Successfully Navigating The 2013 Schedule Will Be Tough For Northwestern

Pat Fitzgerald Northwestern Wildcats

Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

I’ll forgive you if you haven’t studied Northwestern’s 2013 football schedule.

Wildcat fans though are chomping at the bit for August to roll around.

You see Pat Fitzgerald is thought to have one of the best Northwestern teams perhaps ever or at the very least one that will be favored to win a lot of games from the get go and certainly won’t sneak up on anyone.

If the ‘Cats are to live up to their preseason billing, however, they’ll have to navigate through what should be a very demanding schedule.

Northwestern will have the luxury of playing seven home games, but opens at California, a team that will have plenty of incentive after suffering through a disappointing 3-9 2012 season.

The ‘Cats open their home schedule against a Syracuse team that is coming off one of its most successful seasons a year ago when it went 8-5 and beat West Virginia in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl.

Home wins over Western Michigan and Maine should follow and don’t be surprised if after a bye week Northwestern is 4-0 hosting Ohio State on the first Saturday in October.

The month of October doesn’t get any easier a week later with a trip to Wisconsin’s Camp Randall Stadium.

If the ‘Cats stubble against the Buckeyes and Badgers, look for them to get healthy with back-to-back games against Minnesota and at Iowa.

That would set up an interesting showdown to say the least at Nebraska. Northwestern’s last trip to Lincoln resulted in a shocking upset over the Cornhuskers and don’t think Bo Pelini’s group will have forgotten that.

Fitzgerald’s ‘Cats likely will head into a rare second bye week with a 6-3 record.

They’ll finish the year with home dates against Michigan and Michigan State before heading to Champaign to face the Fighting Illini.

Missing from Northwestern’s schedule is Purdue, Indiana and Penn State, three teams that are expected to struggle in 2013 so the ‘Cats don’t get any break there.

Even with a demanding slate, it’s difficult visualizing anything less than an 8-4 season when analyzing NU’s schedule. Honestly that may be underestimating Fitzgerald’s team considering it should be very good on offense with one of the Big Ten’s best playmakers in Kain Colter returning at quarterback and a defense that most believe will be very improved.

Who knows, if the ‘Cats get some breaks and the ball bounces their way more times than not, they’ll have a shot at equaling last year’s win total of 10.

Doug Griffiths is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and the US Basketball Writers Association. Doug is a columnist/writer for RantSports. Follow him on Twitter @ISLgriffiths and Facebook.

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