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Aer Lingus College Football Classic: Know your teams

With just a month to go until college football returns to the Aviva stadium, it's time to get to know the teams a little better.

First up this week it's the Northwestern Wildcats

Where is the team located: Evanston, Illinois

Head Coach: Pat Fitzgerald; entering his 17th season (109-90 overall record)

Notable Irish connection

John (Paddy) Driscoll [January 11, 1895 – June 29, 1968]

Driscoll was born in Evanston, Illinois, in 1895. His father, Timothy Driscoll, was an Irish immigrant who worked as a stone cutter. His mother, Elizabeth, was born in Wisconsin to Irish parents.

Driscoll played college football as a quarterback and halfback for the Northwestern football team in 1915 and 1916. He also played baseball and basketball at Northwestern.

He played all three phases of the game and, despite his 5'11", 160 lbs. frame, was regarded as one of the best overall players in the early years of the NFL. He was particularly skilled in punting and dropkicking.

Driscoll was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1965 and the College Football Hall of Fame in 1974.

Current NFL Players you might recognise

Rashawn Slater, Los Angeles Chargers, OT

Greg Newsome, Cleveland Browns, CB

Trevor Siemian, New Orleans Saints, QB

Famous former players

Otto Graham. Quarterback. Played for the Cleveland Browns. Member of the NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team and Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Steve Tasker. Wide receiver and gunner. Played for the Buffalo Bills. Seven-time NFL Pro Bowler, considered one of the great special teams players in NFL history.

Chris Hinton. Offensive Tackle. Played for the Indianapolis Colts, Atlanta Falcons, and Minnesota Vikings. 7-time NFL All-Pro.

2022 Season Expectations

For the best part of a decade (2008 to 2017) the Northwestern Wildcats were consistently solid, averaging almost 8 wins a season during that period, and never falling below five victories.

Then over the past four seasons they have alternated between their most notable achievements (two division titles, one top-10 finish) and poorest records (3–9) of head coach Pat Fitzgerald's tenure. 2021 was truly disastrous, as Northwestern scored the fewest points in the Big Ten while conceding the second most to opponents. Additionally they were annihilated by rivals Nebraska and Illinois.

If there is hope it is that in 16 years on the job Pat Fitzgerald has only had back to back losing seasons once, 2013 and 2014, so the Wildcats will be looking to bounce back

Players to watch

Peter Skoronski - LT

  • Weaker players might have been intimidated by the challenge of replacing Rashawn Slater, but not Skoronski who has had an immensely impressive start to his college career

  • Projected as a future first round draft pick

  • The Athletic calls him 'arguably the best offensive tackle in the country'

Cam Porter / Evan Hull - RBs

  • The RBs are anticipated to be the strength of the Northwestern offense

  • Porter suffered a season-ending injury last August after a huge closing stretch to his freshman year in 2020; he rushed for 301 yards and three touchdowns over the last three games of 2020

  • Hull thrived last year after taking over for Porter, rushing for 1,009 yards and seven touchdowns and catching 33 passes for 264 yards and two scores

Cameron Mitchell - CB

  • Has shown flashes of his ability, but his inexperience has proven costly at times

  • His biggest assets are his speed and positional sense

Return next week for the Nebraska Cornhuskers

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