It has't exactly been a fun couple of weeks to root for or be the Northwestern Wildcats. But at 5-2, Pat Fitzgerald's bunch is still looking to secure bowl eligibility for the first time since 2012 and can still finish with a solid record. But it starts this week as the Wildcats look to put an end to their midseason slump. Memorial Stadium is no easy place to do so.
Here's how our writers see it playing out tomorrow. Make sure to make your picks below!
Henry Bushnell: Nebraska 24, Northwestern 13
If Northwestern is going to win this game, it's going to be because the defense returns to form. And I'm a bit more optimistic about that possibility than most. But Nebraska is better than a lot of people realize; the 3-4 record is fluky. There's a reason the Cornhuskers are 7.5-point favorites here. I think their offense will move the ball at least sporadically against Northwestern's defense, which is a lot more than NU's offense will be able to say, and in the end, it'll be a fairly comfortable win for Nebraska.
Josh Rosenblat: Nebraska 21, Northwestern 10
First things first: Nebraska is not as bad as its 3-4 record might look. A Hail Mary loss to BYU to open the year, then an overtime loss at Miami are nothing to be totally ashamed of. A one-point loss in Champaign isn't great, but Mike Riley's crew have improved over the season. The Cornhuskers even played well in a last-second loss to Wisconsin. Quarterback Tommy Armstrong, is still, in my opinion, the most talented quarterback in the Big Ten West and he's starting to get more comfortable operating in a pro-style attack. It's going to take a big day from Justin Jackson to get Northwestern over the hump and there's just no indication that the offense is up for the task.
Zach Pereles: Nebraska 27, Northwestern 13
Nebraska's offense is starting to round into shape and the Cornhusker defense is very good at stopping the run-- not quite as good as Michigan or Iowa but very good nonetheless. We've seen what happens to this Northwestern offense when it can't run the ball, and Nebraska knows that the offensive attack through the air has been next to incompetent this year. Nebraska gets some more short fields again thanks to turnovers and poor punts, and it's another long day for the Wildcats. Nebraska proves it's much better than its record says, while Northwestern proves it's much worse than its record says.
Josh Burton: Northwestern 20, Nebraska 7
After two weeks of violently regressing to the mean, this weekend is when Northwestern will finally get on track. On the road, away from the pressures and distractions of Evanston, the Wildcats' defense will return to Stanford and Duke form to force Tommy Armstrong Jr. into a few interceptions, which should open things up for the much-maligned offense. Dean Lowry and the defensive line will get some pressure, for once, on the Cornhuskers' less-than-stellar offensive line, forcing Armstrong out of the pocket and into making uncomfortable passes.
Nate Williams: Northwestern 20, Nebraska 19
Turnovers will be the biggest factor in deciding this game. I think Northwestern and Nebraska combine for 5-6, and we see a lot of FGs in this game. I think Nebraska's style of offense does not bode well against Northwestern's defense, which gets back to form and is able to amp up the pressure on Armstrong. I think we see a gutsy performance out of Thorson for the win.
Zach Wingrove: Nebraska 31, Northwestern 17
I don't expect this to be a competitive matchup. Nebraska's 3-4 record is very deceiving and Memorial Stadium is an extremely difficult place to play. So far this season, Northwestern's has offense struggled on the road and I don't expect that to change this week. I think Nebraska jumps out to an early lead and Northwestern's offense will not be able to match the scoring throughout the game.
Sam Brief: Nebraska 27, Northwestern 10
In the Nebraska's four losses this season, the Cornhuskers have fallen by an average of just 2.75 points per game—and I don't see this one ending up close to that number. Even as Thorson struggled early in the season, Northwestern had its strong rushing attack and top-rated defense. Now, seemingly nothing remains. Add a hostile road environment and you have the recipe for another ugly Big Ten loss.
Tristan Jung: Nebraska 34, Northwestern 26
While Nebraska's defense leaves something to be desired, Northwestern's offense has been essentially nonexistent these last two games. As long as the Wildcats avoid another spate of disastrous turnovers, the offense should be able to score some points. However, holding onto the football has not been Clayton Thorson's strong suit this year, as illustrated by his 5:5 TD to INT ratio and multiple fumbles. Perhaps the team's lackluster fumble recovery rate will regress back to the mean, and the offense can get something going against a Nebraska defense that is a major drop-off from Michigan and Iowa, but I think the Cornhuskers will be able to move the ball on a Wildcat defense that has looked exhausted the past two weeks.
Lyndsey Armacost: Nebraska 20, Northwestern 10
Coming off of a huge win over Minnesota, Nebraska is poised to take advantage of Northwestern's slightly struggling defense by racking up the passing yards. QB Tommy Armstrong Jr. threw for three touchdowns in the win and, with cornerback Matthew Harris out with an injury, he will be looking downfield for his receivers to make big plays. Northwestern will need to give Justin Jackson more carries this week if they expect to put up any points but, if they can get the momentum going early, they might be able to stay in this game.
Ian McCafferty: Nebraska 27, Northwestern 13
This game will come down to two things for Northwestern, stopping the run and moving the ball on offense. Unfortunately, I don't think they'll be able to do either this week in Lincoln. The defense has had trouble making reads on running plays the last couple of weeks and Nebraska will almost certainly try to exploit that as early as they can. Tommy Armstrong Jr. is no slouch through the air either. Even if the defense returns to form, they still have to deal with the mess that is Northwestern's offense. I think the defense improves somewhat over the last two weeks, but the offense once again leaves them out to dry. For the third straight week, it won't be close.