When you take coaching careers into context, Pat Fitzgerald might be the second best coach in the Big Ten behind Urban Meyer. Northwestern is the Stanford or Vanderbilt of the Big Ten. It is one of the best schools in the nation and brings in recruits who are not only exceptional athletes, but exceptional citizens.
Pat Fitzgerald has finally started to bring in recruits that can thrive in his system. He’s a players’ coach, he loves Northwestern and he understands the job he’s in.
Stanford rose under Jim Harbaugh and the same type of movement is happening with Fitzgerald at NW. He is consistently winning football games and it will not be long until he strikes it big in the Big Ten.
Northwestern won ten football games last year. It is worth noting that three of those wins were in overtime. Wins over Iowa and Nebraska came in OT. A win over MSU that took three overtimes could have easily been a loss. However, Northwestern has experience in winning these close games. Overtime experience is never a bad thing.
Somehow, The Wildcats got the doors blown off by Duke. Duke was not good and Northwestern was. They will meet up again in Evanston, Look for Duke to get shitpumped by an angry Wildcat team.
People love to think of Northwestern as a team to perennially be a bottom feeder in the Big Ten. Pat Fitzgerald ripped off eight straight wins to end 2017. The defense played well and the offense did what it needed to do.
Starting QB Clayton Thorson is coming off of ACL surgery, which I have heard is not fun. Thorson will have one last chance to make his case for the NFL before Clemson transfer Hunter Johnson takes over the reigns.
NW legend Justin Jackson is gone. Jeremy Larkin takes his place.
Northwestern will have a clear identity on offense. Jeremy Larkin will fill right in at tailback. The receiving group will be good enough to give Thorson the weapons he needs.
Much like South Carolina, Northwestern brings back the pieces to be strong in run defense. The ‘Cats also bring back two of their best cover corners. The safeties are also ready to play big minutes. There is room for improvement but Northwestern is in prime position to do so.
Their schedule is not favorable. They take trips to Purdue (which is now a tough game), East Lansing, and Iowa. Duke, Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Nebraska and Michigan all visit Evanston. Aside from Wisconsin, Northwestern is good enough on paper to win all of those games.
However, Nebraska, Notre Dame, and Michigan should all improve. Ryan Field is hardly a big home-field advantage. Northwestern will have to show up for these games.
2018 and Beyond
Another 10-3 season is on the table. If the ‘Cats can get a few to go their way, they could go and finally paint Indy Purple.
Hunter Johnson will be an absolute stud for Northwestern. From Dan Persa to Clayton Thorson, Northwestern has a good pedigree with QB’s. Pat Fitzgerald could very well have found his QB of the future in Johnson. If Northwestern doesn’t find their way to Indy this year, they will with Hunter Johnson under center.