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B1G 2015 // Northwestern Cocktail Party Preview

It's time to move on from the past two 5-7 seasons. Hope springs eternal in Evanston!

Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

About last season

The good news...

We beat Notre Dame in South Bend for the second time in 20 years even though I froze my ass off in the process. We beat Penn State, and no, I don't care how young their offensive line is. WISCONSIN CAN'T WIN IN EVANSTON! We have awesome black Gothic  alternate jerseys that should be worn once a year. I own one.

Encouraging news...

We went toe to toe with a tough Minnesota team. I think we can beat them next year. I look forward to STRONG DISLIKE week.

The bad news ...

We lost to Michigan. AGAIN!!! THE M00N GAME!!!

I imagine watching the highlights to that game listening to the Benny Hill theme song. Iowa kicked our ass. The Nebraska game got out of hand in the second half. We lost the HAT. We didn't go bowling.

On the Offensive Side of the Ball

The good news...

We have a healthy competition to succeed Trevior Siemian under center. It could either be Matt Alviti, Zack Oliver, or Clayton Thorson. Our friends at InsideNU have seen these guys in practice, so I'll let them tell the story:

All three contenders emerged from spring practice healthy, and that’s the biggest positive. All showed some positives in their play at both practices. Clayton Thorson showed a strong arm, and he looks smooth moving in the pocket. Zack Oliver led the offense to its only touchdown drive in the final open practice. Matt Alviti showed his quickness with long runs in both practices. We still have Thorson penciled in as the starter -- he also showed his natural athleticism and ability to throw on the run -- but there obviously is still a lot that can change.

As for running backs, true sophomore Justin Jackson returns as the starter after an explosive freshman season with 1,187 rushing, 1,388 all-purpose yards, 10 touchdowns, and six 100-yard rushing performances . The Chicago Tribune has a fun fact about JJ:

One more impressive stat: His 149-yard effort at Notre Dame was the biggest total against the Irish since Pittsburgh's Ray Graham went for 172 in 2012.

He'll be backed up by Warren Long and Auston Anderson.

Former running backs Solomon Vault and Steven Buckley are in a wide receiver corps with a healthy Christian Jones, Cameron Dickerson, Rutgers transfer Miles Shuler and Pierre Youngblood-Ary.

Dan Vitale is back for one more season as a Superback, and he's a monster. Seriously a worthy heir to absolute beast Drake Dunsmore,

The bad news ...

The offensive line is still unsettled. We've got returning starters, but they were not that good last year.  We're breaking in a new Center. Apparently we don't have a lot of depth at wide receiver.

On the Defensive Side of the Ball

The good news...

Anthony Walker and the rest of our linebackers will be a strength this season. Nick VanHoose, Matthew Harris, Traveon Henry and Godwin Igwebuike also performed well last year. Our defensive ends led by Deonte Gibson and Dean Lowry should be good.

The bad news ...

I'm worried about our interior defensive tackles, especially when we play Wisconsin at Camp Randall and host Stanford.

On Special Teams

The good news...

Jack Mitchell went 4/5 in field goal attempts against ND and will be the starter this year as kicker.

The bad news ...

We're breaking in a new punter, Hunter Niswander, that only has five punts last season.

On the Schedule

Date Opponent
Sept 5 vs Stanford
Sept 12 vs Eastern Illinois
Sept 19 at Duke
Sept 26 vs Ball State
Oct 3 vs Minnesota
Oct 10 at Michigan
Oct 17 vs Iowa
Oct 24 vs Nebraska
Nov 7 vs Penn State
Nov 14 vs Purdue
Nov 21 at Wisconsin
Nov 28 at Illinois (at Soldier Field)

The good news...

We don't play Ohio State. Nebraska does not invade Ryan Field. We get to beat up on Purdue. Northwestern plays Illinois at Soldier Field.

The bad news ...

We play Stanford and Duke in the noncon, and that could be a challenge. Northwestern apparently likes to schedule similar academic-minded schools, and at the moment both of them are good at football. I worry that Northwestern's defensive line will not be able to handle Stanford's running attack. We go to Camp Randall, and good things don't usually happen to us there.

If you're talking to a Northwestern fan, don't mention:

Yet another season without a bowl game, Nebraska fans invading Ryan Field, losing to Michigan in the M00N game, losing to Iowa, Injuries, Fitz trying to run power football without the players for it, losing the HAT.

Do Mention:

Beating Notre Dame, Justin Jackson, Anthony Walker, the new starting quarterback, Owning Wisconsin at Ryan Field.

B1G 2015: Northwestern Week

Better Know An OTE "Writer" | LPW | MNW

MONDAY | Cocktail Party Preview (you are here)

TUESDAY | Personnel Files

WEDNESDAY | Northwestern Potluck

THURSDAY | Wildcard

FRIDAY | Hate or Get Real