Northwestern Scouting Report: Who UK needs to be ready for

Brianna Dooley

On Dec. 29, a battle of the Wildcats will take place, as the Kentucky football team will face the Northwestern Wildcats in the Music City Bowl in Nashville, Tennessee.

Northwestern will be entering the bowl game with a 9-3 record overall, finishing 7-2 in Big Ten play. Under head coach Pat Fitzgerald, this will be Northwestern’s seventh bowl game trip since becoming the head coach in 2006. 

Preview: Music City Bowl

Northwestern has many playmakers Kentucky will need to contain in order to give themselves a shot to win. Here are some players likely on Kentucky’s scouting report.

Justin Jackson, Running back 

5-11 senior running back Justin Jackson is one to keep an eye out for on NU’s team. Jackson holds Northwestern’s records for rushing yards, all-purpose yards and rushing touchdowns. Jackson is also the second player in Big Ten history to have four-straight seasons achieving 1,000 rushing yards while never using a redshirt.

This season, Jackson accumulated 1,154 rushing yards on 255 attempts, averaging 4.5 yards a carry – this was his lowest rushing season of his college football career. Jackson also made a difference in the receiver game, catching 43 passes for 266 receiving yards this season and averaging about six yards a pass.

Clayton Thorson, Quarterback

In the 2015-2016, Clayton Thorson was only a redshirt freshman and the starting quarterback in the Outback Bowl against Tennessee. Northwestern lost 45-6 with Thorson’s two interceptions, so Northwestern is looking to get payback against the SEC, especially Thorson.

This season, Thorson ended with 15 touchdowns, but almost as many interceptions, tallying up about 12 as the season came to an end. 

Even with the touchdown-interception ratio, Thorson’s numbers are solid, with 2,809 passing yards on 426 attempts, which gives Thorson a 60.6 completion percentage.

Thorson was sacked 29 times this past season, which is nine fewer times than he was sacked during the 2016 season, which means the offensive line has improved in protecting Thorson.

Paddy Fisher, Linebacker

On the defensive end, NU’s redshirt freshman Paddy Fisher is who people are watching. Fisher is ranked seventh in the country in forced fumbles with four. Fisher also leads all FBS first-years with 110 tackles and 62 solo tackles.

Fisher sat out during his true freshman season, but was named defensive practice player of the week and special teams player of the week during his freshman season by coaches. In high school, Fisher was ranked as one of the nation’s Top-50 inside linebacker recruits.

Northwestern has won two of its last three bowl games, while Kentucky lost the only bowl game the team has played in the last seven years. It seems that this game will be a battle of the running backs – with both teams having good anchors.

The Music City Bowl will kick off at 3:30 p.m. CT on ESPN.