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Hoegher's 2013 Previews: NORTHWESTERN WILDCATS

Remember free time? Remember sleeping in until noon just because you felt like it? Yeah. Those were the days. As it happens now, I probably have to go to work tomorrow on a Sunday because real life isn't as fun as college was (the benefit of being able to pay for stuff is okay). On the plus side, I didn't get washed away in the flash floods this past week, though my morning biking commute did have a bit more rivers to ride through than normal.

THE PAST

NOTE: all historical data is taken from James Howell's excellent resource and/or Sports-Reference (college football edition)

Northwestern Overall Ratings

Northwestern Adj Off/Def

Northwestern Win Pct/Luck

Winning percentage and "Luck" are plotted on a win-pct basis (mind-blowing, I know). Adj Off/Def/Eff/Marg and Resume rankings are plotted on a percentile-ranking basis. Thus, a team rating out in the 99th percentile would be awesome, a team rating out in the 1st percentile would be not-so-awesome.

So normally in this space I like to expand on some of the forgotten teams of the past, especially the good teams we don't recall so easily. Like how Indiana once ranked #3 in the AP Poll, something that seems ludicrous given the state of the team as of now. Today, though, we deal with Northwestern. We all know that Northwestern football didn't start until 1995, but I think recent bowl wins and winning seasons have clouded our mind from just how bad those pre-football era teams were. They were bad. Really, really bad.

In the last few decades, there have been a few teams that have been the absolute epitome of ineptitude (BCS conference edition) for years on end:

1990's and 2000's Temple was so bad that they managed to get kicked out the Big East:

2006 Temple (1-11) - 9766th (out of 9827 teams since 1930)

2005 Temple (0-11) - 9776th

1993 Temple (1-10) - 9797th

1990's and 2000's Rutgers fielded teams that managed to lose by 70 pts to 3-9 opponents (2001 game vs West Virginia):

2002 Rutgers (1-11) - 9305th

2001 Rutgers (2-9) - 9662nd

1997 Rutgers (0-11) - 9694th

But these teams pale in comparison to the 1980's era Northwestern teams:

1983 Northwestern (2-9) - 9619th

1978 Northwestern (0-10-1) - 9735th

1981 Northwestern (0-11) - 9815th

You'll recall that I have 9827 teams in my database. That means that 1981 Northwestern rates out worse than nearly every single team, including mid-majors. In fact, the only team from the last three decades that rates out worse is the 2000 Louisiana-Monroe team (1-10). They are easily the worst BCS conference team I have on record. For those of you that were alive during the Rick Venturi years: I'm so sorry.

THE FUTURE

CFBStats.com and FBSchedules.com are used for reference here. I highly recommend both sites.

Projected Rating: 0.290 (37th)

Conf Proj Rec Conf Rec Adj Off rk Adj Def rk Adj Eff rk Adj Marg rk
B10 7-5 4-4 1.185 33 0.890 46 0.571 36 0.295 37
Schedule SOS rk Conf SOS rk n-con SOS rk
Rating/Rk 0.087 40 0.279 33 -0.297 81
Week 1 (V) Week 2 (H) Week 3 (H) Week 4 (H) Week 5 Week 6 (H) Week 7 (V) Week 8 (H)
67 - Cali 73% 59 - ORANGE 69% 92 - WeMich 86% 124 - FCS 99% 0 - BYE 0% 14 - OhioSt 26% 22 - Wiscy 34% 78 - Minny 81%
Week 9 (V) Week 10 (V) Week 11 Week 12 (H) Week 13 (H) Week 14 (V) Week 15 Week 16
51 - Iowegia 59% 18 - CORN 30% 0 - BYE 0% 27 - FuMich 42% 30 - Sparty 46% 84 - LOLinois 82% 0 - BYE 0% 0 - BYE 0%

The number next to each opponent represents the projected ranking for that team. The percentages represent projected likelihood of winning a particular game, helpfully color-coded for your benefit (no regard for home/away, though that status is noted). The team names have been adjusted to better fit your screen, I hope they are obvious enough. You are free to ignore everything and tell me why I'm wrong, you're probably right.

Northwestern 2013 Profile

This is an attempt to quickly illustrate a team's outlook for the coming season. These aren't unique (my personal experience was a Pokemon Yellow Guide from my youth): maxing out the pentagon is better. Winning percentage should be obvious, but other than that: the numbers here represent percentile rankings. 99th percentile is good, 1st percentile is less so.

OFFENSE:

QB: Trevor Siemian (JR, 6.0 yds/att, 59%, 6-3 TD-INT), Kain Colter (SR, 5.8 yds/att, 67%, 8-4 TD-INT)

Okay, I know y'all won 10 games last year, beat Mississippi State in a bowl game, were five minutes away from an undefeated season, blah, blah, etc. I still think the two-quarterback system is dumb and the Wildcats would be better served long term by picking one guy and sticking with him. It's wonderful that you have two capable guys to direct the offense and doing the whole "throwing the ball" thing, but that doesn't mean you have to use both of them at QB. I said this last year, and I'm sure that some purple fans will shout me down, but I think Fitzgerald should go with Siemian. He's more than capable of playing quarterback, and it allows Kain Colter to remain on the field in his every-back role. You have Siemian for another year at quarterback anyway, might as well give him the whole reigns now.

I'm sure Fitzgerald will put in a third QB now and Northwestern's going to win the BCS championship over Alabama just to spite me.

RB: Venric Mark (SR, 6.0 yds/car, 12 TD), Mike Trumpy (SR, 4.6 yds/car, 3 TD)

Also of note: Godwin Igwebuike (ATH, 4-star), Kain Colter (SR, superback).

So is Mike Trumpy still around then? I put him here, because CFB Stats only had him as a junior last year, but I can't really recall hearing much about him. I suppose that's what happens when you have Venric Mark: superstar on the roster. Somewhat related: I know this is partly born out of scheme and partly out of necessity, but it's much more difficult to parse through recruiting classes and current rosters when half the players are "athletes." I have little idea if noted Hitler-invoker Igwebuike will be used as a running back, but the Scout profile seemed to lean that way, so there he is. If that's true, it means that Northwestern has at least three hybrid-backs with potential to touch the ball on a given play. My hope is that this is derailed somewhat before the Wisconsin game :)

WR/TE: Christian Jones (JR, 11.8 yds/rec, 2 TD), Tony Jones (JR, 11.6 yds/rec, 4 TD), Rashad Lawrence (SR, 9.5 yds/rec, 0 TD)

Also of note: Kain Colter (SR, superback), Dan Vitale (SO RB, 10.3 yds/rec), Macan Wilson (WR, 3-star), Kyle Prater (JR, jack-all squat)

I label this section as WR/TE because usually teams have a tight end catching passes. In the case of some teams (Wisconsin), usually a significant part of their passing offense. But Northwestern has the curious case of not having any listed as such, at least according to CFB Stats. Just wondering...

From the looks of it, Northwestern has the potential to field a pretty good wide receiving core this year. Their top three pass catchers from a year ago return, despite the fact that I don't recognize any of their names (well, except Kyle Prater, and there's no need to kick someone while their down). It be nice to see some of those yds/rec averages a bit higher, but I suppose that Venric Mark and Kain Colter are going to steal some touches in one fashion or another. (No, Paul Jorgensen 24 yds/rec does not count).

DEFENSE:

DL: Tyler Scott (SR, 12.5 TFL), Dean Lowry (SO, 3.0 TFL), Deonte Gibson (SO, 2.5 TFL), Sean McEvilly (JR, 1.5 TFL)

Losing Quentin Williams (8.5 TFL) and Brian Arnfelt (6.0 TFL) will probably sting a bit here. The highest incoming DT is Eric Joraskie (3-star), so the line's looking young for this year. On the bright side? Next year should be pretty strong, assuming everyone stays healthy and improves along an expected path. This year might be a bit tough, and I guess we'll see how the line handles the relative lack of experience in the Big Ten opener.

LB: Damien Proby (SR, 112 tackles), Chi Chi Ariguzo (JR, 91 tackles), Drew Smith (SO, 17 tackles)

Also of note: Anthony Walker (OLB, 4-star)

Apparently Proby and Ariguzo need to stay healthy, because depth drops off a cliff after those two. For a former All-American linebacker, this seems to be a tad lower than I'd expect from Pat Fitzerald. This ends the extent of my linebacking analysis.

DB: Ibraheim Campbell (JR, 12 PBU, 2 INT), Nick VanHoose (SO, 7 PBU, 3 INT), Daniel Jones (JR, 4 PBU, 0 INT)

Also of note: Marcus McShepard (CB, 3-star)

Ibraheim Campbell returns as a likely All-Big Ten selection (honorable mention last year) and the best defensive back from last year. That's good news, since the Wildcats lose two other from 2012 (Demetrius Dugar, Jared Carpenter). Northwestern was okay at defeneding the pass last year (mid 50's in Passing S&P+, according to Football Outsiders), though I have to think some of that has to be due to Tyler Russell's atrocious play in the bowl game. Fortunately, this is still the Big Ten and they still get to play Andrew Maxwell and Greg Davis' torture victim quarterback at Iowa, so there's not exactly a lot to worry about.

HOEGHER'S BIASED PREDICTION

8-4. Ow, stop hitting me. That's still better than what my numbers of ambiguity are spitting out. Northwestern is a team on the rise, and I think they certainly have the potential to win 10+ games again. But this is still a team that managed to lose to Army two years ago, and still a team with some inherent disadvantages (disadvantages it does a good job of mitigating, but regardless).

This is also a bit more difficult of a schedule than last year. A 2-3 record against the Ohio State, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Michigan, Michigan State run isn't unreasonable, and I think there are just enough tricky games against the rest (Minnesota, California, Syracuse, Iowa) to find another loss in there somewhere. When Northwestern is scoring its 5th touchdown of the day in Camp Randall, feel free to bring this back up and make me feel bad for my actions.

QUICK REFERENCE:

Adj Off - analogous to scoring offense, adjusted for opponent strength.

Adj Def - analogous to scoring defense, adjusted for opponent strength.

Adj Eff - analogous to scoring ratio, adjusted for opponent strength.

Adj Marg - analogous to scoring margin, adjusted for opponent strength.

Luck - difference between actual winning percentage and expected winning percentage.

Resume - analogous to win/loss record, adjusted for opponent strength.

For for information see here: HOEGHER'S PRIMER.

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