WNUR’s Predictions: Northwestern football versus California

Photo by Mike DiNovo-US PRESSWIRE

Photo by Mike DiNovo-US PRESSWIRE

The WNUR Sports crew offers their predictions of Saturday’s season opener between the Northwestern Wildcats and the California Golden Bears. Have a prediction of your own? Feel free to leave it below in the comments or tweet @WNURSports to prove that you’re smarter than our – ahem – “experts.”

Joe Misulonas (@jmisulonas): Northwestern, 38-21. Cal keeps it close, but the two-QB system is too much for their defense to handle, coupled with a freshman quarterback and new offensive system that can’t keep up with the ‘Cats. NU starts the season on the right track. Player to Watch: Nick VanHoose. Cal’s starting true freshman Jared Goff at quarterback. First start of his college career, still learning the offense could mean some errant throws and possible picks for the Wildcats cornerback.

Jim Sannes (@JimSannes): Northwestern, 30-13. This game is secretly a front to get the #Budzien4Heisman hype rolling, so we’ll go with three field goals for the man with the dirty right leg. Cal struggled (a lot) defensively last year, and Venric Mark will have a nice little coming-out part for the 2013 season. Player to Watch: Brandon Vitabile. Dude can move bodies, and he’s the only big boy starting at the same place he did last year. Last time I picked him, he had zero rushes for five yards. That’s an infinite number of yards per carry. Unstoppable.

Zach Kisfalusi (@zKisfalusi): Northwestern, 20-14 (Recognize that score?). The last time these teams met, President Truman was still in office. Northwestern won their first and only Rose Bowl over the Golden Bears in 1949. With these squads set to play each other the next two years, don’t think for a minute that California has forgotten the Wildcat victory. Player to Watch: Jack Konapka, to see how he sets the tone in both the running game and in pass protection on the left hand side of the offensive line.

Christian Flores (@Mr_C_G_Flores): Northwestern, 42-38. Brendan Bigelow single-handedly keeps the fightin’ Gregory Pecks in the game, but in the end, Northwestern’s experience trumps Cal’s speed. Player to Watch: Damien Proby.

John Castellanos (@JJCast15): Northwestern, 27-10. Look for both teams to put up large offensive numbers in terms of yards, but to be stopped short of the end zone. Player to Watch: Ibraheim Campbell, as you can expect his experience to play dividends against Cal’s true freshman quarterback, Jared Goff. While new Golden Bears’ head coach Sonny Dykes plans to run a fast-paced offense, Campbell’s leadership should be able to keep NU’s defense poised.

Tralon Williams (@itsyaboytray): Northwestern, 24-10. Coming into the season to with high expectations is new for this crop of NU players. Offense should click after a rusty start. Play of the secondary could set the tone for the whole season. Player to Watch: Traveon Henry.

Greg Mroz (@GregDMroz): Northwestern, 42-35. Cal has an offensive system that if on point, could cause nightmares for the Northwestern secondary. If the Golden Bears had more talent, with their “Bear Raid” system I would imagine them winning this game. Yet because of the inexperience, they wont be able to close it out. Player to Watch: Ibraheim Campbell.

Jeffrey Eisenband (@JeffEisenband): Northwestern, 30-16. The ‘Cats finally stop the trend of winning nail-biting season openers. With so many starters returning, NU will play more like this is a continuation of 2012 rather than the first game of a new season. Colter and Mark rush for touchdowns, and Siemian hits Vitale for a 30-yard score. Player to Watch: Ifeadi Odenigbo.

Cameron Songer (@CameronSonger): Northwestern, 35-31. Expect Northwestern to jump ahead early as Cal is breaking in a freshman quarterback. If The Golden Bears’ offensive line can manage Northwestern’s front seven, Cal’s wide receivers will be able to test Northwestern’s secondary. Player to Watch: Trevor Siemian. This game will show Wildcat fans how time will be split at QB. If Northwestern falls behind in the second half, Siemian may be called on to lead a late drive.

Nick Petro (@NickPetro15): Northwestern, 34-20. While the Wildcats are entering the season with uncharacteristically high expectations following an outstanding 10-win season, the Golden Bears are on the other end of the spectrum – wallowing in uncertainty. After mustering up only three wins last year, California is kicking off the season with one of the youngest, most inexperienced squads in the country, including a new head coach (Sonny Dykes) and a true freshman starting quarterback (Jared Goff). They will be better than last season, but not good enough to beat the Northwestern. Player to Watch: RG Ian Park. The only freshman listed as a starter on the depth chart, it will be interesting to see how he performs in his first college game.

Ben Goren: Northwestern, 31-17. The Northwestern running attack will prove too much for what is in truth a pretty bad Cal team. Expect Tyler Scott to have a big day attacking Cal’s true freshman QB. After being up 28-10 going into the 4th, Fitzgerald will call the dogs off as the Cats coast to their first victory. Player to Watch: Tyler Scott.

Nick Scoliard: Northwestern, 31-21. Northwestern starts this season with more momentum than they have ever had – first bowl win, national ranking, and there are whispers of Big Ten championships in the ‘Cats future. If the ‘Cats are going to win, they have to win in the air. Colter will start his last year with a bang, and shred holes through Cal’s sub-par pass defense, and show why he deserves to be the QB going forward. Player to Watch: Kain “the Train” Colter (I really want to start this name).

Kevin Harris (@KevinGoesCats): Northwestern, 34-16. With a new coach, new playbook, and a new true freshman quarterback under center, the Golden Bears don’t seem like much of a threat and will struggle to score early until they establish their running game. Meanwhile, Northwestern fans are expected to turn out in large numbers to Memorial Stadium and will see their offense put on a show behind Colter and Siemian. Mark will have a slow first game despite high expectations but don’t be surprised if the NU defense is the real headline of the game and finally ensures a stress free 4th quarter. Player to Watch: While all the cameras will be on Cal QB Jared Goff, I’d keep an eye on the Wildcat’s Trevor Siemian who will more opportunities to showcase his strong arm down field.

David Tyson (@SpicyTysy3): Northwestern, 31-17. The Cats begin their march to Pasadena in the same state where it will all end. A veteran filled backfield composed of Kain Colter and Venric Mark will run all over the Golden Bears while freshman QB Jared Goff struggles to get anything started against a Cats’ defense filled with returning starters. Player to Watch: Jeff Budzien. Forget about Venric Mark, Budzien’s the real playmaker. Can you say GROZA?!!

Jesse Kirsch (@JesseRKirsch): Northwestern, 27-17. Northwestern is poised for success— they enter the 2013 season with a top 25 ranking. Adding to this confidence is a seasoned defense, which should over power a rebuilding Cal O-Line and inexperienced offensive backfield. The Cats should tame an untested Golden Bear’s squad. Player to Watch: Brandon Bigelow. Jared Goff, a true freshman, will start at QB for Cal. That’s the perfect reason for the Golden Bears to stick to the run game—especially since NU has a strong secondary. Last season, Bigelow rushed for nearly ten yards per carry and had 3 touchdowns. He may very well anchor the offense in the season opener, so look for him to explode down the field.

Bob Hayes (@_BobHayes_): While the up-tempo offense and completely new scheme is tough to prepare for in an opening week matchup, Fitz will have the team ready to go against one of the worst defenses in the country last year and a questionable quarterback situation. Ultimately, Northwestern is the stronger, more experienced, and better-coached team here– basically all it comes down to in week one. Both teams like to move the ball, so look for a high-scoring matchup. Player to Watch: Trevor Siemian. It may sound like an unoriginal pick, but this is our first chance to see how much/differently he will be used this season as opposed to last.

Thoughts from the Crowd


Mike Deneen: Hopefully for them, not us: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lSPNQ82Sq4E

Jeff Eiden: 28-21 Cats!

Frank Bauch: ‘Cats cover, win 34-24 in front of a more-purple-than-you’d-expect crowd.

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