2013 started off great for the Northwestern Wildcats. They went through the non-conference schedule with a 4-0 record before getting College Gameday, a prime-time ABC game and a fourth quarter ass-kicking from Ohio State which would plague them for the rest of the season. They would go on to lose their next six games en route to a 5-7 season, one that fell way below expectations.
Frankly, the Wildcats should be vastly improved, or at least get back to just over the mean, in 2014. They return quarterback Trevor Siemian, do-it-all back Venric Mark and their entire offensive line as well as many of the big names on their defense, including Chi Chi Ariguzo, Collin Ellis and Daniel Jones. However, one key Northwesterner will not return in 2014, and DUE TO THAT, NORTHWESTERN:
YOU WILL COME CLOSE, BUT FALL TO PENN STATE IN 2014.
On the offensive and defensive sides of the ball, Penn State and Northwestern will match up almost even this season. That leaves, in this author's estimation, special teams being the deciding factor in this year's game.
Jeff Budzien was a two-time Big Ten Kicker of the Year and a first-team All-American in 2013 who graduated last year as Northwestern's all-time leading scorer. Attempting to replace him are three guys who haven't attempted a field goal at the collegiate level. Across the field is Kickin' Sam Ficken, who while having his ups and downs during his two-year tenure as Penn State placekicker, certainly inspires more confidence than one of three unknowns, especially in Beaver Stadium. Add in the fact that this game represents Homecoming in Happy Valley this year, there should be more than enough cause for inspired performances all across the field on September 27th.
This game will be a dogfight and one that Penn State will certainly have to be up for and they most definitely will be. I'm sorry, but I'm afraid I have some bad news, Northwestern, you will lose to Penn State 24-20 as your kickers go 0-3 on field goals on the day.
WHO ELSE IS PENN STATE BEATING IN 2014?