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November 1, 2013

WR staff predictions: Nebraska

Can Northwestern head into Lincoln and recreate some of the 2011 magic that led to an upset win for the Cats?

Will Kain Colter find a way to lead his team to victory?

Can the offensive line finally take a step forward?

The WildcatReport staff has the answers to those questions and more in this week's installment of our fearless predictions.

Aric "Hey There" DiLalla

Northwestern wins if... Tony Jones, Rashad Lawrence and Christian Jones show up and give Colter targets downfield to open up the passing game.

Northwestern loses if... it can't put more than 20 points on the board. Nebraska will score, but can NU?

The bottom line: Nebraska isn't in top shape, but the Cats might be worse. It's hard to believe this is the same team we saw back in September.

Prediction: Nebraska 27 Northwestern 14

Danny "Portlandia" Moran

Northwestern wins if... Stephen Buckley goes into Marshawn Lynch-level beast mode..

Northwestern loses if... they continue to take sacks. The Iowa defense only has eight sacks this season so if the combination of Colter and Siemian take those negative plays, it will be an indicator that this offense is still in trouble.

The bottom line: Without Venric Mark, Mike Trumpy and Dean Lowry, NU is all of a sudden even more banged up when they can least afford to be. 0-5? 0-5.

Prediction: Nebraska 31 Northwestern 20

"Cool Hand" Luke Srodulski

Northwestern wins if... the offense avoids crucial errors. The Cats showed late against Iowa that they can move the ball, but a crucial penalty and turnover cost them the win.

Northwestern loses if... the defense falters without Lowry. NU can no longer run the 4-DE set on passing downs, so it will be tough to get stops on third down.

The bottom line: The Cats are now without Trumpy, whose production will have to be replaced by Treyvon Green. Add in the loss of Lowry, and all these injuries are too much to overcome.

Prediction: Nebraska 24 Northwestern 13

Louie "C.K." Vaccher

Northwestern wins if… They leave Colter in the game to run the zone-read and the option. Colter is the straw that stirs the drink, and the Huskers have always had a tough time with running QBs.

Northwestern loses if… The offensive line continues to get exploited in pass protection and the defense reverts to its previous form and gives up a couple big plays.

The bottom line: The Cats ran the ball well against Iowa in the second half last week, a good omen for this matchup of two disappointing teams. However, without Mark, Trumpy and Warren Long, and with Green just returning to the lineup, do they have enough healthy running backs to carry the load?

Prediction: Nebraska 27 Northwestern 24

Larry "Slick" Watts

Northwestern wins if... the defense continues to make steady progress and the offense can find a way to eliminate the stupid penalties while establishing a running game with a depleted backfield.

Northwestern loses if... the turnover/penalty trend continues and a revamped offensive line fails to click.

The bottom line: Two teams headed in the wrong direction. Northwestern has usually owned November under Fitz and I would be more confident with my pick were the Cats playing at Ryan Field. Throw in the Nebraska crowd on top of the longest injury list of the season, the mistakes on the offensive line and the latest turnover trend at critical points in the game, and I have to tip the scales to the Cornhuskers.

Prediction: Nebraska 24 Northwestern 20

Alex "Li'l" Wayne

Northwestern wins if… They find something, ANYTHING, to gain a little momentum and confidence. Both teams come in with those qualities in very short supply. Finding the unpredictable and potent offense or the opportunistic defense of the non-conference games would be a miracle.

Northwestern loses if… The defense continues to be ineffective. When the Wildcats do poorly, it seems that the defense gives up third-down conversions until the opposition has moved into Northwestern territory, when they can go for it on fourth-and-short and feel pretty confident about it. Seeing that is pretty much the beginning of the end.

The bottom line: Like the Ohio State game, I could see this one going half a dozen different ways depending on injuries, fluke plays, or on referee judgement calls. If Colter's healthy for most of the way it could be just enough to overcome Nebraska's usually significant home field advantage, but that's a really big "if".

Prediction: Nebraska 20 Northwestern 17 (OT)

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