William Karmin of Inside NU gives us his predictions for the UNLV-Northwestern matchup just before kickoff.
In case you missed it, will UNLV prevail on the road?
VSD: What’s your assessment of NU so far?
WK: NU is 0-1 and comes off a tough loss to Stanford. Northwestern did not play their best game in Palo Alto, but the team faced a lot of adversity within in the game, and gave themselves a chance to win in the closing minutes. Northwestern excels at winning close games in the final minutes, but with Hunter Johnson making his first career start, the team simply could not pull out the win. With that being said, it was a disappointing loss. Regardless, all of Northwestern’s season goals are still on the table. The team wants to win the Big Ten West, win the Big Ten Championship, and make the Rose Bowl. All of these goals are still possible despite the week one loss.
VSD: What is NU’s plan of attack on defense?
WK: Northwestern deploys a 4-3 on defense. The defense prides itself on the ‘bend–don’t-break’ philosophy. While the unit rarely breaks on defense, it also does not bend too often. This is a stout unit defensively and UNLV will struggle to move the ball. Northwestern lost their primary run stopper at nose tackle from last season so UNLV’s running game could find success running the ball up the middle.
VSD: Do you expect Hunter Johnson to pass for over 300 yards?
WK: Johnson struggled against Stanford, but progressed as the game went on. Johnson was the number two quarterback in his high school recruiting class (ahead of Tua Tagovailoa and Jake Fromm among many others) and has as much raw talent as most in college football. It remains to be seen how well Johnson knows the offense and whether his offensive line and play calling can do him any favors. Against a weak UNLV defense, I do anticipate Johnson to shine. Will he throw for 300 yards? I’m not sure. I do expect him to have a big game, though.
VSD: Does UNLV have any advantage(s) to expose NU’s defense?
WK: Offensively, UNLV will not have too many advantages against a strong Northwestern defense. As I alluded to above, the running game could UNLV’s advantage. In order for UNLV to win this game, Charles Williams will need to have a big game. Unfortunately for UNLV, I expect Northwestern to stack the box defensively and make UNLV beat NU through the air.
VSD: How confident is NU facing UNLV?
WK: Generally, Northwestern is pretty confident heading into Saturday’s matchup against UNLV. It does not help the Rebels that the Wildcats have not won a game yet, so the team will be extra hungry for their first win. Fortunately for UNLV, Northwestern has a history in losing non conference games to inferior, non power five opponents. Last year, NU lost to Akron (and Duke). Northwestern has also lost to Illinois State, Western Michigan, and Northern Illinois in the past few years. While NU is confident heading into this matchup, the team knows it cannot take UNLV for granted.
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