Northwestern opens the season for the second straight season against California. Northwestern will open the season at home for the first time since 2009. The Wildcats return 18 starters including Quarterback Trevor Siemien. California also returns 18 starters including star sophomore Quarterback Jared Goff.
The Graduation of Kain Colter and the transfer of Venric Mark will clarify the starting offensive backfield. Siemian will not have to share the QB position with Colter. Siemien received the majority of snaps in three games last season. Colter sat out one game and the majority of two others last year.
This year, Siemian will have the added benefit of knowing the offense is his every game. The Senior QB completed 59 percent of his passes last season for 2,149 yards, 11 touchdowns and nine interceptions. With more consistent playing time this season, Siemian should become a more efficient Quarterback.
Mark's departure will provide Treyvon Green and Stephen Buckley the opportunity to pick up where they left off last season. Green led the team with 736 yards and eight touchdowns in 2013.
With Green sitting out against Iowa, Buckley carried 17 times for 99 yards against the Hawkeyes. Freshmen Justin Jackson and Solomon Vault are players to watch behind Green and Buckley. NU is also high on sophomore Warren Long.
Through the air, Siemian will have to rely on Tony Jones and superback Dan Vitale. NU lost Christian Jones for the season with a knee injury. Jones will be back for his senior season in 2015. No other returning receiver had more than 11 receptions last season.
Goff enters his sophomore season a s Davey O'Brien candidate. Goff was a positive in a one win season for the Golden Bears. He threw for 3.508 yards, 18 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He had five 400 yard games and threw for 504 yards against Washington State last fall.
Goff has a deep Wide Receiver core to throw to. Chris Harper had 70 receptions for 852 yards and five touchdowns a season ago. Kenny Lawler also had five touchdowns receptions as season ago.
Northwestern should have no trouble scoring against the Golden Bears. Cal gave up over 45 points per game last season. NU won 44-30 in Berkeley last season, but had two Collin Ellis pick sixes to pad the scoring.
NU did pile up 508 yards, but gave up 549. Ellis' two big plays were the difference in the game.
Northwestern's secondary should provide a good challenge to Goff. Senior safety Ibraheim Campbell and junior Corner VanHoose are all Big Ten candidates.
Expect a wide open game, with NU leaning on its running game as their receivers gain experience. They should be able to exploit a weak Cal defense.
California at Northwestern
AUG. 30, 2014 • RYAN FIELD (47,330) • 2:30 P.M. CT
TV: ABC (ESPN2 Mirror) (Mark Jones, Rod Gilmore, Jessica Mendoza)
RADIO: 87.7 THE GAME (Dave Eanet, Ted Albrecht) | WNUR 89.3 FM
All Time Series Northwestern 2-0
Last Meeting 2013 Collin Ellis returned two interceptions for touchdowns, Treyvon Green ran for a career high 129 yards and Dan Vitale had 100 yards receiving as the Wildcats survived the Golden Bears aerial onslaught. Northwestern overcame Jared Goff's 450 yards and two touchdowns in his first collegiate game.
It was the school's first meeting since the 1949 Rosebowl.