Northwestern Wildcats Football Team 2019 Preview

Coach Pat Fitzgerald and his Northwestern Wildcats will look to make back-to-back trips to the Big Ten Championship game with a new quarterback taking snaps.

2018 Season in Review

Although the Wildcats finished with a ho-hum 8-4 regular season record, they took advantage of a down year in the Big Ten West Division to reach the conference title game against Ohio State. Things looked bleak with a 1-3 start that included a loss to Akron, however Northwestern ran the table against the Big Ten afterwards, taking down ranked opponents Wisconsin and Michigan State in the process.

Things went back to reality in the Big Ten title game, as the 'Cats' 100th ranked offense could not keep up with the powerful Buckeyes, falling 45-24 in Indianapolis. Northwestern would end the season on a high note with a 31-20 win over Utah in the Holiday Bowl, the fourth bowl win for the school under Fitzgerald.

Key Returning Players (2018 Stats)

  • RB Isaiah Bowser (Sophomore) - 866 Rush Yards | 6 Rush TD | 4.4 YPC
  • WR Ben Skowronek (Senior) - 45 Receptions | 562 Rec Yards | 3 Rec TD
  • MLB Paddy Fisher (Redshirt Junior) - 116 Total Tackles | 5.0 TFL | 4 Forced Fumbles
  • S J.R. Pace (Junior) - 82 Total Tackles | 4.5 TFL | 4 INT

The Wildcats' offense is largely intact outside of the quarterback position, where former Clemson recruit Hunter Johnson is expected to take over. Lead back Isaiah Bowser returns with John Moten IV as a change of pace runner. Johnson will have a solid receiving target in 6-4 wideout Ben Skowronek, while sophomore J.J. Jefferson will see more reps after a quiet freshman season.

The defense should once again be a focal point in Evanston, as linebackers Paddy Fisher and Blake Gallagher could wind up as the top tandem in the Big Ten at their position. Pass rusher Joe Gaziano will look to build on a solid 2018 season where he put up 7.5 sacks, 12.5 tackles for a loss, and 3 forced fumbles. Safety J.R. Pace will lead a secondary that will include fifth year senior Trae Williams at corner.

Key Departures

  • QB Clayton Thorson (Graduation)
  • WR Flynn Nagel (Graduation)
  • CB Montre Hartage (Graduation)
  • LB Nate Hall (Graduation)

Although Northwestern's losses to graduation were minimal, those who are no longer around will leave a noticeable void when it comes to leadership. Four year starter Clayton Thorson headlines that group, as he exhausted his eligibility and got selected by the Philadelphia Eagles in the fifth round of the NFL Draft. Top receiver Flynn Nagel is also gone, along with defensive standouts Montre Hartage and Nate Hall.

Notable Recruits (Star Ratings and Rankings According to Rivals.com)

  • OLB Michael Jansey Jr. - 3 Star | 6-2, 210lb | Batavia HS | Batavia, IL
  • S Malik Washington - 3 Star | 5-9, 180lb | Parkview HS | Lilburn, GA
  • WR Genson Hooper-Price - 3 Star | 6-5, 205lb | St. Johns HS | Houston, TX
  • OT Zachary Franks - 3 Star | 6-6, 280lb | Gilman School | Baltimore, MD

Given their strict academic standards, Northwestern often has to search for diamonds in the rough when it comes to recruiting, an area where coach Fitzerald has excelled in since taking the job in 2006. Leading the class is in-state recruit Michael Jansey Jr., who gets to learn from the likes of Gallagher and Fisher in practice. The Wildcats also added a pair of receivers in Genson Hooper-Price and Bryce Kirtz, along with defensive backs Malik Washington and Corien Azema.

Northwestern Wildcats 2019 Schedule

Date Opponent
August 31st @ Stanford
September 14th UNLV
September 21st Michigan State
September 28th @ Wisconsin
October 5th @ Nebraska
October 18th Ohio State
October 26th Iowa
November 2nd Indiana
November 9th Purdue
November 16th UMass
November 23rd Minnesota
November 30th @ Illinois

If Northwestern has any hope of making back to Indy, they will have to deal with a brutal first half of their schedule. After opening the season in Palo Alto against Stanford, the Wildcats have to host Michigan State and Ohio State at Ryan Field. Back-to-back road trips to West Division foes Nebraska and Wisconsin will also be challenging. On a positive note, that first half includes two bye weeks, while the second half is much lighter with a handful of winnable home games.

Where to Bet on Win Totals and Conference Title Odds in New Jersey

New Jersey residents can log on to 888Sport to wager on Northwestern's win total as well as their odds to win the Big Ten West Division and the conference title.

Odds to win the Big 10 West Division

Excluding Playoffs & Bowl Games

Sportsbook Big 10 West Winner Link
888Sport NJ +500

* 21+ | NJ only | If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, call 1-800-GAMBLER

Number of Games Won - Excluding Bowl Games & Play Offs

Regular season only. Conference championship games do not count.

Sportsbook Over 6.5 Under 6.5 Link
888Sport NJ +110 -113

* 21+ | NJ only | If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, call 1-800-GAMBLER

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