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A Quick Look at Northwestern

Pic by The Lantern

Northwestern University will represent the Big Ten in the Music City Bowl. The Wildcats are extremely well coached and finished 2017 with a 9-3 record. It is ranked 21st in the nation. The Wildcats are riding a seven game winning streak and is listed amongst the best in several conference statistical categories.

First let’s take a look at the schedule. Northwestern started the season 2-3 but recovered to finish strong. Its nine wins were against opponents that averaged 5.4 victories on the season. The Wildcats played seven home games and won three road contests against two, four-win teams: Maryland and Nebraska as well as two-win Illinois. Northwestern beat Iowa, Michigan State, and Nebraska in overtime. By doing so, it became the first FBS team to win three consecutive overtime football games.

Conversely, the average losing opponent vs. Kentucky averaged 5.8 wins on the season. The Cats recorded road wins against two, eight-win teams: Southern Miss and South Carolina as well as five-win Vanderbilt. Northwestern won two more games than UK. But, Kentucky’s wins came against opponents with slightly better winning records; but significantly grander on the road.


Opponent (Record) Final Score
Nevada (3-9) W 31-20
@Duke (6-6) L 17-41
Bowling Green (2-10) W 49-7
@Wisconsin (12-1) L 24-33
Penn State (10-2) L 7-31
@Maryland (4-8) W 37-21
Iowa (7-5) W 17-10 (OT)
Michigan State (9-3) W 39-31 (3 OT)
@Nebraska (4-8) W 31-24 (OT)
Purdue (6-6) W 23-13
Minnesota (5-7) W 39-0
@Illinois (2-10) W 42-7


Season Result  

Statistical Category Result Big 10 Rank
Scoring 29.7 ppg 4th
Rushing 160.9 ypg 8th
Passing 244.3 5th
Total 405.2 4th
3rd Down 35.48% 8th
Red-Zone 90.74 (39 TD’s) 2nd, 21st nationally
Turnover Margin +5 2nd
Long Scrimmage Plays 180, 10+yds 4th
QB Sacks Allowed 29 9th
1st Downs 23.1 per game 2nd
Tackles for Loss Allowed 68 7th

Top Performers

Category Name Results
Passing QB Clayton Thorson 2809-yards, 60.6%, 15 TD, 12 INT
Rushing RB Justin Jackson 1154 yards, 9 TD’s
Receiving Bennett Skowronek 42 rec, 619-yds, 5 TD’s

Pic by Inside NU

The Wildcats are led by 2nd Team All-Big Ten RB Justin Jackson. Incredibly, Jackson has been named to the league’s 2nd team in four consecutive years. He also surpassed 1000-yards in four straight seasons. Jackson’s rushed for 1154-yards and scored 9 touchdowns. Kentucky has faced an extraordinarily high number of historically significant running backs: Southern Miss’s Ito Smith, Georgia’s Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, and Vanderbilt’s Ralph Webb. Add Northwestern’s Jackson to the list as the senior is the program’s all-time leading rusher.

Northwestern’s passing attack is led by 3rd team all-conference Quarterback Clayton Thorson who finished 2017 by completing 60% of his passes for 2809-yards. After a slow start to the season, Thorson significantly improved throughout conference play. His performances in the Wildcat’s final three regular season games were highly efficient. The junior displayed next-level traits. 6’4, 300-pound guard Tommy Doles was named 3rd Team All-Big Ten and is the leader of the Wildcat’s offense line.

Much like the outstanding running backs that Kentucky has faced in 2017; Thorson is yet another upper-level passer that will put a tremendous amount of stress on a UK secondary that has struggled throughout the season. Thorson is not a runner and is in the mold of South Carolina’s Jake Bentley, Eastern Michigan signal caller Brogan Roback, and Missouri’s Drew Lock.

The Wildcats average 23.1 first downs per game and has executed 921 plays. Comparatively, Louisville’s play total for the season was 889. Missouri ran 848 plays; Ole Miss 804.

Mark Stoops’ run on bowl opponents has been enormously more challenging than the last Wildcat teams that made back-to-back postseason appearances. Bowl opposition can be random, friendly, or cruel like that. Rich Brooks’ first bowl opponent was Clemson in the Music City. The Tigers were preseason favorites to win the ACC but faltered down the stretch by losing four of its last five games. The next Music City Bowl featured Florida State that was minus double digit players due to suspension and lost three of its last four games of the season.

Contrariwise; Stoops’ first bowl team was against Georgia Tech in the Taxslayer. The Yellow Jackets was 6-1 down the stretch including wins over Georgia and 18th ranked Virginia Tech. That triple option nightmare is now followed by the 21st ranked Northwestern Wildcats. The Big Ten representative is one of the hottest teams in the nation and riding a seven game winning streak.

Northwestern is not the complete matchup nightmare that the Yellow Jackets provided a year ago but it will present a significant challenge especially when Northwestern possesses the football.

We’ll have much, much more on Northwestern in the days leading up to the Music City Bowl.


Article written by Freddie Maggard

Former University of Kentucky Quarterback and Andy Griffith Fan Club President

11 Comments for A Quick Look at Northwestern

  1. johnwall
    12:18 pm December 4, 2017 Permalink

    We’re up against a good B1G team for sure, but its a hard read. Its great we dont have have to plan for a rushing quarterback. This should help our DB’s in defensive schemes while we try to stop their RB, right? What are the odds we leave Nashville with a bowl victory?

    • Howdy Doody
      3:16 pm December 4, 2017 Permalink

      Slim and None, Slim just left …

    • east-ky-boy
      7:31 pm December 4, 2017 Permalink

      I disagree totally. This is a good match up for us. Their offense is a pro style and the qb isn’t mobile. Plus big 10 is Down. And lastly we ain’t As bad as our so called “fans” think we are. Hey we are going to the music city bowl! Exactly the hight brooks took us too.

  2. Eazy
    12:33 pm December 4, 2017 Permalink

    Louisville lost at home yesterday in front of a half empty gym!! They are done and their fake bandwagon fans know it.

    • DennyC
      1:04 pm December 4, 2017 Permalink

      LOL!!! I’m so glad LOUISVILLE IS IN YOUR HEAD 24/7!!!! We OWN you Sonny I know!!! LOLOLOL!!!!!!

    • plumloopy
      1:27 pm December 4, 2017 Permalink

      DennyC: Objectively, you’re the one spending your Monday afternoon on a UK website. Who is in whose head?

    • johnwall
      1:43 pm December 4, 2017 Permalink


    • Howdy Doody
      3:18 pm December 4, 2017 Permalink

      THIS is relevant to UK Football how ?? NOW we are ALL supposed to be giddy UL lost a basketball game to a ranked opponent, while we got the poop kicked out of us at home ?

  3. Smyrna_Cat
    12:51 pm December 4, 2017 Permalink

    Interesting. They are 2-2 against teams with a winning record. The BiG was down this year.

  4. plumloopy
    1:29 pm December 4, 2017 Permalink

    Considering that many feel this season is a disappointment, this is an opportunity to put a real stamp of success on it. Playing a mid-major team in a bowl would hardly have given us such an chance.

  5. Sergeant
    6:14 am December 6, 2017 Permalink

    Win this game and the season is a success. Lose and it was a complete disappointment with a home loss to UL, loss to UF, and total downward spiral to end the season.