Seeking their first bowl win since 2012 and just their second since 1949, the Northwestern Wildcats head to the Bronx to take on the Pittsburgh Panthers at Yankee Stadium in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl. The Wildcats will have a tough task on their hands as the Panthers topped No. 2 Clemson and No. 5 Penn State and have one of the most potent offensives in the nation. The Pinstripe Bowl kicks off Wednesday at 1:00 pm CST and WNUR will have the call starting with the pregame show at 12:00 pm CST.
Here’s how our broadcasters think the Wildcats will fare against Pitt:
Amit Mallik (@amitkmallik): Northwestern 24, Pittsburgh 19
The ‘Cats grind out a bowl game victory behind a dominant run game, and a defense up to the task.
Players to Watch: Justin Jackson, RB/Godwin Igwebuike, S, Northwestern. Justin will bring the dominant running and Godwin will bring the up-to-the-task pass defense.
Sam Brief (@sambrief): Pittsburgh 41, Northwestern 27
This game will be high-scoring, but I don’t see Northwestern keeping up with Pitt’s high-octane offense led by one of the best stories in college football, James Conner. Pitt by two touchdowns.
Player to Watch: Anthony Walker Jr., LB, Northwestern. Against a running back like Conner, second-level rushing defense is essential. I look for Walker Jr. to make a big difference, for better or for worse.
Adam Braunstein (@braunstein_adam): Northwestern 35, Pittsburgh 31.
The Panthers have a very potent offense so you can expect a few big plays from them, but Thorson will finish a strong 2016 campaign on a high note and the ‘Cats to will squeak out a close win.
Player to Watch: Kyle Queiro, S, Northwestern. Nothing slows down a potent offense like a great play by the secondary. Queiro is a fierce competitor and will step up in the Pinstripe Bowl.
Ben Krieger (@TheBenKrieger): Northwestern 38, Pitt 31
Pitt’s high flying offense, which has scored at least 28 points in every game this year, is not quite able to keep pace with a fired up Northwestern unit. As in high scoring affairs against Iowa and Michigan State, the ‘Cats offense clicks at the right time and leads the team to victory.
Player to Watch: Austin Carr, Wide Receiver, Northwestern. Carr, the first ever Wildcat to win Big Ten receiver of the year, will need to find seams in the Panther defense repeatedly for Northwestern to put up the necessary points to take down Pitt.
Matt McHugh (@mattmcsports27): Pittsburgh 45, Northwestern 34
Lots of points to be scored in this one. The ‘Cats hang around for a while, but can’t keep up in the second half as Pitt pulls away.
Player to watch: James Conner, RB, Pittsburgh. In his final game for the Panthers, look for Conner to go out with a bang. Northwestern’s run defense has shown at times to be very good at stopping the run, and this game needs to be one of those times.
Matt Hacker Teper (@matthackerteper): Pittsburgh 31, Northwestern 19
Pitt is a middle-of-the-road ACC team with a strong offense. Northwestern is a middle-of-the-road B1G team with an above-average defense. Neither team will astonish, but Pitt’s ability to execute on third-down and special teams plays (coupled with Jack Mitchell’s bowl game futility) will prove to be the difference. Pitt wins comfortably.
Players to Watch: “ABC” (“anyone but Carr”). If the ‘Cats have any hope of pulling off the upset, Northwestern will need their secondary receivers (Nagel, Vault and co.) to step up, as Carr will be shadowed by multiple Pitt defenders all game.
Tim Hackett (@HacksawTim): Pitt 24, Northwestern 17
This game truly has the potential to be one of the better “lesser bowl” matchups, as both teams feature defenses that are capable of locking it down when needed and offenses that are capable of putting up points. I expect it to be fairly close and competitive throughout, but Pitt will just do enough to come out on top.
Players to Watch: The Northwestern defensive line. Everyone knows that Pitt running back James Conner is a great back and a better guy. What we don’t know is if the NU D-line is going to be able to limit his production enough to give the Wildcats a chance. This unit has had some highs (see: under 60 rushing yards allowed to both Michigan State and Illinois) and some lows (see: over 200 rushing yards allowed to OSU and over 300 to Nebraska). Which category will the Pinstripe Bowl fall under? It needs to be closer to the first category for Northwestern to have a chance.
Austin Miller (@austin_james906): Pittsburgh 21, Northwestern 20
The coin said Pitt
Player to watch: James Conner, RB, Pittsburgh. Conner is a really good player, and will challenge the Northwestern defense all afternoon. If he gets rolling, watch out.