Entering the third year of the Pat Fitzgerald era, the Northwestern Wildcats are coming off a disappointing 6-6 season. They did improve their win total from the previous year of 4-8, but that was the season after the passing of the beloved Randy Walker.
The reason last year was such as disappointment was the ridiculous loss to the inept Duke Blue Devils, but I suppose last year could have been more disappointing if not for the overtime victories over Michigan State and Minnesota.
This season, the Wildcats look to make an Illinois-like impact in the division. The Wildcats will have a soft open with Syracuse, Duke, Southern Illinois and Ohio. In all fairness, they should all be wins, but with the way this team has played versus easy opponents, I wouldn't put it past them.
Then the competition gets dialed up when they hit the Big Ten regular season where they will first meet Iowa in Iowa City. Then they play Michigan State, Purdue, Indiana, Minnesota, Ohio State, Michigan and finish off the season at home versus rival Illinois.
The Wildcats will hopefully have the freshman version of Tyrell Sutton (Senior) who rushed for over 1,400 yards, but the problem that Sutton had in his sophomore and junior years was his health.
Northwestern saw is touches fall from 250 in 2005 to 189 in 2006 and even more so in 2007 when he only touched the ball 108 times and rushed for 522 yards.
The running game is what will make or break this Wildcat season. If they get high production from Sutton, and quarterback C.J. Bacher doesn't turn the ball over a ton, the Wildcats might surprise some people.
The Wildcats will improve this season under Fitzgerald to 7-5 and make it into one of the smaller bowls with wins over Syracuse, Duke, Southern Illinois, Ohio, Indiana, Minnesota and the upset over Purdue.
All and all, college football season is back and we can all be thankful for that, even us Northwestern Fans. Go Wildcats!