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Northwestern Wildcats 2016 College Football Preview, Schedule, Prediction, Depth Chart, Outlook

Northwestern Wildcats 2016 Preview

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The Northwestern Wildcats enjoyed a 10-3 record last season, but got blown out by Tennessee by a score of 45-6 in the 2016 Outback Bowl.

Overview: Pat Fitzgerald and the Northwestern Wildcats will look to duplicate their 10-win season from a year ago. The Northwestern offense was tough to watch at times last season and they play a harder schedule this season. Northwestern hosts Duke, Nebraska, and Wisconsin while traveling to Iowa, Michigan State, Ohio State, and Minnesota. With this schedule, it will be tough to match their win total from last season.

Northwestern Wildcats 2016 College Football Preview, Schedule, Prediction, Depth Chart, Outlook

USA TODAY Sports

Offense: Mick McCall and the Northwestern offense will look to improve on a somewhat shaky offense from last season. The Northwestern offense averaged 19.5 points per game with 188.5 rushing yards and 138.5 passing yards per game. Clayton Thorson will return as the quarterback after throwing for 1,522 yards and 7 touchdowns, while also running for 397 yards and 5 touchdowns for Northwestern. Justin Jackson will return as the running back after rushing for 1,418 yards and 5 touchdowns for the Wildcats last season. Austin Carr is the leading returning receiver from last season with 302 yards and 2 touchdowns. Receiver is the position that is going to give Northwestern the most trouble this season.

Defense: Mike Hankwitz and the Northwestern defense will look to be dominant once again this season. Northwestern gave up 18.6 points per game with 126.2 rushing yards per game and 192.8 passing yards per game. Northwestern returns a good part of their defense from last season and will look to shut down offenses once again. Anthony Walker led the team in tackles last season with 122 (20.5 TFLs and 4 sacks) and will be returning at linebacker. Ifeadi Odenigbo had 5 sacks last season and will return on the defensive line. Matthew Harris, cornerback, leads an experienced secondary after having 48 tackles, 4 interceptions, and 13 pass breakups last season. Northwestern has the experience on defense, but will they hold up against the tougher schedule?

Special Teams: It looks like Jake Mitchell will return as the place kicker after going 18-27 last season. Hunter Niswander will be the punter after averaging 38 yards last year.

Outlook: Northwestern should have another quality team this year, but their schedule is going to give them problems. Thorson should take another step forward this year at quarterback, but will it be enough to pull the Wildcat offense out of their funk from last year? I do not think that Northwestern will be able to match their win total from last season.

Schedule:

Sept. 3 vs. Western Michigan
Sept. 10 vs. Illinois State
Sept. 17 vs. Duke
Sept. 24 vs. Nebraska
Oct. 1 at Iowa
Oct. 15 at Michigan State
Oct. 22 vs. Indiana
Oct. 29 at Ohio State
Nov. 5 vs. Wisconsin
Nov. 12 at Purdue
Nov. 19 at Minnesota
Nov. 26 vs. Illinois 

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