The 2014 season looked promising for the Northwestern Wildcats, albeit for a brief period. After defeating Wisconsin and Melvin Gordon, the Wildcats boasted a 3-2 record and were unbeaten in conference play. However, Chicago’s Big Ten team went on to lose five out of their last seven games and ended the season 5-7 with a 3-5 conference record. Now they go into 2015 without quarterback Trevor Siemian, leading receiver Kyle Prater and leading tackler Chi Chi Ariguzo. This can only mean the Wildcats are doomed this fall, right?
They may not be in as much trouble as one would think.
From a roster standpoint, the Wildcats do return star running back Justin Jackson, who rushed for 1,187 yards and ten touchdowns last season. However, he missed some of spring practices due to a lower body injury. He’ll need to stay healthy during the fall. The rest of the roster may be lacking, but Northwestern has a pretty workable schedule in 2015.
Northwestern’s non-conference schedule consists of Stanford, Eastern Illinois, Duke and Ball State. Duke is the lone road game. That isn’t exactly a gauntlet. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Wildcats went into Big Ten play with a 2-2 record. Northwestern’s first conference game is October 3 when Minnesota comes to Evanston. Its other home games are Iowa, Penn State, Purdue, and Illinois. Michigan, Nebraska and Wisconsin are the road games. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, the only winnable conference road game is more than likely Michigan (And I hope for the sake of football fans everywhere that it isn’t a repeat of last year’s matchup. That game was horrendous). The best part of the schedule is not having to face Michigan State or Ohio State.
Northwestern will still have its obstacles to overcome. It won’t win the Big Ten Championship, and it may not even beat Illinois. But a six-win season for head coach Pat Fitzgerald and the Wildcats is pretty doable regardless of their young roster.
Brooks Hooley is a Junior Big Ten Football writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @brookshooley.