern 38, Cal 27 and at least two Fitz-Dykes controversial comments
The general feeling is that this is going to be a shootout of sorts -- or at least a one sided shootout in NU's favor -- but I actually think there aren't going to be as many points as most seem to think there'll be. I could see Trevor Siemian and Northwestern's offense starting slowly, but I think the defense will be stout, and maybe even get a few takeaways. I see the Wildcats winning the game, but not without breaking a sweat. As Lee Corso would say, "closer than the experts think."
Prediction: Northwestern 24, Cal 20
This game will be closer than most think. Following an embarrassing season, Cal is more motivated than ever to prove to a national audience (ABC/ESPN2) that 2013 was a fluke. Also, I think Cal needs this win more. Northwestern is one of the few winnable games on Cal's difficult schedule, so I expect the Golden Bears to put up a good fight. Cal will score on their opening drive and put pressure on the hosts early, but Northwestern will slowly pull away. Treyvon Green will rush for 150 yards and 2 touchdowns and the NU defense will force enough turnovers to limit QB Jared Goff.
Prediction: Northwestern 31, Cal 24
I'm with most of the staff in that this game will be closer than expected, but Northwestern will come out on top. I think the ‘Cats get out too an early lead and have a huge day running the football. Cal's deep threats will make some big plays to close the gap in the second half, but it won't turn into a shootout like last year. Jack Mitchell hits a couple second-half field goals and the NU run the clock out by pounding the rock.
Prediction: Northwestern 37, Cal 27
On paper, Northwestern is by far the superior team, but that hasn't stopped them from blowing it before. I don't think they'll lose the game, but I also don't think they'll completely blow Cal out like they should either. The offense, which probably will be pretty good this year, is still going to need a little time to adjust to losing its best running back and best receiver. Cal QB Jared Goff really impressed me last year but he's prone to making some poorly-timed mistakes, and I think that's what will bring down Cal again this year.
Prediction: Northwestern 34, Cal 24
NU is far and away the superior team, but there's just something about Cal QB Jared Goff that I really, really like. Yes, Cal was terrible last year, but Goff broke Cal single-season records for passing yards (3,508), total offense (3,446), passes completed (320) and passes attempted (531). Northwestern's defense should be better than last year's unit, but I don't think they'll be able to keep Goff and the Bears from scoring enough to make this a blowout. Northwestern wins a game that's too close for comfort.
Prediction: Northwestern 35, Cal 31
This one will be over at the half (30-10). I expect NU's offense to light up the scoreboard with Trevor having a monster outing, RB by committee adds 225 yds. The bitterness shows between the head coaches and Fitz doesn't take it easy on Cal & Dykes and for once we see a true blowout game. Cal shows a short lived breath of life in the 2nd half as our kicking game weaknesses begin to show along with an untimely turnover. NU regroups and the defense adds a couple more turnovers (5 in total 4 INTs) and the 2nd team defense gets some well deserved reps and the coaches take their headsets off and start eating hot dogs on the sidelines, Big Hot Dogs.
Prediction: Northwestern 52 Cal 24
Cal was awful at football in just about every aspect last year. They might improve a bit offensively, but that's probably it. Northwestern was not awful last year and should be better this year. NU will be in control at halftime and have it put away by the 4th quarter.
Prediction: Northwestern 38, Cal 20
I do think there's a chance Cal beats Northwestern! I think it's really possible! But from a predictive point of view, I think this chance is pretty slim. Cal was very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very bad at football last year, and Northwestern was mediocre to sub-par. I don't think NU struggles to put up points at all on a defense that should be quite bad yet again.
Prediction: Northwestern 41, Cal 28
NU should have no problems moving the ball; expect a big day from Treyvon Green and a good distribution of passes from Trevor Siemian. On the other side of the ball, Cal will go as far as Jared Goff carries them. I expect that to be far enough to keep it close, but not far enough to come out ahead.
Prediction: Northwestern 31, Cal 24
Don't let the records fool you; this battle of undefeateds won't be much of a contest. Even though this has all the makings of a trap game for Northwestern, with the big in-state rivalry game against Northern Illinois next week that's been circled on the calendar for months, I expect the Wildcats to show their quality against a Cal team that can run a lot of plays but none of them well.
Prediction: Northwestern 49, Cal 7
Chris Emma, Wildcat Digest Publisher
Who doesn't love a good old fashioned shootout? Two dynamic offenses that refuse to huddle will put up crooked numbers on the new Ryan Field scoreboard. In the end, Northwestern will be a touchdown better than the Golden Bears.
Prediction: Northwestern 49, Cal 42
Luke Srodulski, Wildcat Digest Managing Editor
Like last year, it'll be a shootout. Northwestern's secondary is in better shape, but so is Cal's passing attack. On the other hand, the gap between the Wildcat offense and the Golden Bear defense is far too wide. Going against an inexperienced defensive line, I expect Pat Fitzgerald's crew to crush Cal on the ground. It should be a comfortable season-opening win.
Prediction: Northwestern 45, Cal 27
Ben Sanders, Wildcat Digest Writer
While it's fair to say that Trevor Siemian flopped last season after Colter went down with an injury, 2014 is a new year, and according to head coach Pat Fitzgerald, he's learned from his mistakes. So it might not be that much a stretch to say that Siemian will thrive on Saturday. Last year against California, he threw for 276 yards and one TD against a Bears' defense that ranked last in the entire nation in passing yards per game, and I expect more of the same a second time around.
Prediction: Northwestern 38, Cal 27