As we get closer to the season the team previews are winding down. We have only two to go, but before getting into that next week, Henry Bushnell of Northwestern's InsideNU Stops by to answer some questions about the Wildcats.
T-Mill: After back-to-back 5-7 seasons is Fitz in trouble?
Henry: Short answer: No. Long answer: No, not at all.
I was actually asked earlier this offseason how many wins Fitzgerald needed to retain his job, and my answer was simple: He doesn't need any. He would keep his job no matter what. Now, that's not to say a lot of fans don't think he should be in trouble. But AD Jim Phillips is firmly committed to him.
T-Mill: The program really has not been the same since the night game against Ohio State in 2013. What has happened?
Henry: It's been a combination of factors. I do think that Ohio State game took a bit of a mental toll on the 2013 team, but that team also just wasn't as good as we thought it was. And since, the team's turnover luck has reversed, and they've been unlucky with injuries as well — after being extremely healthy the previous year. Plus, offensive coordinator Mick McCall has shown an inability to make necessary adjustments, and the offense has suffered.
T-Mill: The West is relatively close with Wisconsin the only team that looks like a favorite on paper. State your case for the Division crown.
Henry: There actually is a scenario in which Northwestern wins it. The defense can be good enough, that's not a question. The question is on offense, where the quarterback situation is a complete unknown. But while many people see that as a negative, there's also a non-zero chance that either Clayton Thorson or Matt Alviti wins the job and immediately comes in and plays at an all-conference level. If that happens, NU can win the West.
T-Mill: The quarterback situation looks wide open. Who is the favorite?
Henry: I think it's Thorson. He's a redshirt freshman, but by all accounts, he's a really mature kid, and he's the most physically impressive of the three. He was a four-star recruit, he can throw, he can run... he's the favorite to take the job and run with it. Alviti is probably second in the race, and could see some action as an option 1b even if he doesn't win the starting job.
T-Mill: What are the defensive strengths of the Wildcats?
Henry: The secondary is probably the best it's been in Evanston in a long time. The cornerbacks, Matt Harris and Nick VanHoose, both could be All-Big Ten players, and there's incredible depth. There might be as many as eight starting-caliber players. The defensive end rotation is also a strength, with Dean Lowry one of the most under-appreciated players in the conference. He might be NU's best player, bar none.
T-Mill: What is your way too early pick for the Purdue game?
Henry: I saw that you picked Purdue to win the game, but I really can't see that happening to be honest. Early projections have Northwestern as a two-touchdown favorite in this game, and while it might be a little closer than that, I can't see the Wildcats losing at home. I'll go Northwestern 24, Purdue 14.