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Who are the Northwestern Wildcats?

This afternoon, Kentucky was officially invited to the Music City Bowl to compete against No. 20 Northwestern on December 29 at 4:30 p.m.

The all-Wildcat matchup will be UK’s first Music City Bowl in eight years, and it’ll certainly be a tough one.

Let’s look at Kentucky’s bowl opponent:

Northwestern is on a seven-game win streak

After falling to Penn State 31-7 back in October and starting the season 2-3, the Wildcats have won seven straight games, including three consecutive overtime victories. In their last two outings, they have outscored opponents by a total score of 81-7.

Needless to say, they’re cooking.

That being said, just two of Northwestern’s opponents in that span had a winning record and three were .500 or above.

Two of those were overtime victories, and the third was by just 10 points. They were also demolished by Duke on the road in the second game of the season, proving they’re not immune to bad games.

They’ve been beating the teams they should be, but they’ve had to fight for the solid wins.

They have a stellar defense

According to some of the stats released by Corey Price of UK Athletics’ Cat Scratches, the Northwestern Wildcats are absolute studs on the defensive side of the ball.

Here are just a few statistics:

  • Tied for 10th in the FBS in running plays from scrimmage allowed of at least 20 yards (10)
  • Tied for 7th in the FBS in opponents’ red zone scoring (71.05%)

  • Tied for 9th in the FBS in opponents’ 4th down conversions (33.33%)
  • 9th in the FBS in rushing defense (111.25 yards per game

  • 19th in the FBS in scoring defense (19.8 points per game)

Yeah, that’s pretty impressive.

Northwestern is the 37th-best total defense in America, compared to UK listed at No. 89.

Benny Snell has been a superstar for Kentucky, rushing for 31 touchdowns and over 2500 yards from scrimmage in his young career, but he has his work cut out for him against this stout Wildcat defense.

The Wildcats outrank Kentucky on offense too

Their defense is scary good, but Northwestern’s offensive attack is just as impressive. They maintain the No. 60 offense in the nation compared to Kentucky’s No. 100.

In the passing department, they are ranked 54th in the country compared to UK coming in at 101st in the country. Kentucky’s rushing attack is better at 54th in America, compared to Northwestern at No. 71, though they still have an 1100-yard rusher in Justin Jackson.

Junior quarterback Clayton Thorson has thrown for 2,809 yards and 15 touchdowns along with 12 interceptions, showing both good and bad this season.

Northwestern is tied for 126th in college football in offensive plays from scrimmage of at least 30 yards at just 14, meaning they will attempt to dink-and-dunk Kentucky all day long. They score touchdowns on 72% attempts in the red zone, good for 18th in the nation.

They inch their way down the field, milk the clock, and score touchdowns. That’s a recipe for success if I’ve ever seen one.

They are coached by a former All-American

From 1993-1996, Pat Fitzgerald dominated the linebacker position for Northwestern. He is a two-time winner of the Bronko Nagurski Trophy (1995, 1996), two-time winner of the Chuck Bednarik Award (1995, 1996), two-time Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year (1995, 1996), and two-time Consensus All-American (1995, 1996).

Oh, and he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2008.

In 2006, he was named head coach of his alma mater, and has accumulated a total record of 86—65 and seven bowl-eligible seasons for the Wildcats.

Needless to say, he’s well-respected in Evanston, Illinois.

The Wildcats are 2-5 in bowl games under Fitzgerald, but don’t let that fool you. Kentucky is going heads up with an incredible football mind on December 29.

They almost got snowed-out in early November

Northwestern hosted Purdue in their first November night game in program history, and it almost got snowed out.

Just a few days before the game, the stadium was blanketed in snow, and the field crew had their work cut out for them to get it prepared.

Take a look:

Let’s hope we don’t see similar weather in Nashville in a few weeks.

They have a brand new facility

Northwestern is currently finishing construction on a 500,000 square-foot, $260-million athletics facility for the football team that is set to open this Spring.

Here’s what it looks like:

(Northwestern University)

The inside look of the facility is pretty ridiculous…

Good thing they haven’t been able to utilize that just yet.

I love the Joe Craft Football Training Facility as much as the next guy, but color me jealous of this lakeside beauty.

Similar to last year, Kentucky got matched up with a darn good football team in their bowl game.

Article written by Jack Pilgrim

Follow me on Twitter: @JackPilgrimKSR

25 responses to “Who are the Northwestern Wildcats?”

  1. Cmart0907

    In other words. Get ready for another bowl loss.

    1. Rembrandt


    2. mcp157

      Georgia beat us up physically and that helped U of L to beat us as easy as they did. I say we heal up and beat this Big Ten team that played in a weaker conference than us. We finish 8-5 and continue to move the needle of success, a little bit, in the correct way.

    3. Rembrandt

      MCP, let’s see what a month of healing can do for our guys, especially Stephen.

  2. Rixter

    Looking at those numbers, UK is no match for NW. Other than the swag, no reason to even make the trip.

    1. bailey000

      When u look at stats take into account who they play. Kentucky football fans suck most of the time. We play an SEC schedule. Say what u want, we beat some real good ball teams this year. Go Big Blue

    2. Rembrandt

      Looking at numbers, we were no match for Missouri either.

  3. Catcasey1

    Maybe stoops gets another job

    1. Rembrandt

      You first.

  4. Daddyof3Ballers

    Do they play in a conference that didn’t get anyone in the CFP? I say we will be just fine. 24-21 BBN on top

  5. Jiminy Crickets

    “That being said, just two of Northwestern’s opponents in that span had a winning record and three were .500 or above. They’ve been beating the teams they should be, but they’ve had to fight for the solid wins.”

    Isnt this exactly what the report on UK would say?

  6. DennyC

    (yawn) nap bowl!!!!

  7. Kevin C

    So UK gets matched up against a team and coaching staff that has proven many times this season they know how to finish tight games?

    7-6 it is…again.

    1. DennyC

      That 7-6 season got your boy Stooooops a year extension and $250,000 bonus (for beating VANDY!!) rewarded for mediocrity…. smh..

    2. truebluefootballfan

      This is very true… and so is the sound of that banner getting riiiiiipped down lol

    3. runningunnin.454

      Worry about your basketball program, Denny. You know, the University of San Francisco, two time NCAA basketball champions, shut their program down for three years for far less egregious infractions than Louisville….hint, hint.

    4. KYcats11

      Louisville has a basketball team???

  8. cats646

    Northwester a stats mean nothing. There an alright football team but they play no talent. I think we can handle them

  9. JaminTheCoach

    The big difference between this year and last, in regards to the bowl game, practice, opponent, and preparation is that the staff doesn’t have to use every single moment of the extra practices preparing for a style of football that gives EVERYONE fits. This year, the concentration will be on renewing a focus to fundamentally sound, disciplined, and aggressive football. This should be a good game. I can’t wait.

    1. ClutchCargo

      I agree. This should be a very good game after a month of practice and healing up.

  10. inside info2

    UK has a pretty good shot of winning this one. It will be home field advantage for us. Yeah, Northwestern sounds tough, but when you look at their actual schedule they shouldn’t overpower us. A month of letting banged up players heal. The only thing that can beat us in this game is our coaching.

    1. Jiminy Crickets

      Northwestern’s strength of schedule was #31, while UKs was #60.

    2. inside info2

      Didn’t say it wasn’t tougher. Just don’t think they will overpower us. I don’t think it will be an easy win for Northwestern like a lot of people are predicting. Again, a lot will depend on the coaching.

    3. DennyC

      Your last statement says it all… COACHING is not a UK advantage. PERIOD.

  11. Swizzle

    The team that beats us on the 29th, it’s bball season I’m over it