WNUR’s Predictions: Northwestern vs. Cal
Greg Mroz (@wizard_of_mroz): California 49, Northwestern 42. The last team to score in this game will win, and Cal has the type of offense and the type of quarterback who can run an efficient two minute drill. Jared Goff burned the Cats for 450 yards in the air last year, and he comes back stronger and smarter. Player to Watch: Matt Harris.
Tralon Williams (@itsyaboytray): Northwestern 28 – Cal 27. This game will be much closer than many Northwestern fans would like to see. NU is the better team but it has already lost 3 starters (Mark to transfer, Jones and McEvilly to injury) from a team that was already struggling to truly have an identity. Trevor Siemian and Jared Goff will be dueling not just for an important week 1 win, but for much needed confidence as both teams go into tough seasons in the Big Ten and Pac-12 respectively. Sonny Dykes’ high tempo passing attack with make the NU secondary go to work early and often. Player to watch: CB Daniel Jones. Had high expectations for last year before going down with an injury against this Cal team. If he’s completely healthy, then NU has a much better chance of slowing down the high powered Cal offense.
Ben Goren (@BenG412): Northwestern 24 – Cal 17. Is it wrong to be so nervous before a game against a 1-11 team? Siemian shrugs off a sluggish start and an 100 yard rushing night from literal track star Khalfani Muhammad to lead NU to a win. Player to Watch: Trevor Siemian.
Nick Scoliard (@NickScols): Northwestern 27 – Cal 14. The losses of Venric Mark and Christian Jones deflated the hype balloon for this season, so the ‘Cats come into this game, not trying to prove expectations, but to see if they can win without their best RB and WR. Treyvon Green and Tony Jones will step up in their respective roles, and Siemian plays well enough for a win – but not well enough to silence anyone calling for Alviti. Player to Watch: Treyvon Green.
Kevin Harris: 31-27 Northwestern. This will be a tight one until the very end as Northwestern and Cal are very similar in many respects: both have returning QBs, a committee of RBs, lots of WR depth, struggling lines, and new, unproven kickers. While the Bears will rely on Jared Goff’s arm and their bounty of receivers, the secondary is one of Northwestern’s strongest units this year. Trevor Siemian and the ‘Cats will have to exploit Cal’s extremely weak defense and rack up points if they want to continue Fitz’s undefeated opener record. Player to watch: Treyvon Green had a big game against Cal last year and will see a lot more action now following Venric Mark’s departure.
Jacob Murphey (@jacobmurphey22): Northwestern 42, Cal 38. The few fans that make it out to Ryan Field Saturday will be treated to a shootout–whether the home team wins is anybody’s guess. Both teams are eager to forget 2013, but Northwestern has a better platform from 2013 to work with– and will be able to run the ball against a still shaky Call front line. Player to Watch: Treyvon Green as he reminds everyone all is not lost without Venric Mark.
Michael Stern (@michaeljstern23): Northwestern wins, 35-30. The ‘Cats beat the Bears in Berkeley last season without Venric Mark and Kain Colter. Sure, NU got a pair of pick-sixes, but Cal converted a fake field goal. This game comes down to the Wildcats’ defense making stops in the red zone against a Bears team that can spread the field but struggles to punch it in. Players to watch: Defensive tackle Greg Kuhar gets the first shot at replacing the injured Sean McEvilly and must help the ‘Cats contain Cal’s shifty running backs. Kicker Jack Mitchell takes over for Jeff Budzien, and must stay calm under pressure as he takes his first kicks at Ryan Field.
Ari Ross (@aross50):Northwestern 23-13. Last year, Northwestern barely pulled out a win in Berkley thanks to two interceptions returned for touchdowns by Collin Ellis. But this year, the ‘Cats face the Golden Bears on their own turf. Northwestern could have trouble if they sputter early in the game, especially the defense, but the Wildcats should have too much trouble putting away a 1-11 Cal team. Trevor Siemian and the offense will have some growing pains, but they should be able to put enough to pull out a victory at home. Player to Watch: Collin Ellis, LB, Northwestern. Now the starter and captain of the defense, Ellis had two pick sixes last year and will look to do more of the same against the Pac-12’s worst offense last year.
Jason Dorow (@jasondorow): Northwestern, 37-27. The Wildcats need to set the tone by establishing the run early. Cal’s hurry-up offense won’t be as effective if NU owns the pace of the game. Player to watch: K Jack Mitchell. No more Jeff Budzien means big questions at kicker, and NU struggles with finishing off drives, so Mitchell could be on the field more than expected. If it’s close, the game may depend on his leg.
Ryan Fish (@RyanMFish): Northwestern 35, Cal 24. I’m expecting both teams to show some rust in the first game of the year. Cal’s defense was simply putrid last season and I wouldn’t be surprised to see some big plays from the Cats’ offense. That being said, Jared Goff played well in last season’s opener against NU as a true freshman; he could also make some big plays at Ryan Field on Saturday. Player to watch: Trevor Siemian.