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2012 Big Ten Previews: Northwestern with Sippin’ On Purple

We’re previewing the upcoming season with help from SBNation. Today, Rodger from Sippin’ On Purple talks Northwestern.

The Wildcats made the postseason in 2011 for the third-straight year, a school record, and look to go bowling yet again in 2012. NU starts the season with four manageable non-conference games, followed by a Big Ten opener at home against Indiana. A 5-0 start is possible, and the Wildcats also avoid Wisconsin and Ohio State from the Leaders Division. The real tests will come when Nebraska visits Evanston on Oct. 20, followed by road trips to Michigan and Michigan State back-to-back in November.

2011 Record: 6-7

2011 Bowl: Meineke Car Care of Texas Bowl vs. Texas A&M, 22-33

2012 Bowl Projections:

History in Orlando:

1997 Florida Citrus Bowl vs. Tennessee, 28-48

Q&A with Rodger Sherman from Sippin’ On Purple

Describe the 2011 season in two words.

#Persastrong (the ill-fated Heisman campaign for Dan Persa hawked by Northwestern’s marketing department), sieve-like (Northwestern’s defense)

Kain Colter starts the season at quarterback, but what’s the likelihood (in percentage) that we see him lined up at WR and catching an out route from Trevor Siemian by Week Nine?

On a full-time basis? Somewhere around 10 percent. Colter is the No. 1 guy and has gotten those reps – and looked the better QB – all spring and fall long. What’s more, his legs will likely be a huge factor in what is shaping up to be an option-heavy offense. However, it seems very likely that Colter will split out wide as a target for Siemian from time to time to throw off defenses. After all, he was a surprisingly effective wide receiver last season.

Which is the bigger concern for the Wildcats’ young defense: the line or the secondary?

The secondary, by a few miles. Northwestern’s pass defense last year might have had trouble stopping my IM team (to be fair, we made the playoffs), and both cornerbacks and one safety graduate, meaning they’ll be replaced by the guys who were riding pine while the worst the Big Ten had to offer was going buckwild through the air. The lone remaining starter, sophomore Ibraheim Campbell, had some flashes, and Northwestern brings in a graduate transfer in Quinn Evans, who was a backup CB at Stanford, and that’s the best we can say.

On paper, what looks like the toughest game this season?

Nebraska. Northwestern shocked the Big Ten’s newest, corniest juggernaut in Lincoln last year thanks to some fluky fumbles, costing them a shot at the conference championship game. They’re probably mad about that, and Nebraska’s traveling hordes have already sold out Ryan Field for this year’s matchup, so it will barely be a home game.

Best case/worst case scenario for the postseason.

Quite frankly, considering Northwestern’s defense, the Capital One bowl would be a little bit of a stretch for NU. A best-case scenario would see NU winning eight or nine games and finding its way into one of the other Florida bowls. A worst-case scenario would see NU faltering in the non-conference schedule, dropping two games against Syracuse, Vanderbilt, or Boston College, and finishing below .500 for the first time since 2007.

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