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September 14, 2013
The 2-0 Northwestern Wildcats should cruise to victory on Saturday night when Western Michigan comes to town.
The Broncos are 0-2, with losses against Michigan State and Nicholls State. From most perspectives, this should be an easy win for the Cats.
But which WMU team will show up on Saturday? Will it be the one that pushed the Big Ten's Spartans to the wire, or the one that became the first non-NAIA school to lose to Nicholls State since 2010?
WildcatReport's intrepid staff has the answers right here.
Northwestern wins if the Wildcats play even half as well as they did against Syracuse. This one shouldn't be close.
Northwestern loses if the WildcatReport staff has to run the read option. I wasn't very good even in high school, so it wouldn't be pretty.
The bottom line This Northwestern team is flat out better than WMU. Add in the fact that Fitz said his players aren't happy with how they've played so far, and you've got the makings of a blowout.
Prediction Northwestern 59 Western Michigan 21
Northwestern loses if Western Michigan can hang around at all by the fourth quarter. The Broncos need to believe they can hang with Northwestern and it will demoralize them if the 'Cats come out offensively like they did against Syracuse.
The bottom line: Pat Fitzgerald continually tore into his players during poorly executed stretches of a blowout in the second half. Northwestern is too focused to let this gimme slip away -- and Western Michigan is not good enough to take it from them.
Prediction: Northwestern 35 Western Michigan 10
Northwestern wins if Colter and Trevor Siemian play as well as they have been. WMU may be able to prepare for one, but certainly not both.
Northwestern loses if the defense overlooks this game. The cornerbacks struggled against Syracuse, and another rough game could be disastrous.
The bottom line: Unless the Wildcats severely underestimate the Broncos, they shouldn't have a problem. The offense has too much firepower, and the defense is too athletic.
Prediction Northwestern 44 Western Michigan 17
Northwestern wins if it just plays its game. The Cats are bigger, stronger, faster, deeper, more athletic and more experienced. Other than that, it's dead-even.
Northwestern loses if the team bus is hijacked on the way to Ryan Field.
The bottom line: If the last two games are any indication to how this one will go, the Cats will come out and dominate early, let their foot off the gas in the third quarter just enough to raise a few doubts, and then stick a fork in them late.
Prediction Northwestern 48 Western Michigan 20
Northwestern wins if it takes care of business right out of the locker room. The Wildcat defense should dominate against a team that has already thrown five interceptions this year and only rushed for 11 yards against Michigan State.
Northwestern loses if a flu epidemic breaks out and the Cats are forced to play their practice squad the entire game.
The bottom line: If the Cats have their heads screwed on straight, this game should be over by mid-third quarter. Look for Zack Oliver and several backups at the skill positions to get plenty of PT.
Prediction Northwestern 38 Western Michigan 7
Northwestern wins if they can get into viewing themselves as a well-oiled machine that keeps humming, even if they hit an occasion snag. The offense has plenty of weapons, the defense can both force and capitalize upon turnovers, and there are relatively few question marks in either talent or strategy. Depth is a nice confidence-builder too. It's a good mindset for shrugging off in-game setbacks and treating this like another opportunity to show that they know how to take care of business week after week.
Northwestern loses if they've been reading too many of their favorable press clippings. Before the season, Big Ten writers and reporters had eyes on the Oct. 5 Ohio State game, where "both teams should be undefeated." Now it's national writers and reporters saying as much. This isn't just dangerous, it's foolish. You underestimate MAC teams strictly at your own risk.
The bottom line: This is the third Northwestern opponent in a row with a first-year coach, so I don't think the Broncos can last for 60 minutes by way of deep familiarity with their system. But Western Michigan can say they've faced a Big Ten program already (Michigan State) and put on a feisty show. They'll also be keyed up after last week's infuriating loss at the hands of FCS Nicholls State. I don't see WMU carrying the day, but they're playing for pride and they'll make a point of landing a few punches that will sting.
Prediction Northwestern 38 Western Michigan 16