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Inside NU’s 2022 football season predictions

It is an even year.

Photo courtesy of Ryan Kuttler and Northwestern Athletics.

This season could go in pretty much any direction it sees fit, and our staff predictions surely reflect that. Seriously, they go from 1-11 to 8-4. A tough B1G schedule including the formidable Buckeyes makes a bowl game appearance look particularly dim, but who knows? The power of even year Northwestern may just be upon us.

Sarah Effress: 5-7 (2-7 B1G)

Look, I’m probably more optimistic than most. I think NU will pull out wins in all three of its non-conference matchups and a win against Illinois. That leaves room for one more Big Ten victory, which I’d venture to say could come against Purdue, Nebraska or Maryland — I might even go as far as an upset against the Badgers at Ryan Field too, but who knows?

Bradley Locker: 3-9 (0-9 B1G)

Northwestern must win its three non-conference games, and I think the Wildcats will do so and reach an encouraging 3-1 mark. From there is where the real gauntlet begins. It may be discouraging to see zero Big Ten wins given that NU had just one last year, but it feels as if the ‘Cats’ opponents have been surging upward and/or are of a higher caliber in 2022 (see: Penn State, Ohio State); even prior “winnable” games versus Iowa and Wisconsin are probably losses. Northwestern was a team that was among the worst in the country on offense and defense last year. Although the D may improve a bit, it probably won’t be enough to overcome quarterback quandary and an offensive line, defensive line and linebacker corps that need significant jelling.

Gavin Dorsey: 6-6 (3-6 B1G)

Nebraska will be the litmus test for how this season goes. If Northwestern can get past the Cornhuskers, I think the momentum carries the Wildcats to a 4-0 start. If NU comes home from Ireland winless, I think the ‘Cats will drop a match to either Duke or Miami OH and start 2-2 en route to another poor season. I find myself leaning toward the first option (for reasons stated in the game predictions). After a 4-0 start, Northwestern will only need two more Big Ten wins to get into a bowl game, one of which comes in the HAT versus Illinois in the final week of the regular season. From there, the Wildcats just need to upset one of Maryland, Iowa, Minnesota or Purdue. Am I overly optimistic? Probably, but I really think the Northwestern run game will take over this year, leading to at least more wins than 2021.

Iggy Dowling: 4-8 (1-8 B1G)

There really isn’t a lot to add. It’s pretty difficult to win in the Big Ten without a consistent aerial attack. It’s even harder when your defense hasn’t proven that it can compensate for that weakness. Northwestern should start 3-1 — Duke, SIU and Miami-Ohio are not talented enough on the defensive line for Evan Hull and Cam Porter to gash them on the ground from the beginning. The conference schedule won’t be kind to the ‘Cats, though. Northwestern simply does not have the firepower on either side of the ball for any upsets to be in the cards. I’ll give NU an ugly HAT victory to escape the basement of the B1G West, but anything more than that after October 1 would be a pleasant surprise.

Didi Jin: 8-4 (5-4 B1G)

On paper, there are too many holes and unanswered questions on this team for people to believe that Northwestern can finish the year with a winning conference record. But my rationale for this prediction comes from Pat Fitzgerald’s track record of defying the odds and consistently fielding football teams that find a way to win games, and a blind faith in future QB1 Brendan Sullivan.

Ben Chasen: 6-6 (3-6 B1G)

This Northwestern team should be better than last year’s, if only marginally so. Its non-conference schedule is softer than Charmin. It gets the lovely gift of playing a Nebraska team with heavy roster turnover and a new coaching staff in Week 0 in Ireland, when the Huskers are likely to be at their most dysfunctional and their fans are (slightly) less likely to completely consume the stadium. And somewhere within the remaining eight conference games, there lies two wins for the ‘Cats. Pat Fitzgerald’s team will be bowl bound once more, and, no matter how relatively unimportant the trophy, they’re coming home with it to boot.

John Olsen: 1-11 (0-9 B1G)

This is a flawed football team, plain and simple. The ability of most starters just isn’t at a competitive level for the Big Ten, and neither is the level of coaching. I have zero confidence in the quarterbacks, and marginally more confidence in every other position group. As such, I fail to see a scenario where the ‘Cats win three games, let alone make it to a bowl game, so I’m setting my expectations at a horrid 1-11.

Jason Boué: 7-5 (5-4 B1G)

I know what y’all are thinking.

“Why, after last year, would you ever predict the 2022 Northwestern Football Team to have a winning record?”

I’m a little confused too, to be honest. Maybe I’m just being overly optimistic, but I see a real chance for this team to start out 4-0 and then win 3 of their next 8. I think they could even LOSE one of the non-conference games (those Salukis from just south are sneaky solid) and still hit the 7 win mark.

I’m inspired by the return of Cam Porter to an already strong RBs room, and I think they can help cover up shoddy quarterback play if needed. Cam Mitchell and Adetomiwa Adebawore will need to be the cornerstones of the defense if the ‘Cats are to fulfill my prediction.

Hopefully we can look back on these predictions come December and I won’t be a shell of myself, destroyed by another lackluster season of Northwestern Football.

Jake Mozarsky: 3-9 (1-8 B1G)

I’m setting the expectations low so some Northwestern fans don’t get their hopes up. I know the ‘Cats are supposed to be better on even years, and I do think this team is better than last year’s, but the record won’t show that. Northwestern has a much harder schedule in conference, having to face Ohio State and Wisconsin at home while also having to go to Happy Valley and Iowa City for death matches with Penn State (if only the Indiana game stayed) and Iowa. I see Northwestern only beating Illinois (maybe) in the B1G.

Northwestern also has an out of conference schedule that is harder than it looks. They almost got blasted by Duke last year if it was not for the heroics of Andrew Marty (and the ‘Cats still lost) and Southern Illinois is a top-ten FCS team. Don’t underestimate those matchups and if Northwestern loses one of them, don’t be surprised. It is Northwestern after all.

Daniel Olinger: 4-8 (1-8 B1G)

I already laid out my skepticism for 2022 being any kind of bounce back year for the Wildcats last week when I said 6-6 and a Gator Bowl appearance would be a success beyond one’s wildest dreams, but at the very least I’ve talked myself into the team improving ever so slightly this year. An FCS team, a MAC team and a post-Cutcliffe Duke should be three victories, and a Cam Porter-Evan Hull combo in the backfield should give Northwestern a pretty deadly rushing attack, which is good enough to get a middling Big Ten team (read: every team outside the states of Ohio and Michigan). It’s not going to be a fun year, but posting a more dismal season than 2021 would be a new low for the Pat Fitzgerald era at Northwestern.

Mac Stone: 5-7 (2-7 B1G)

A wise man once told me, “Never bet against Fitz in an even year.” That “wise man” was the Northwestern Twittersphere and, as you can see, I chose not to listen. It’s not that I don’t like the ‘Cats, I do! I just can’t see them defying so many expectations after the atrocious 2021 season they endured. Offensively, Cam Porter rejoins what should be one of Northwestern’s stronger position groups after suffering a season-ending injury in camp last year. The defense is obviously worrisome, but all NU can hope for is some sort of improvement. Ultimately, the schedule isn’t easy, and there are just too many loose ends to guarantee a good season for Northwestern.

Brendan Preisman: 4-8 (1-8 BIG)

Well, September will definitely be the best month of the season for the Wildcats. With Duke, Southern Illinois, and Miami (Ohio) on tap (all at Ryan Field), Northwestern should go 3-0 in the first month of fall. However, outside of September, I’m not sure there’s even one other game that the Wildcats should win. They can maybe beat Illinois at home to close out the season, but I don’t see another game I’d absolutely pick them to win. Now, it is still Northwestern in an even year, but I tend to value realism more than hope when I make football predictions. (Knowing how my predictions turn out, this will absolutely come back to bite me when the ‘Cats are sitting at 6-2 heading into November.)

John Ferrara: 5-7 (2-7 B1G)

I’ve already documented my skepticism about the ‘Cats’ ability to take down a revamped Cornhuskers team in Ireland. Nonetheless, I’m an optimist — sue me. Give me wins in all of the non-conference matchups, and tack on one thanks to Illinois (one thing about me: I’ll never have more faith in the “Fighting” Illini than NU) and a miscellaneous B1G win. I’m thinking against Purdue?

I think improvement upon a tough 2021 campaign is inevitable. With a more seasoned Ryan Hilinski at the helm and a healthier receiving corps on the flanks, I can’t imagine another three win year. But don’t worry, I’ll go knock on some wood now just to be safe.

Sam Richardson: 4-8 (1-8 B1G)

Thankfully, Northwestern did not go the Indiana route and schedule a team way out of the their league (Cincy, in the Hoosiers’ case) for non-conference play. The ‘Cats should be able to pick up wins in all of their non-conference games, and the only one I am perhaps slightly worried about is Miami-Ohio, who may be able to put up points against Northwestern with their highly efficient offense.

In conference play, the story is entirely different. The lack of a proven quarterback, offensive line (except Skoronski, of course), and wide receiver depth will make scoring points a struggle, and on defense, the front seven has many questions to answer. Offenses like Maryland, Ohio State, and even Purdue will be able to put up points in large numbers, and with teams like Iowa and Wisconsin on the schedule, the defense could play exceptionally well and a win still would probably not be in the cards for the Wildcats. I can still see the ‘Cats winning against the Illini, who have one of the poorest returning groups in college football, but outside of that, I don’t foresee Fitz’s even-year magic continuing.

Zain Bando: 4-8 (1-8 B1G)

I just don’t see a lot of upside for this program at the moment. Not only is the schedule tough, but Northwestern has lost a lot of key pieces at various positions that certainly won’t help their cause. Ryan Hilinski will have to keep the ‘Cats in games if they expect to steal a couple. However, with it being an even year, and with the Golden State Warriors winning the NBA Finals over the summer, the Wildcats have been prone to shock the world at times. Is this another one of those years? I guess we’ll to tune in and find out. Also, for those curious, the only conference win that I see is a Week 8 game versus Maryland. At the very least, Northwestern should start the season 3-1.

I would really like to be wrong, but we’ll see.

Myles Gilbert: 5-7 (2-7 B1G)

It will be a rollercoaster of a season on the shores of Lake Michigan. Northwestern opens the season with a victory in Ireland against the Cornhuskers. Then, they’ll sweep the non-conference slate with three straight wins at home. Sitting at 4-0, the ‘Cats will face the teeth of their B1G schedule, and it will get ugly. Losses to Penn State in Happy Valley and at home against the Badgers will follow. Fitz and Co. will have to go on the road and face an underrated Maryland team and a tough Iowa Hawkeye defense in back to back weeks. We all know what will happen when the Buckeyes come to Evanston (lol). But all in all, the season ends on a positive note when the Wildcats reclaim the HAT from the little brother program down south. A decent season, but still one win short of bowl eligibility.