The schedule can dictate everything in college football. For better or worse, there is nothing that can have a more significant impact on a college football team. A year ago, the Northwestern Wildcats took advantage of a really weak schedule and put together an eight-game win streak that came out of nowhere. 2018 suggests the Wildcats won’t be so lucky this year facing one of the toughest schedules in the entire country. Avoiding Penn State and Ohio State is great, yet there still remains four, with the potential to five BCS contenders on the lineup. Yikes.
Since being at Northwestern for over a decade, head coach Pat Fitzgerald has done a nice job of rebuilding the program and building competitive squads. 2017 saw one of his most excellent seasons yet, where the Wildcats finished the year with a remarkable 10-3 record. It wasn’t necessarily all that pretty, but his team found ways to win through winning the field position battle backed on a stingy defense. Quarterback Clayton Thorson returns, but the loss of star running back Justin Jackson could really expose him. The secondary will have some holes to be filled with some new faces, but the defense should still be tough with a stellar front seven. After one of the easier schedules’s a year ago that allowed the Wildcats to put together an eight-game win streak, 2018 could be a different story. Duke is no gimmie in week two, and could actually hand the Wildcats a tough matchup thanks to their experienced secondary. Back-to-back games against Michigan and Michigan State could be incredibly demoralizing, and if that doesn’t take it out of the Wildcats, good luck with an impossible back-to-back challenge against Wisconsin and Notre Dame. Not to mention Iowa, who could be a darkhorse BCS contender this year. A 6-6 record would be entirely acceptable for Fitzgerald group with this daunting schedule, but that would really be the best case scenario.
Record: Wins 6, Losses 6
Week 1: Northwestern 23, Purdue 20 (W)
Week 2: Northwestern 14, Duke 23 (L)
Week 3: Northwestern 35, Akron 10 (W)
Week 4: Bye
Week 5: Northwestern 14, Michigan 38 (L)
Week 6: Northwestern 20, Michigan State 49 (L)
Week 7: Northwestern 21, Nebraska 17 (W)
Week 8: Northwestern 28, Rutgers 24 (W)
Week 9: Northwestern 16, Wisconsin 30 (L)
Week 10: Northwestern 20, Notre Dame 38 (L)
Week 11: Northwestern 17, Iowa 27 (L)
Week 12: Northwestern 31, Minnesota 14 (W)
Week 13: Northwestern 25, Illinois 21 (W)