August 27, 2007

Season preview: Offense

In this first of a four-part 2007 season preview, WildcatReport breaks down each unit of Northwestern's offense.

Position: Quarterback

Starter: C.J. Bacher

Depth: Mike Kafka

Key player: Bacher. The redshirt junior needs to pick up where he left off in 2006.

Reason for optimism: Bacher was the dose of Viagra that made the Wildcats' potent last season, and he's the single biggest reason WildcatReport thinks that Northwestern is the sleeper of the Big Ten in 2007. He completed 59 percent of his throws for 1,172 yards in just over five games, with six touchdowns - five more than Kafka and Andrew Brewer managed in the first seven games combined. He even jumpstarted the running game by giving the defense something to focus on besides the running game. Bacher is a cool customer in the pocket, and he knows what to do with the ball. Kafka, the No. 2 signal caller, showed flashes last year in his four starts and he looked sharp in Kenosha this season. If something were to happen to Bacher, the Cats are confident Kafka can get the job done.

Cause for concern: The only knock on Bacher's performance a year ago was that he threw eight interceptions in those five games, and a few of them were big ones, including one returned for a touchdown against Ohio State. Bacher has to learn when to throw the ball away and when to pull it down under a heavy rush and eat it. No one was better at that than Brett Basanez in 2005.

The bottom line: What a difference a year makes for Northwestern. In 2006, the Cats had to struggle with a pair of redshirt freshmen under center before Bacher came on to save the day. This year, the quarterback position is one of the strengths of the team.

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