Fresh off a blowout win against Eastern Illinois last weekend, the Northwestern Wildcats are a ranked team–No. 23 in the country according to the AP Poll–as they look to remain undefeated tomorrow afternoon in Durham, North Carolina against the Duke Blue Devils (2-0). The game starts at 11:30 AM CST and WNUR Sports’ coverage of the game begins at 10:30 CST on WNUR 89.3 FM or online at wnursports.com.
Here are our broadcasters’ predictions for tomorrow’s game as well as their players to watch:
Zach Pereles (@zach_pereles): Duke 20, Northwestern 17.
Boo. Yes, I know I’m ruining all the fun, but Duke has quietly become a solid team under David Cutcliffe and I worry about Clayton Thorson’s ability to avoid interceptions against a ball-hawking Duke secondary. The Blue Devils won’t beat themselves; I don’t see the Wildcats going on the road and winning this one.
Player to watch: Justin Jackson. As always, Northwestern will need to run the ball well, but it’s especially true in this game. Duke has a talented secondary but a weak front seven; Jackson has to exploit that.
Player to watch: Justin Jackson. He is the focal point of the Northwestern offense and will be very important in leading to the Wildcats’ success this weekend. He will help ease the pressure for Thorson on the road.
Player to watch: Ifeadi Odenigbo. Ifeadi isn’t a starter, yet, but he’s been playing a lot more than his hyper-limited 3rd down role last season, and he’s looked good. He has 2.5 sacks in 2 games and has made some good plays in the run game too. NU will need him to wreak more havoc this weekend.
Player to watch: Anthony Walker. Walker has been impressive the past two games, an absolute monster on NU’s defense. Against Duke, he’ll have the task of stopping Sirk and keeping him from beating NU with his legs.
Player to watch: Traveon Henry. The senior safety will have to match up on some wideouts and backs who are much quicker than him. If that leads to big plays, NU could be doomed.
Player to watch: Justin Jackson. After last week’s disappointing (well, disappointing for Jackson anyway) performance, I want to see him bounce back and show that he’s here to stay as a dominant Big Ten running back.
Player to watch: DeVon Edwards. The Duke safety has four career kickoff returns for touchdowns and averages an impressive 28.6 yards per return. He always seems to make the big play on defense as well, and he will challenge the Northwestern special teams and offense. NU has to contain Edwards on special teams, and if Edwards gets his hands on one of Thorson’s passes, watch out, it could be going the other way.
Will Greer (@willy_nillie): Northwestern 23, Duke 16.
Duke will keep this game close, but Northwestern will take its defensive show on the road and wear down a younger and less battle-tested Blue Devil team.
Player to watch: Thomas Sirk. Sirk, Duke’s junior quarterback, is making just his third career start for the Blue Devils and will have to face the toughest defense he has ever gone up against in college. If NU can limit Sirk’s escapability and force him into a couple of ill-advised throws, the Wildcats will walk out of Wallace Wade Stadium with a big out-of-conference road win
Player to watch: Clayton Thorson. As I said above, the only real unknown in this game is Thorson. Northwestern knows Justin Jackson is going to get his yards on the ground, as does Duke. What neither team knows is how the freshman quarterback will play, as his performance is likely to decide this one.
Player to Watch: Max McCaffery. McCaffery, the wide receiver brother of Stanford running back Christian McCaffery, has taken on a bigger role in the Blue Devil offense this season. The Wildcats need to limit big plays from McCaffery and dual-threat quarterback Thomas Sirk to pull out a third straight victory.
Player to Watch: Nick Van Hoose. Van Hoose said in the press conference this week that he expected to get targeted against Duke after not being tested much through the first two games. I expect any balls thrown his direction to be positive plays for the Wildcats and wouldn’t be surprised if he comes down with a key interception… or two.