Traveon Henry — I wasn't immediately buying Henry, the former highly touted recruit. He made some decent plays early in the season, but all too often ended up in Ibraheim Campbell's shadow. Lately, Henry became an exceptional defensive player for Northwestern — and an essential safety net when the run defense wilted against Michigan. Before leaving with an injury, he collected 13 tackles in the losing effort. Can't blame him for embracing the opportunity.
Trevor Siemian — He certainly didn't benefit from the questionable playcalling on Saturday afternoon. Still, the embattled quarterback had an excellent game, completing 16-of-25 passes for 137 yards. Aside from that late-game interception, he played well in short-passing situations, which are his obvious niche. He's the obvious frontrunner for next year's starting quarterback role, rendering further improvements necessary.
Christian Jones — He's been an underrated model of consistency. Jones has avoided injuries and hauled in multiple passes each game this season. There were some weaker outings – like against Wisconsin – but he's flashing his potential. Jones stands at 38 catches for 443 yards after adding seven for 54 on Saturday. This wide receiving corps is severely overrated, but Jones is looking strong as the season draws to its merciful close.
Tyler Scott — These poor seniors. Kain Colter, Tyler Scott and a dozen others will leave the program after this year's complete debacle. Scott, without question, lived up to his personal hype this season. He's anchored a strong group of defensive ends, and after another strong week, holds the team lead with six sacks and 10 tackles for loss. One of the more gracious NU players in recent memory, he'll hope to finish his career on a better note than this.
Nick VanHoose — Though imperfect on Saturday, VanHoose completed his recovery from an awful start to the season. Though Dwight White faced the brunt of criticism for secondary struggles, VanHoose seemed to regress following his superlative redshirt freshman campaign. He was part of another decent effort from the corners, who blanketed just about everyone aside from Jeremy Gallon and challenged receivers throughout the game. Matt Harris has been solid in the starter's role as well.
Downfield passing game — Here's what we omit mentioning: With these conservative play calls, NU is denying itself an opportunity to surprise opponents with the deep ball. Siemian and Kain Colter continually check down to backs and receivers — even in their terrifying five wide-receiver sets. After an aggressive start to the year, especially against Syracuse, the Wildcats fell back into their numbing conservative mindset. That works unless you're 0-6 in Big Ten play and have an offense that struggles to move the ball with consistency. Oh wait.
Running backs — They needed something more inspired to get past Michigan. Mike Trumpy and Treyvon Green combined to run 21 times for only 70 yards, which marked a surprisingly mediocre effort. The team so obviously missed Venric Mark and Stephen Buckley – both out for the season – and failed to mobilize its rushing attack. Though Colter found some success on the ground, the backs had only one 10-plus yard gain — and that made the receivers' downfield absence even more noticeable.
Dropped interceptions — It reminded everyone of last year's Nebraska game, when David Nwabuisi dropped the potential game-sealing interception. Northwestern kept letting Michigan into the game by dropping easy picks of Devin Gardner. Once the formidable Big Ten POY candidate, Gardner looked terrible for most of the afternoon, tossing errant balls left and right. But instead of intercepting him – they miraculously never did that – the Wildcats were simply deflecting passes. That's your definition of poor execution.