Originally written on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 11/15/14

EVANSTON, IL - NOVEMBER 11: Head coach Pat Fitzgerald of the Northwestern University Wildcats watches the game against the Ohio State University Buckeyes on November 11, 2006 at Ryan Field at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. The Buckeyes won 54-10. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

2012 Northwestern Wildcats Football Quickview

2011 Record:  6-7

Head Coach:  Pat Fitzgerald- 7th year    40-36

Returning Starters:    10    5- Offense   5- Defense

Nonconference Schedule Breakdown:  Three also-rans dot the Wildcat nonconference schedule in 2012…opening on the road is tough and playing in the Carrier Dome is no easy task either…so Kain Colter and Northwestern will be tested right out of the gate..then they host Vanderbilt and Boston College before ending the non-Big Ten agenda vs South Dakota….no easy weeks at all for Northwestern.. hopefully this ledger improves the Wildcats enough to make some legit noise in the Big Ten…but to do that, the defense has to get better.

Schedule Rank (in the Big Ten) 8th  hardest: opening the season on the road is something of a difficult task…you really have an idea of what your team is about, but you really don’t know until you see them in game situations…Syracuse will pose challenges…but the Wildcats open the Big Ten portion of their schedule with three games that are winnable..at home vs Indiana..then consecutive road trips to State College and MarQuienneapolis could put the Wildcats up in the front seat of the Legends race…not in the drivers seat…just riding shotgun..looking out the window…reading each and every street sign along the way…then they see one alarming sign…”Pavement Ends”…and the wheels fall off for the next 5 weeks..homers vs Nebraska and Iowa..then a bye…then back-to-back trips to Ann Arbor and East Lansing finishing at home vs rival Illinois will close the book on the Cats season.

Who they don’t play in 2012: Ohio State, Purdue, Wisconsin

The Skinny:  Fitzgerald is challenging his defense to improve…he knows his offense moves the ball in the Big Ten…but he needs his defense to stop people…not all the time…just enough to beat the Illinois, Minnesota’s and the Purdue’s…but all of those teams have better defenses…one of the factors that could really push NW into the top echelon of the Legends is a transfer from USC…wide receiver  Kyle Prater.  He was granted eligibility for the 2012 season less than a week ago…that gives NW a huge 6’5” 215 threat that instantly becomes one of the top WR’s in the conference…but he doesn’t play defense…so watch the Wildcat defense get better and actually win a game or two for NW this year…

Toughest Game in 2012:  November 24th vs Illinois…Pat Fitzgerald has made this game the biggest on NW’s schedule…he is only 3-3 vs the Fighting Illini…but he is 2-0 in Evanston…this will probably be for the right to go to a bowl game…so it will have that much more on the line…

Best Player:  QB Kain Colter…this guy was incredible last year..he has taken the overblown stats that NW QB’s usually get and taken it to an entirely new level…so not only did he lead NW in rushing yards and rushing TD’s in 2011, he also finished 3rd on the team in receptions and receiving yards and 2nd on the team in passing yards…

What MIGHT happen:  The Wildcats have a 1,000 yd receiver…this would be the first time a NW WR has totaled more than 1,000 yds in a season since D’Wayne Bates did it in 1998…

What WILL happen:  Northwestern has a 1,000 yard rusher…it would be the first in Evanston since Tyrell Sutton hit exactly a grand in 2006.

What WON’T happen:   Kain Colter throws for less than 2,400 yards…the last time a NW QB threw for less than that total was in 2006 and it was a 1st year starter named CJ Bacher…

Why they won’t win the Big Ten:  They haven’t won or shared the conference title since they were co-champs in 2000…and unless Fitzy has worked a few miracles on the D..it won’t happen this year either.

Why they will win the Big Ten: QB Kain Colter keeps teams honest with his running and throwing ability…Kyle Prater is Calvin Johnson-like and is the Big Ten Player of the Year and The Wildcat defense is a top 4 unit in the Big Ten…and ALL of those have to happen

Gotta know about the Wildcats:  Including this season at Syracuse…the Wildcats will have opened the season on the road eight times in the last twelve years….they are 5-2 in those games including winning the last three..

BOLD Statement: The Wildcats will beat a team from the ACC, Big East, SEC and the Big Ten before October…

Related articles Michigan Wolverines Quickview Michigan State Spartans Quickview Big Ten Football Central
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Duke takes over as the No. 1 recruiting class

Kevin Love not expected to be available next series

Titans have reportedly been 'all over' Marcus Mariota

Report: Browns talked with Redskins about trading up

Doc Rivers tore into Clippers in film room after blowout loss

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Jon Jones facing felony charge for leaving scene of crime

Josh Hamilton officially traded back to Rangers

Report: Landing Adrian Peterson too costly for Cardinals

Report: Antonio Brown joins Steelers voluntary work outs

Charles Barkley: JR Smith should be suspended 10 games

Report: Redskins likely to pick up Robert Griffin III's option

Report: Brady was at stadium day of White House visit

Arkansas has leather belt to commemorate Texas Bowl win

John Angelos, Orioles got it right with Freddie Gray protest

Belichick's girlfriend fine with coach checking out Teigen

V. Stiviano posts birthday message to 'BFF' Donald Sterling

Mark Cuban and the inevitable playoff peril of the Mavs

Wizards made Raptors look bad while remaking themselves

Previewing Game 7 showdown between Islanders and Capitals

WATCH: Rick Carlisle tapes mouth shut so he can't rip refs

NFL Draft 2015: Ranking the quarterbacks

Greg Hardy faces teammate, Cowboys locker room leak

Top 10 storylines for the 2015 NFL Draft

College Football News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Duke takes over as the No. 1 recruiting class

Titans have been 'all over' Mariota?

Doc Rivers tore into Clippers after loss

Jon Jones facing felony charge

Worst picks ever by every NFL franchise

Report: Cowboys not in on Peterson

NFL Draft 2015: Ranking the QBs

Top 10 storylines for the 2015 NFL Draft

Paul Pierce trolls Raptors fans

Yes, ESPN2 is airing video games

Darko Milicic is enjoying life

Pitcher throws perfect game, still loses

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.