WNUR Predictions: #17 Northwestern vs. Ball State

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The 17th-ranked Wildcats play under the lights Saturday night, hosting the Ball State Cardinals out of the MAC. Ball State sits at 2-1, while Northwestern enters play at 3-0.

NU’s final non-conference game starts at 7 PM central, and our coverage starts at 6 on WNUR 89.3 FM.

Do any of our broadcasters think the ‘Cats will have trouble with Ball State? Find their predictions below.

Sam Rudnick (@luhtammer): Northwestern 31, Ball State 7

Northwestern is starting to feel the buzz after knocking off Duke on the road and returning to a raucous Ryan Field. The ‘Cats move to 4-0 heading into Big Ten play with the defense dominating the underdogs from Ball State.

Player to Watch: Clayton Thorson, QB, Northwestern – Thorson has not yet lost as a starter in college, but he hasn’t been sensational either. After a shaky performance at Duke last weekend, it will be important to see how Thorson responds heading towards conference play.

Nick Scoliard (@NickScols): Northwestern 42, Ball State 3

Remember the Eastern Illinois game? Because this will feel like Deja Vu.

Player to watch: Justin Jackson, RB, Northwestern. JJ disappointed slightly in the Eastern Illinois game. I want to see a 200 yard, 2 TD stat line to make up for it. 

Zach Pereles (@zach_pereles): Northwestern 27, Ball State 7

Ball State is a well-coached bunch with some athletes that can challenge Northwestern. Overall, though, Northwestern is simply the better team and that will be reflected in the final score.

Player to watch: Thorson. He really struggled last week, and this game is an opportunity for him to get some confidence back against an inferior opponent ahead of an incredibly important Big Ten opener against Minnesota. A turnover-free game from the redshirt quarterback with a touchdown or two would do wonders for both Thorson and this team as a whole headed into conference play.

Ari Ross (@aross50): Northwestern 33, Ball State 6.

Similar to EIU, Ball State doesn’t pose much of a threat to the Wildcats, provided NU doesn’t suffer a hangover from the win over Duke. Northwestern’s offense should be able to improve upon a poor performance last week while the Wildcat defense should prevent the Cardinals from doing much themselves.

Player to Watch: Thorson. It’ll be interesting to see how Thorson bounces back from a tough game, especially against an opponent he can really sling it against. Thorson could really build some positive momentum heading into Big Ten play. 

Tim Balk (@timbalk): Northwestern 23, Ball State 3

In theory, this could be a let down game, but there’s so much momentum blowing the sails of the NU program right now that it’s hard to see the ‘Cats coming out low energy in a night home game. Look for the defense to dominate for the fourth straight week and for Clayton Thorson to bounce back after the shaky Duke performance. 

Player to watch: Jackson. Sure, you could go with JJ every week, but Jackson has been merely workmanlike so far this fall. Through three weeks, Jackson still has yet to pull off a rush of more than 21 yards. He seems due to pull off some huge carries. 

Josh Burton (@josh_burton1): Northwestern 31, Ball State 6

After their big win over Duke, following a romp of Eastern Illinois, the Wildcats shouldn’t have much trouble with Ball State, even though the Cardinals play in the upset-prone MAC and have a few really good skill-position players, especially at running back. However, Northwestern’s defense–one of the best in the country–will be able to shut down the Ball State running game en route to the Wildcats’ fourth-straight victory.

Player to watch: Warren Long, RB, Northwestern. Justin Jackson, rightly so, gets most of the praise and attention when people analyze the Northwestern backfield, but Warren Long–who has become Jackson’s top backup–sometimes gets lost in the shuffle. He rolled off a huge 55-yard touchdown run in the win over Duke and has looked great so far this season. He could play a big role on Saturday in giving Jackson needed rest.

Austin Miller (@austin_james906): Northwestern 24, Ball State 20

Anyone who has followed Northwestern sports for any period of time knows that the ‘Cats have a great skill of making easy wins look much harder than they should be. This team is coming off the high of a road victory, a week away from the excitement of starting conference play. This game screams trap game, and I think Northwestern’s performance will show it. The ‘Cats pull out a win, but it won’t be pretty.

Player To Watch: Anthony Walker, LB, Northwestern. Walker is coming off an other-worldly performance against Duke, which earned him national defensive player of the week honors. Can he repeat his efforts against a Ball State side that should theoretically pose less of a threat than the Blue Devils did?

Ben Goren (@BenG412): Northwestern 27, Ball State 6

Like offense? Watch another game!

Player to watch: Jackson. How much run will he get?  Will he look better than his struggles against EIU and Duke? How good will his hair look?

Will Greer (@willy_nillie): Northwestern 27, Ball State 13

The MAC has shown it’s not to be messed with through three weeks of the college football season, scoring wins against the power five’s Maryland, Arkansas, and Iowa State. But Ball State isn’t considered to be one of the conference’s stronger teams, and the ‘Cats should have no problem attacking a weak defense and shutting down a mediocre offense.

Player to Watch: Christian Jones, WR, Northwestern. After being called out by Pat Fitzgerald earlier this week, the wide receiving corps will undoubtedly look to bounce back against a weak Ball State secondary. Christian Jones could have a breakout game as the ‘Cats look to establish a more reliable passing threat going into Big Ten play.

Lorenzo Gudino (@LorenZo_Gudino): Northwestern 28, Ball State 14

The ‘Cats are ranked in the teens and things are looking real good! Ball State can score, but the ‘Cats will keep them in check. 

Player to Watch: Thorson. He is due for a breakout performance, especially against such a weak defense. 

Max Gelman (@MaxGelman): Northwestern 33, Ball State 10

This game should be much like the matchup against Eastern Illinois, but I don’t think NU gets the shutout this time. They should, however, win very convincingly.

Player to watch: Jackson. He carried the ball 35 times for 120 yards last week against Duke, but didn’t score. Heading into Big Ten play next weekend, it will be interesting to see if the Wildcats keep shoving the ball down his throat or move towards a committee approach with Warren Long and Solomon Vault.

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