WNUR Predictions: Northwestern vs. Stanford
After months of speculation, it’s finally time for Wildcat football.
Northwestern opens the 2015 season tomorrow at Ryan Field against Stanford.
Game time is 11 AM central time, and our pre-game coverage begins at 10.
Do any of our broadcasters think the Wildcats will start the season with an upset victory?
Ari Ross (@aross50): Stanford 31, Northwestern 23
While Northwestern’s defense might be good enough to keep the Wildcats in the game, Stanford proves to be just too much for the ‘Cats. In his first start, Clayton Thorson will make a few too many mistakes, and Northwestern will fall behind late as the Cardinal ground and pound to a victory.
Player to Watch: Clayton Thorson, QB, Northwestern. Isn’t it obvious? Thorson will be making his first start under center for the Wildcats, but faces a tall task in toppling No. 21 Stanford. If he can limit his growing pains, Thorson will keep the Wildcats within striking distance.
Josh Burton (@josh_burton1): Stanford 34, Northwestern 17
Stanford has too many weapons for the young Wildcats to stop. Also, Clayton Thorson will be shaky in his first college game, which shouldn’t help the cause.
Player to Watch: Justin Jackson, RB, Northwestern: The sophomore has to prove that his breakout freshman year wasn’t a fluke, and getting off to a good start against stout Stanford would be very good for that.
Zach Pereles (@zach_pereles): Stanford 24, Northwestern 13
This game will be close and low-scoring in the first half, but eventually Stanford will simply prove itself the better team. Leading 13-10 at halftime and 17-13 after three, the Cardinal will simply impose its will with their massive, physical offensive line and be able to add a touchdown in fourth, flying back to the West Coast with a 24-13 season-opening win under its belt.
Player to Watch: Jackson. Justin Jackson has to come out and churn out yards, especially early in the game, if Northwestern wants a chance to pull off the upset. The longer he can pick up yards, the less pressure Clayton Thorson will feel and the longer the Wildcats will be able to hang around and have a chance to pull off the upset.
Austin Miller (@Austin_james906): Stanford 27, Northwestern 14
I don’t think Northwestern will be awful this year. I think making a bowl game is a good goal for this squad, one that with the right amount of luck could be achieved. However, I don’t see them winning this game. Stanford is a strong side that shouldn’t have too much trouble in the one. NU keeps it close for a half, then the Cardinal pulls away.
Player to Watch: Jackson. Everyone’s eyes will no doubt be on Clayton Thorson, but I’m most curious to see how Jackson handles the pressure after his impressive first year. A strong performance here, even in a loss, could be a sign of great things to come this season.
Ian McCafferty (@Itmccaf52): Stanford 31, Northwestern 24
Northwestern will come out the gate hot against a surprised Stanford squad, and lead at halftime. But Stanford will come back and take a late victory on a Christian McCaffrey rushing touchdown.
Player to Watch: Thorson. This one’s a no brainer, Thorson is Northwestern’s hope for the future and how he plays in this game will be a litmus test of sorts for the rest of the season. Look for him to put up solid numbers, but make at least one rookie mistake that costs Northwestern points.
Sam Rudnick (@luhtammer): Stanford 31, Northwestern 27
Northwestern puts up a fight at home to crawl back in the second half similar to last year against Cal. However, a slow start puts them in a hole they can’t quite climb out of.
Player to watch: Thorson. It’s time to see if the redshirt freshman can compete at the QB position in the Big Ten. It will be exciting to watch and work through the early development of Thorson.
Jesse Kirsch (@JesseRKirsch): Northwestern 24, Stanford 17
New quarterback, new season, new era? Northwestern has a chance to open strong at home even without the fans back on campus, but I think there’s enough energy to push them through.
Player to watch: Jackson. Keep an eye on Justin Jackson. After the season he had last year, look out!
Jason Dorow (@jasondorow): Stanford 20, Northwestern 17
Clayton Thorson is a solid game manager in his first start as a Wildcat, and Justin Jackson kicks off the season strong with 85 yards on the ground and a score. But that’ll be it for NU offensively; Stanford by a hair.
Player to watch: Auston Anderson, RB, Northwestern. This game should be a back-and-forth stalemate with few big plays. If the Wildcats get Anderson in space, he could change that.
Ryan Fish (@RyanMFish): Stanford 27, Northwestern 17
Northwestern’s depth at running back (and maybe a few trick plays) could catch Stanford off guard and keep the ‘Cats in the game. That being said, Kevin Hogan should be able to make enough plays in crunch time and the Cardinal defense should be polished enough to come away with a victory at Ryan Field.
Player to watch: Thorson. Yup, this one’s obvious. A redshirt freshman starting his first college game against a Top 25 team, after winning the job just over a week ago for a fan base starving for consistent QB play. It would be unfair to judge him too much after only one game, but all eyes will be on Thorson Saturday.
Michael Stern (@michaeljstern23): Stanford 27, Northwestern 13
The Cardinal believe they’ve found their next high-volume running back in Christian McCaffrey, and coach David Shaw will ride him to victory behind a physical offensive line. Clayton Thorson has a rough debut against a Cardinal defense which allowed the eighth-fewest passing yards per game last season.
Player to watch: Blake Martinez, LB, Stanford. This senior ‘backer gets all over the field. He led the Cardinal in tackles last season and also contributed three interceptions. If Martinez and the rest of Stanford’s defense can get in Northwestern’s backfield quickly, it could be a long day for the ‘Cats.