Chances are that this is not the game that BTN was thinking about when they started their network a few years ago. But the good news is that one of these teams will get its first Big Ten win of the season on Saturday (11 a.m.)
WildcatReport's staff predicts whether the Wildcats will be able to halt their five-game losing streak, the program's longest in five years. This week, due to an email snafu, we do not have a guest prognosticator. We're also one man down on our staff. But, like Northwestern's defense, which will be missing two starters on Saturday, we will soldier on.
This week's bonus question focuses on NU's opponent. A Hoosier is a made-up name for someone from Indiana, so we asked each WR staff member to come up with a mascot for the hoop-crazy school in Bloomington, where football gives the fans something to do until basketball season starts.
Northwestern wins if… they hold the Hoosiers under 30 points. It's really that simple. I have faith that the offense will produce enough to win the game, but it's up to the defense to show that they have more pride than what they've been displaying.
Northwestern loses if… They play exactly as they've been playing the last five games. If nothing changes on the field, nothing will continue to change on the scoreboard.
The bottom line I think the 'Cats will find a way to win this game and play passable defense. Call me crazy, but I think we win this week.
Prediction Northwestern 35 Indiana 28
Bonus Question: The Indiana Hoosiers don't have a mascot. What should it be? It should be an exact replica of the Purdue mascot with Indiana colors. They should have a yearly fight at halftime of the Indiana/Purdue game. To the death.
Northwestern wins if… They don't have a mental hangover from last week.
Northwestern loses if…They try to tinker with the lineup too much.
The bottom line No reason the Wildcats can't win this game, even with the recent problems. They've played well against much better teams than Indiana.
Prediction Northwestern 30 Indiana 17
Bonus Question: The Indiana Hoosiers don't have a mascot. What should it be? Since virtually no one can even figure out where the name "Hoosier" came from, the mascot should be something equally inexplicable. Like that red blob that Western Kentucky uses.
Northwestern wins if… Playing 60 minutes of good football is more than just a cliche. Aside from some more fundamental issues, it seems NU's biggest intangible problem is its inconsistency. That Illinois game was far beyond winnable, and the offense showed flashes of brilliance in the last three games. That "60 minutes" bit is usually a bunch of coach-speak after a loss, but it's real this time around, whatever the reason.
Northwestern loses if… The team is worse than North Texas. And really, no offense to the boys up up in Denton (Andrew now lives in Dallas), but it'd be an immeasurable disappointment to lose to a team that lost to the Mean Green.
The bottom line NU's offense should have no problem with Indiana, which somehow has a worse scoring defense. Maybe I've watched the Cubs for too many years, but I just have a bad feeling about this one for NU.
Prediction Indiana 31 Northwestern 28
Bonus Question: The Indiana Hoosiers don't have a mascot. What should it be? No answer given.
Northwestern wins if… It plays the same offense it has for the past few weeks against an anemic Indiana defense. (Note: Dan Persa required.)
Northwestern loses if…It plays against Tre Roberson the same way they've allowed other quarterbacks of questionable passing talent to explode against them.
The bottom line Northwestern hasn't been good. Indiana hasn't been even close to good. A team on a five-game losing streak is favored on the road in a Big Ten conference matchup and it makes sense.
Prediction Northwestern 41 Indiana 28
Bonus Question: The Indiana Hoosiers don't have a mascot. What should it be? Whatever Gunner Kiel wants it to be. Is it an NCAA violation to change your team name to the name of an incoming highly rated quarterback recruit? (Note: Rodger obviously has yet to hear that Kiel has reopened his recruitment and is looking at other schools.)
Northwestern wins if… Offensively, the offensive line has to keep the quarterback clean and provide him with time to pass. Defensively, the Cats must come up with an effective pass rush while the secondary locks in on the receivers.
Northwestern loses if… Persa and/or Kain Colter again are forced to do too much scrambling and Indiana's freshman QB has his biggest day of the year.
The bottom line Bad things tend to happen to the Cats in Bloomington, even when they are the favorite. Mental toughness continues to be a problem defensively as one mistake seems to snowball into bigger mistakes. A road trip is not what NU needs as it tries to shake a five-game losing streak.
Prediction Indiana 35 Northwestern 31
Bonus Question: The Indiana Hoosiers don't have a mascot. What should it be? ? A chair (Think "Don't Call Me'' Bobby Knight)
Northwestern wins if… The defense manages to pick up where it left off in the second half against Penn State and gets a few stops and/or turnovers.
Northwestern loses if… The offense doesn't make the most out of its trips to the red zone. They will need to score more than 30 points to win.
The bottom line Both team are winless in the Big Ten, but Indiana has lost its last three by 21, 52 and 21 points, and the Hoosiers only win is against FCS South Carolina State. They lost to North Texas, for crying out loud. They can't be Northwestern, right? Right? RIGHT?
Prediction Northwestern 33 Indiana 27
Bonus Question: The Indiana Hoosiers don't have a mascot. What should it be? Robbie the Redneck.