Folks, we are mere hours from kickoff. Football is so close that we can almost taste it. Like they do every year, our staff members will put their reputations (kind of) on the line with weekly predictions in 2019. We’ll keep track throughout the season, with the winner getting bragging rights. NU opens against Stanford today. Here’s how we see it shaking out:
Noah Coffman: Stanford 23, Northwestern 21
Both of these teams have strong defenses and plenty of question marks on offense. I see this one quickly becoming a rock fight, with each team fighting for every inch of field position. Ultimately, Stanford’s special teams have a bit more of a track record, and their quarterback has a considerable experience advantage over either potential Wildcat starter. Northwestern’s defense will acquit itself well, but the offense, despite probably seeing a few of their talented skill players create some bright spots, won’t do enough to win.
Avery Zimmerman: Northwestern 24, Stanford 23
Man, this game is just impossible to predict. Both teams have major questions entering the game, and how those questions are answered will determine the result. For Northwestern, who is going to throw the football and how effective will he be? For Stanford, which skill position player is going to be a difference maker? I give Northwestern the slight coaching edge and that’s why I’ll give the ‘Cats a minor edge in this one.
Joe Weinberg: Stanford 27, Northwestern 23
Stanford comes out of the gates fast at home and jumps out to an early lead. NU battles back and makes it a game heading into the fourth quarter, but K.J. Costello’s experience and leadership turns out to be the key difference in deciding this one. Charlie Kuhbander has a great day. ‘Cats cover.
Matthew Albert: Northwestern 24, Stanford 21
This should be a very close game and I think very highly of this Stanford team (especially K.J. Costello), but I think Northwestern pulls it out. Both defenses dominate a very Big Ten-like game of football (talking a lot of punts). Hunter Johnson’s Wildcats score early and have a late game stand that reminds all Wildcat fans why the team has the nickname the “Cardiac ‘Cats.”
**I would also like to caution this pick with the fact that I am notoriously optimistic (but trying to become more realistic) about Northwestern predictions. (Ed. Note: What Matt is actually saying here is that he picked Northwestern to win literally every single game)
Colin Kruse: Northwestern 17, Stanford 13
In the battle of two of the biggest academic powerhouses in the FBS, Northwestern will escape Palo Alto with a close win. Pat Fitzgerald will probably rotate quarterbacks just as he did in last season’s opener against Purdue, and while the offense will not blow Stanford’s defense away, Johnson/Green plus Bowser and company will do enough to enable the defense to make some big stops against K.J. Costello and the Cardinal offense.
Eli Karp: Northwestern 23, Stanford 17
Northwestern’s offense struggled at times in 2018. It could do the same this year. However, its first two drives that led to a 14-0 lead against Purdue in last year’s opener were as Kirk Herbstreit put it: “flawless.” This mysterious offense won’t roll over the Cardinal defense, which should be at least marginally improved from a poor 2018, but it will strike early. Stanford QB K.J. Costello will have a nice day, throwing for nearly 300 yards and two scores, but the defense will — sorry if this sounds like deja vu — make enough plays in the red zone to preserve a gritty victory.
Lia Assimakopoulos: Northwestern 17, Stanford 13
Caleb Friedman: Stanford 27, Northwestern 20
Things can get crazy in season openers, so I’m going with the team with a stable situation at quarterback. Stanford may not be quite as dominant in the trenches as it’s been in some previous seasons, but K.J. Costello is the best quarterback the Cardinal have had since Andrew Luck’s last played in Palo Alto in 2011. Based on all the information that has come out, it seems like Pat Fitzgerald will play both T.J. Green and Hunter Johnson Saturday, which I don’t think bodes well for either player from a rhythm perspective (see: last year’s opener against Purdue). In the end, Stanford wears down an NU offensive line with three new starters and Costello makes enough plays to get the job done.
Graham Brennan: Northwestern 21, Stanford 14
Northwestern is coming off a season in which only one Wildcat was selected in the 2019 NFL Draft (Clayton Thorson). They now have a far more talented quarterback in Hunter Johnson eligible to play. The Wildcats beat five currently ranked teams last season and they boast one of their best defenses in years. Yet, the ‘Cats are currently +6.5 for Saturday’s season opener.
William Karmin: Northwestern 20, Stanford 17
In one of the most intriguing games of the weekend, I see a couple of scenarios playing out: a tight, physical victory for Northwestern or a Stanford blowout win. I am feeling optimistic, and I think NU will pull this one out. In order for Northwestern to win, the defense will need to be stout— which I expect it to be. Northwestern will need to win the turnover margin in order to win.
Offensively, the key is time of possession. I do not expect Northwestern’s offense to come out and light up the scoreboard. I do, however, expect the offense to generate long and demoralizing possession for the Stanford defense. Isaiah Bowser should have a nice game, and Drake Anderson will provide a nice change of pace. If the running game is working, the game will be much easier for Green/Johnson to make timely throws. With long possessions, it will allow Northwestern’s defense to rest and recharge for the ensuing possession. Fitz is a magician in close games, and he’ll have a couple of new tricks up his sleeve on Saturday.
Tristan Jung: Stanford 26, Northwestern 21
Hello, I’m back from the world of *checks notes* “content” to make a very bad prediction that will likely be wrong. My only explanation for this? Body clocks, my friends. Body clocks.
2018 INSIDE NU PREDICTION STANDINGS:
Joe Weinberg: 8-4
Matt Albert: 9-5
Caleb Friedman: 9-5
Noah Coffman 8-6
Avery Zimmerman: 7-6
Lia Assimakopoulos: 7-4
Eli Karp: 6-2
Graham Brennan: 3-1