It's only fitting that we took a few days off on the way through our breakdown of the Badgers 2013 schedule, as Wisconsin will get not one, but two breaks in their schedule this upcoming season. The first of which comes on the heels of the Ohio State game, which we think could be the Badgers' first loss of the season.
Up next on our "WAY too Early" look at the schedule is a team that has been a major thorn in the side of Wisconsin on more than one occasion to say the least - the Northwestern Wildcats. This is a team that head coach Pat Fitzgerald has led to heights it hasn't seen in years, well really since 1949 to be exact, as they a bowl game and went to double digit wins in 2012.
So, what does that mean for the Wildcats in 2013 and for their matchup with Wisconsin at Camp Randall on Oct. 14th? Let's find out shall we?
2012 Record: 10-3
Head Coach: Pat Fitzgerald - 50-39, 8th season as HC
2012 Billingsley Ranking: No. 23
2012 Team Stats:
|Scoring Offense||31.7||Scoring Defense||22.5|
|Rushing Offense||225.5yds - 31TD's||Rushing Defense||127.6yds - 16TD's|
|Passing Offense||169.1yds - 14TD's/7INT's||Passing Defense||250.5yds - 18TD's/13INT's|
Crazy 2012 Stat: 94-67 - That's the difference in 4th quarter scoring between their opponents and Northwestern - a key clue to how they ended up with three loses on the season. The Wildcats won every other quarter, but this one came back to bite them in losses to Nebraska and Michigan. Reverse those loses and Northwestern would've been playing UW for the right to the Rose Bowl.
What 2012 Tells US About Northwestern: Northwestern is one helluva a team, that's what 2012 told us about the Wildcats and it's a team that you can't ever take lightly. If it weren't for a miracle comeback by Nebraska in the 4th quarter or a late collapse against Michigan the Wildcats could've been our opponent for the Big Ten championship game, instead they got one of the lone wins for the Big Ten in bowl season and erased a massive bowl win drought. Not to mention going 10-3 isn't all too shabby.
This was a young team that grew up a lot as the year went on to say the least and they clearly have the weapons on offense to beat anyone in the country, now it's a question of how does the defense learn and grow from what was a trying 2012 at times. They have some big time parts coming back all over the field and 2012 could've just been a jumping off point if the trajectory of this team is correct.
Series History: 56-36-5 to Wisconsin, Last Meeting: 2010, 70-23 to Wisconsin
Key Loses: Demetrius Fields, WR (33 rec, 305yds, 1TD); Brian Mulroe, LG (2nd team all-B1G); Patrick Ward (HM all-B1G); Brian Arnfelt, DT (25 tackles, 6tfl's, 3 sacks); Quentin Williams, DE (37 tackles, 8.5tfl's, 4.5 sacks); David Nwabusi, LB (97 tackles - 2nd on team, 8.5tfl's, 1 sack, 3INT's)
Key Returners: Kain Colter, QB (67.8% comp., 872yds, 8TD's passing, 894yds, 12TD's rushing, 16 rec, 169yds); Venric Mark, RB (1,366yds, 6.0avg, 12TD's rushing, 20 rec, 104yds, 1TD receiving); Trevor Siemian, QB (58.7% comp., 1,312yds, 6TD's/3INT's passing); Christian Jones, WR (35 rec - led the team, 412yds, 2TD's); Brandon Vitable, C; Damien Proby, LB (112tackles - led the team, 4.5tfl's, 0.5 sacks); Chi Chi Ariguzo, LB (91 tackles, 10.5tfls, 3 sacks, 2INT's); Nick VanHoose, CB (33 tackles, 3INT's, 7PU's, 10PD's)
WAY too early Prediction: Wisconsin 37, Northwestern 31 - If you've been paying attention to the past 15 years or so the Badgers haven't exactly had the best of times with the Wildcats and in fact they've been known to knock us off our undefeated perch a time or two. Having said that, this could be a huge early conference cross-divisional game for both teams. Northwestern's got a lot of speed on offense and that could be dangerous most years against Wisconsin, but not with the returning defensive line going up against an offensive line working in three new starters. I also like the Badgers big play ability with James White and Melvin Gordon in the backfield. I think it's close as UW is just 6-4 against the Wildcats in their past 10 meetings, but Wisconsin prevails at home.