Staff Predictions: Wildcats in Hoosier Country

Northwestern and Indiana are two teams trending in opposite directions.

The Hoosiers are already bowl-eligible and one win from matching their best regular season mark in 25 years. IU has won three straight, including a big road win at Nebraska next week.

Meanwhile, Northwestern sits 1-6, with bowl eligibility on the brink and an offense that has continued to struggle mightily.

How does our staff see this matchup playing out?

Ben Krieger (@thebenkrieger): Northwestern 9, Indiana 7

Northwestern finally gets that elusive Big Ten win thanks to a dominant defensive performance and a trio of field goals from Charlie Kuhbander. 

Player to watch: Charlie Kuhbander, K, Northwestern

It’s no secret that the Wildcats have struggled on offense this year. One way around that is for your kicker to have a big day and put points on the board every chance he gets.

Parker Johnson (@ParkerKJohnson): Indiana 6, Northwestern 0

At some point when a team is terrible, you start to root for them to be so historically bad that at least something notable comes of it. If Northwestern fails to score against Indiana, it would be the first time since 1983 that the Wildcats have been shut out in consecutive games. At least it would be something fresh to talk about.

Player to watch: Hunter Johnson, QB, Northwestern

Teddy Greenstein reported this week that part of Johnson’s seemingly inexplicable absence under center recently was due to taking time off to attend to the health of his mother. It explains some of the coaching decisions of the past couple weeks, and on a more positive note, could mean that Johnson will play Saturday. I don’t think it will immediately jump start NU’s flightless offense, but again, something fresh to look at would go a long way.

Kevin Sweeney (@CBB_Central): Indiana 20, Northwestern 10

I think the script to this one feels similar to last week’s game against Iowa: despite a defense that has played extremely well, it’s nearly impossible to complete eliminate a competent offense’s ability to move the ball when they are on the field for the majority of the game. Northwestern’s defense will make some key stands, but at some point, Northwestern is going to have to score multiple touchdowns. Without Isaiah Bowser in this one, the ‘Cats have even less ability to control the clock.

Player to Watch: Hunter Johnson, QB, Northwestern

We’ll see if a change is made at quarterback– Teddy Greenstein’s report indicated that Johnson is available this week, and it’s clear to everyone watching this team that Aidan Smith isn’t the answer. We’ll go by the sentiment that new is always better: after all, it can’t get much worse.

Eric Rynston-Lobel (@EricR_L): Indiana 24, Northwestern 10

The ‘Cats will score a touchdown (not on offense though) and keep it close for awhile. 

Player to watch: Rashawn Slater, LT, Northwestern

The way Fitz has talked about him the last few weeks makes it seem like he should be a Heisman finalist. Maybe after this game he’ll solidify his case. 

Karan Gowda (@DalaiGowda): Indiana 24, Northwestern 10

Indiana lead the Big Ten in passing yards. While Northwestern’s defense has held opponents to only 180 yards per game, Indiana is going to win the personnel battle on the perimeter, especially since the one thing the Northwestern defense has struggled with is takeaways. Don’t expect a lot of help from Northwestern’s offense. Who knows who’s starting at QB1. 

Player to Watch: Northwestern O-Line

They have to give Hunter/Aidan and Anderson/whoever else is in the backfield a chance to impact the game. It all starts at winning the line of scrimmage. 

Drew Myers: Northwestern 14, Indiana 10

We have finally reached the second half of Northwestern’s schedule, which features games against opponents that match up much better with the ‘Cats. Rather than facing one of the best teams in the country, Northwestern will have a great opportunity to get themselves a win against Indiana and but a stop on their 5-game losing streak. Of course, Indiana will not necessarily be an easy team to beat, considering that Northwestern has one of the worst offenses in the country (I wish I was being hyperbolic), and Indiana is coming off a good win against Nebraska on the road. However, we learned earlier this week that the reason Hunter Johnson has been out was because his mom was receiving cancer treatment. It will be interesting to see if he gets back into action and what that might mean for the Wildcat offense. I predict a low-scoring game, but I think Northwestern might be able to gain some confidence and get a good road win against Indiana.

Player to Watch: Riley Lees, WR, Northwestern

Ben Goldstein: Indiana 21, Northwestern 0

With three combined points against Big Ten opponents Iowa and Ohio State (and a meager two passing touchdowns on the season), the Northwestern offense has been struggling. Despite a solid defensive performance, the time that the defense spends on the field (upwards of 30 minutes per game) has often come at a cost. Indiana, having beaten Nebraska and Maryland by a comfortable margin after pummeling Rutgers 35-0, is hot at the moment, with a high-scoring offense that will pose a challenge to Northwestern’s defense. Nevertheless, ESPN has reported that Hunter Johnson is “ready to play” Tuesday after dealing with family issues, so it is possible that this addition will catalyze the offense; he will be the player to watch. 

Player to Watch: Hunter Johnson, QB, Northwestern

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