Northwestern will have to travel to Berkeley for their week 1 matchup with California. Even though Cal was not very good last season and Northwestern has Big 10 title aspirations, this should be a very tough test for the ‘Cats.
First off, it is never easy to win on the road but even tougher when you must travel across two time zones. This is a noted disadvantage for NFL teams going from the east coast or Midwest out to the west coast. Studies have shown that the change in time zone really does impact the travelling team. It also can’t help that Northwestern hasn’t even played a game in the Pacific time since 2006, when they lost at Nevada, meaning no players on the team have ever played on the west coast. The numbers just say that Northwestern will have a tougher time winning at Cal than they would if the game was in the Midwest or east coast.
Now despite Cal being bad last season (3-9 record), they have added a spark to the offense with the recent announcement of true freshman Jared Goff as the new starting quarterback. Goff was a local California four-star recruit who was in Rivals top 150. He beat out two older QBs for the job and has shown real promise since joining the team in the spring. Northwestern will be Goff’s first test and they have to hope he doesn’t start a big freshman season against them. Although Goff will have no experience coming into the game, that also means that the Wildcats have no film on him at the college level. That creates a big wildcard that Pat Fitzgerald’s team will have to deal with.
Finally, odds are that when Northwestern plays, the game won’t be easy. They aren’t called the “cardiac cats” for nothing (remember last year’s dramatic opener win at Syracuse?) and this just seems like a great setup for some early season drama. On paper, the ‘Cats may be big favorites, but don’t expect Northwestern to get anything easy when they travel to take on California Week 1.
You can follow Alex Dale on Twitter @alexdaleCFB.