Sure, the Northwestern Wildcats are coming out of non-conference play undefeated, but it did not come without plenty of struggle by the Wildcats, who have been criticized for only beating the FCS team Maine Black Bears by two touchdowns. They also struggled against a Western Michigan Broncos team that lost to the Iowa Hawkeyes by a score of 59-3 a week later. The Wildcats also beat teams like the California Golden Bears and Syracuse Orange this season, so why did they struggle so much against Maine and Western Michigan?
The frequency with which they run the ball could be a reason. They ran the ball about 75 percent of the time against both Maine and Western Michigan, while they only ran it about 55 percent of the time against California and Syracuse. The Wildcats say the run is their most effective weapon, but teams will come to expect it if they use it too often and do not mix it up with some passing plays. That could be why they struggled against Maine and Western Michigan. They ran the ball too much. Turning the ball over a lot will not make an offense successful either.
The Wildcats are not perfect on defense either. Corner Dwight White is one of their biggest weaknesses in this area. No matter how he covers receivers, they are going to gain plenty of yards on him. The Wildcats’ opponents need to make sure White is covering their best receiver and they will be successful in their passing game. The defense has also had trouble stopping runs up the middle and stopping scrambling quarterbacks. If this is the case then they will have trouble stopping a quarterback like the Ohio State Buckeyes‘ Braxton Miller, who is always a threat to run with the ball.
The Wildcats have a bye week this week, and surely they will be trying to work out some of these issues, especially since they will play a tough Ohio State team in Evanston on October 5. It will be a difficult task to beat the Buckeyes with all the struggles the Wildcats have faced so far this season, but beating the Buckeyes is something they feel is still within their reach.