Originally written on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 8/15/12

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
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