If you told me two years ago Northwestern would have to open up against an air raid—I'm sorry, Bear Raid—offense, I'd probably resemble a child who was just told his birthday, Halloween and Christmas were canceled. But this is 2013, and the holes that once plagued the Northwestern secondary are shrinking rapidly. Nick VanHoose and Daniel Jones have been excellent at corner, safety Traveon Henry continues to impress and the Bear Raid still needs to take its first trip off the runway. The Northwestern offense will look more like it did in Jacksonville and less like it did in State College. If the legendary Northern California fog does settle on Memorial Stadium, the Bear Raid will need to make an emergency landing, while Mark, Colter and Trumpy plow full speed ahead.
Northwestern 30, California 21
Could I be more of a homer? ‘Cats win, not even that close, and star quarterback Kain Colter ends up as the most valuable player? Well, Damien Proby comes in as a close runner-up with some big-time tackles, but Colter's pair of passing TDs and a rushing one to boot make him the man of the day. Sonny Dykes and his "Bear Raid" offense give Northwestern a scare in his first quarter on the job as the Golden Bears jump out to a lead. But everyone settles down, especially the defense, and the Wildcats ride home to Evanston with a comfortable first win in the passenger seat.
Northwestern 35, California 17
Northwestern's first trip to California in nearly two decades should be a breezy one. Cal isn't as one-dimensional as we'd like to think, averaging a healthy 182 rushing yards per game last season. But it's hard to see the Golden Bears running successfully against the Wildcats' experienced front seven, and you can bet that the "Bear Raid" offense will hiccup under a first-year quarterback and head coach. Northwestern's fast off the edge--a nightmare for Jared Goff and an offensive line that starts two freshmen and no seniors. It's unlikely that NU finds its go-to receiver Saturday, but there's no rush: Cal allowed nearly 48 points per game in its final four weeks of 2012, and gave up at least 170 yards on the ground in each of those losses.
Northwestern 38, Cal 17
I have the advantage here, given that all other analysts submitted their predictions before mine. They all said "Bear Raid." I say, "Don't care." Really, Cal wideouts Bryce Treggs and Chris Harper can still challenge the Northwestern defense—to the tune of some success. But tomorrow, the Wildcats should trample the Golden Bears with their running back depth and mental readiness. Colter and Mark reach the 100-yard plateau. Rashad Lawrence reminds us of his spring ball dominance. Traveon Henry makes the opposing offense cringe. Some things change. Others stay the same: NU cruises in its season opener tomorrow night.
Northwestern 48, California 27