The Northwestern Wildcats and Indiana Hoosiers have experienced two very different types of seasons so far in 2019. Coming off a Big Ten West title in 2018, Northwestern has yet to log a conference win in 2019. On the other side of the field, Indiana locked up bowl eligibility with its sixth win of the season last weekend at Nebraska.
On Saturday, Pat Fitzgerald will take his Wildcats to Bloomington, hoping to get into the win column in conference play. They meet a rightfully confident Hoosier squad that has hopes for an eight-win season — or better.
Northwestern at Indiana
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 2 at 7 p.m. ET
Spread: Indiana -11
When Northwestern Has the Ball
Northwestern will get a boost from the return of quarterback Hunter Johnson, who has been absent from the team in recent weeks in order to be with his mother while she was receiving cancer treatments. That boost will be both emotional and tangible, as he gives the Wildcats a real chance when he's under center. He's a big-time talent who has underperformed with a lot on his mind. Look for head coach Pat Fitzgerald to waste no time getting Johnson comfortable, uncharacteristically calling passing plays early and often to force the issue. The Wildcats have nothing to lose, and they'll be in attack mode all game.
When Indiana Has the Ball
Both Indiana quarterbacks have been solid when called upon. Regardless of whether Michael Penix Jr. or Peyton Ramsey is under center, the Hoosiers have brought an efficient and balanced attack to the table every week. Running back Stevie Scott will be the X-factor in this one. The Hoosiers will want to control the clock and tempo, knowing Northwestern wants to force the issue. Scott is averaging better than five yards per carry and over eight yards per reception. Look for Indiana to feed the ball to their trusty running back all night.
The biggest difference in Indiana football as of late is the ability of the Hoosier defense to get stops and keep opponents out of the end zone. They are an underrated unit, and head coach Tom Allen deserves a lot of credit for turning that unit into an asset as opposed to the liability it has been over the years. In the end, the Hoosier defense will be the difference. Northwestern — even with the return of Hunter Johnson — simply isn't talented enough to consistently challenge Indiana's defense all day. This won't be the prettiest game on either side of the ball, but Indiana should come away with a sound, methodical win.
Prediction: Indiana 34, Northwestern 16
— Written by J.P. Scott, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. His work has appeared on SI.com, FoxSports.com, Yahoo!, SBNation, USA Today and Bleacher Report. He is a three-time FWAA writing contest award winner. Follow him on Twitter @TheJPScott.