At last, the final game of the nonconference season has arrived. The 3-0 Northwestern Wildcats will take on the unbeaten Maine Black Bears in a final tune up before a date with Ohio State.
The Black Bears are ranked 25th in the FCS, but can this team push Northwestern at all? Our staff isn't so sure.
Will Northwestern coast through its last game before big, bad Ohio State comes to town, or will Maine make Northwestern sweat this one out?
WildcatReport's intrepid staff has the answers right here.
Aric "Hey There" DiLalla
Northwestern wins if… Maine doesn't have real Black Bears to fill in at linebacker.
Northwestern loses if… Ohio State shows up to Evanston two weeks early to offer the Black Bears some help.
The bottom line… Northwestern is going to look past this game. Expect Northwestern to do exactly what it didn't do against Western Michigan and get ahead early in this game.
Prediction Northwestern 44 Maine 10
Danny "Portlandia" Moran
Northwestern loses if… Oy. Well, Mar Wasilewski will be the first mobile quarterback the Wildcats have seen. If he gains above his average 65 yards per game, it could make things interesting.
The bottom line: Maine is 3-0 and a solid FCS program but their opponents this season are 2-6. This will be an opportunity for Northwestern to wash some of the bad taste out of their mouths from their underwhelming performance against Western Michigan.
Prediction: Northwestern 45, Maine 9
"Cool Hand" Luke Srodulski
Northwestern wins if… it stays mistake free. The only way for a major upset is if NU loses the turnover battle in a big way.
Northwestern loses if… as I said, it turns the ball over, but also if the cornerbacks don't show improvement since the last few games.
The bottom line: Unless the Cats REALLY underestimate Maine, they should be undefeated for the OSU showdown.
Prediction NU 45, Maine 17
"Sweet" Lou Vaccher
Northwestern wins if… Fitz doesn't schedule the team's naps for Saturday at 2:30 p.m. Central time.
Northwestern loses if… Did you ever see Space Jam? If aliens steal the Cats' talent, the Black Bears could spring the upset.
The bottom line: If this were a hockey game, Northwestern would be in big trouble.
Prediction Northwestern 44 Maine 17
Larry "Slick" Watts
Northwestern wins if… it shows up.
Northwestern loses if… the locker room doors are welded shut.
The bottom line: And you thought the battle of the unbeatens was taking place in two weeks. The Wildcats returned to a routine practice schedule this week and this should be a routine rout. Zack Oliver, Malin Jones and Warren Long should get plenty of snaps in the second half.
Prediction Northwestern 45, Maine 7
Alex "Bruce" Wayne
Northwestern wins if… they make a point of saying to themselves and each other: "THIS is our trap game". The elephant in the room is the Oct. 5 game against Ohio State. Facing an FCS program and then having a bye week shouldn't lead them into temptation to coast. This game is where a disciplined team is conscious about taking it one game at a time.
Northwestern loses if… their defense gets sloppy. Getting too conservative with play-calling on offense would be bad, but letting Maine's ball carriers slip away like they're in a greased pig contest is much worse.
The bottom line: A conservative offense will probably get more touches for Treyvon Green and Mike Trumpy in the running game, but not with Colter running a zone-read option offense. More sweeps and draw plays are what I expect. Also, look to see more receiving opportunities for Kyle Prater. This is the game where the coaching staff wants to get him six or seven receptions so that he's more of a factor in the conference schedule. But don't be surprised if the first string is still in after halftime.
Prediction Northwestern 48 Maine 12