Notre Dame Football Opponent Preview: Northwestern Wildcats Offense


The No. 18 Fighting Irish are looking to rebound from their worst loss of the season last week against the 3-6 Northwestern Wildcats Saturday. Now that they’re essentially out of the college football playoffs scene, Notre Dame is hoping to win out and receive a bid to play in a high profiled bowl game.

After going to five straight bowl games, including a win over now No. 1 Mississippi State in the Gator Bowl, Pat Fitzgerald’s team is suffering a setback going 5-7 last year and now 3-6 at this point in the season. The Wildcats have lost four straight games since upsetting the then No. 17 ranked Wisconsin Badgers. There really isn’t anything special about Northwestern’s offense. They’re ranked 84th in passing and 114th in rushing, so as long as the Irish play fundamentally sound defense, this should be a win for the Domers.

Offensive Line 

I’d expect a lot of easy pressure from the Notre Dame defense against this offensive line. They’re not the greatest set of pass blockers in the nation giving up 30 sacks on the year, including six sacks conceived last week against Michigan. Three of the starting five lineman are seniors and the two starting guards are juniors, so these guys have experience on the field, but they haven’t showcased any of it this season. Part of it might be playing without quarterback Kain Colter, who is now in the NFL with the Vikings, and part of it might be because they don’t have a player to rely on in the ground game like they once did with running back Venric Mark, who transferred to West Texas A&M. Regardless of the reason behind their poor play, they’re going to have to play like they did against Wisconsin if they want to keep quarterback Trevor Siemian upright and their running game relevant.

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Running Backs

Freshman Justin Jackson is the workhorse in the Wildcats’ backfield. He has 120 carries more than any other back for Northwestern and has racked up 761 yards along with five rushing scores and a touchdown grab. He’s not a big back standing at 5’11” and 185lbs, so it doesn’t make it difficult for the Irish defense to bring him down in the trenches.  Senior Treyvon Green backs Jackson up and has carried the ball just 47 times for 160 yards.

Wide Receivers

The Wildcats’ leading receiver is senior Kyle Prater, who has caught 37 passes for 372 yards and a touchdown. It’s clear by those numbers that their isn’t much of a passing game prevalent in the offense. However, Navy’s offense was similar in terms of their low passing numbers, and we all saw the Navy receivers do some damage to the Irish secondary. As long as the pressure can force Siemian to get rid of the ball quickly and make mistakes, the Wildcats’ receivers won’t make an impact in this contest.

Quarterback Trevor Siemian

Just like the rest of the offense, Siemian doesn’t have any flashy numbers of intangibles that wow opposing teams. He’s thrown for 1,837 yards with a 57.7% completion percentage. He’s also thrown for five touchdowns to eight interceptions. Another advantage for the Irish is that Siemian is purely a pocket passer, so there ‘s no other element that the defense will need to worry about. Siemian is a game manager at best in this offense.

It’s not going to be the most exciting game, but it’s looking like the game will be a victory for Notre Dame. The number one thing that Domers will be looking for in this match-up is whether Golson can take care of the football. In the last six games, Golson has thrown an interception in every game, so for Golson to go turnover-free in this contest is critical in boosting Golson’s confidence for the rest of the season.