Notre Dame vs. Northwestern: Key Matchups, Prediction

By Patrick Leiva

4 Key Matchups: Notre Dame vs. Northwestern

Pat Fitzgerald Northwestern
Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports

Pat Fitzgerald led Northwestern to a 17-15 victory over then-No. 9 Notre Dame in the season opener in 1995. Fitzgerald looks to lead the Wildcats to a second-consecutive victory over the Irish as the two teams square off for the first time in 19 years. Here are four key matchups and a prediction for Saturday’s contest.

5. Justin Jackson vs. Nyles Morgan

Justin Jackson Northwestern
Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

5. Justin Jackson vs. Nyles Morgan

Justin Jackson Northwestern
Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

This matchup pits two highly-touted freshmen against one another. Morgan, who enters the contest with 12 tackles, was thrust into the lineup at middle linebacker following the injury to Joe Schmidt against Navy. Jackson, who leads the WIldcats with 761 yards and a respectable 4.3 yards per carry, will look to exploit the Irish rush defense. This clash will decide whether the Wildcats can grind the clock down or be forced to open up their offense.

4. Cole Luke vs. Kyle Prater

Cole Luke Notre Dame
Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

4. Cole Luke vs. Kyle Prater

Cole Luke Notre Dame
Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Luke becomes the focal point for the Irish on the outside with the suspension to cornerback KeiVarae Russell and injury to Cody Riggs. Luke, who stands 5-foot-11, leads the Irish with three interceptions, along with 30 tackles and a team-leading 11 pass deflections. Prater, who transferred from USC following the 2012 season, leads the Wildcats with 37 receptions for 372 yards and figures to be a key red-zone target on Saturday.

3. Ibraheim Campbell vs. Everett Golson

Ibraheim Campbell Northwestern
Bradley Leeb-USA TODAY Sports

3. Ibraheim Campbell vs. Everett Golson

Ibraheim Campbell Northwestern
Bradley Leeb-USA TODAY Sports

Campbell, the leader of the Northwestern secondary, will look to add to Golson's turnover total. Campbell is tied for second on the Wildcats with two interceptions, following a 2013 campaign in which he added his name to the Northwestern record books with an interception in five-consecutive games. Golson is capable of the spectacular play, but the maddening play as well. Golson leads the Irish with 3,018 yards of total offense and 31 touchdowns.

2. Notre Dame Offensive Line vs. Northwestern Defensive Front Seven

Notre Dame Offensive Line
Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

2. Notre Dame Offensive Line vs. Northwestern Defensive Front Seven

Notre Dame Offensive Line
Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

The Irish will need a bounce-back performance from their offensive line following the "debacle in the desert." I expect the Irish to return to a more balanced attack with the offensive line paving the way. Northwestern returns much of their defensive front, led by linebacker Chi Chi Ariguzo with 80 tackles on the year. The Wildcats enter the game with 14 sacks and will need a more aggressive defense if they have any shot of pulling the upset.

1. Prediction: Notre Dame 38, Northwestern 14

Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

1. Prediction: Notre Dame 38, Northwestern 14

Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

The Irish have too many weapons on offense for Northwestern to contain and keep up with. The Wildcats will remain close for a half before Notre Dame pulls away for a comfortable win at home. The Irish will strike early and often following the defeat to Arizona State, with Everett Golson pacing Notre Dame with four total touchdowns, and, most importantly, zero turnovers.

You May Also Like