In the face of unrelenting pressure from the "experts of the internet," and the coaching "gurus of the parking lot," Randy Walker has held to his season long position that this Northwestern Football team, while young, is still capable of rising up and finishing with a winning record.-- da Coach
He's been saying it since after the Air Force and Miami of Ohio losses. He's stayed the course after the Buckeyes and Gophers. He repeated his "we can win 7" speech after the disappointing loss Saturday. Coach Walker isn't guaranteeing a 7-5 season, but he certainly talks like its possible.
So who's left on the schedule? Penn State, Michigan and Illinois
First up is the Nitanny Lions:
What can stop the Cats:Next are the Wolverines:
1. Joe Pa - has had a background of foiling NU
2. Zack Mills - lost his job, then may have won it back last Saturday - would be a great "homecoming" for this kid. [Who is not from Chicago]
3. Did I mention Joe Pa? Last time he pulled an old offense out of his desk, and ran all over NU.
4. PSU's long tradition of defense
5. NU is playing at home - we don't play well in Ryan this year
6. No cheering from the fans in the stands if we don't get off to a great start in the game.
7. Jason Wright isn't recovered from his ankle injury -- NU has had a problem with our top RB's not finishing their Senior season lately.
Why the Cats can win:
1. We're not going to fumble 4 or 5 times this week. [we can't]
2. Joe Pa is on the down track of his career.
3. State Penn misses Jerry Sandusky running the defense
4. This year the Lions seem to be able to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory
5. Penn State isn't playing with any fire right now -- its like they expect to have a new coach in 2004, maybe....
6. Last year we lost in Happy Valley because we had no run defense. This year they know they can't come in and run a full house backfield, don't they?
7. Terrell Jordan rushed well last Saturday, even with the fumbles.
8. Brett B has to be hearing footsteps for next year - he needs a big game to start securing his starting job in 2004.
What can stop the Cats:And then the Fighting Illini:
1. Navarre and the Michigan offense comes to play from the first down.
2. The defense that shut down Purdue, who sliced thru NU's D like a hot knife in butter.
3. We get outcoached at home by Carr.
4. NU starts to believe that they can't win against a team that sliced thru MSU so easily.
5. Jason Wright still isn't back from his ankle injury.
6. The Wolverines want revenge for the Game of the Century.
Why the Cats can win:
1. Look what we did to Wisconsin at home - the bigger they are...
2. The NU Defense has been playing better against the better teams, especially when they get a longer field to defend. Purdue's field position early in the game was an aberation in the way we've been playing.
3. Baz can't have 3 disaster games in a row, can he?
4. Iowa beat these guys at home. MSU almost came back at the Big House. The betting is that dOSU wins the showdown this year.
5. When NU gets the running game going, it opens the passing back up and we've shown we can run against the top defenses.
6. Jason will want to make a statement on what could be the final national TV game of the year.
7. Remember the Game of the Century....
What can stop the Cats:So there are my reasons pro and con. As always, I don't have any predictions one way or the other.
1. Failing to take the Illini seriously
2. The Illini rise up at home to "salvage their season" for Turner
3. They finally get their QB some experience, 3 WR's who have played together and pick our defense apart.
4. They're coming off a Bye week - two weeks to get ready for us.
5. Jason Wright still isn't back from his ankle injury
Why the Cats can win:
1. The Illini are challenging the Hoosiers for the cellar.
2. Injuries have knocked out many of their starters - guys they were depending on to deliver this year.
3. They've played the entire season out of kilter, like the spirit of da Bares remained down in Champaign.
4. Jason Wright will want to put a big game up to go out with a bang.
5. Baz will want a great game to end the season to quiet any QB controversy in 2004 6. After last year, we owe them a loss at home, a big loss.
I am encouraged by one thing: Since the mid-October, NU seems to be able to play 50-55 minutes of quality football each game.
I really would have liked to have seen the Cats play a full 60 minutes of football Saturday, the way they played against Wisconsin. It was not to be, as we played 2 minutes of bad ball in the first quarter and 1 minute of shakey ball in each of the rest of the quarters. If we can avoid the 5-10 shakey minutes, this is all an exercise in nothing because we'll win these last 3 games.
Anyway, after Saturday, the hounds are baying at the door. I just don't think the Cats are hearing them, at least they don't seem to be paying any attention to all the static.
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