Football Preview: Riker: Expect innovation and insightful stories from The Daily’s Gameday desk this fall


Daily file photo by Carly Schulman

Northwestern football players run onto the field for the Wildcats’ game against Indiana State. The Cats are hoping to improve on last season’s 3-9 record.

John Riker, Gameday Editor

Northwestern football fans have good reason to feel a sense of whiplash in recent seasons: Big Ten Championship appearances and bowl wins in 2018 and 2020 alternating with embarrassing 3-9 records in 2019 and 2021.

Which version of the Wildcats will fans see in the 2022 season?

The Gameday desk’s official season record predictions will be posted on Friday, but any forecasts on our part are speculation and, in some cases, wishful thinking. What we can guarantee, though, is whether NU finishes 9-3, 3-9 or somewhere in between, our desk will work to deliver insightful content and compelling stories week after week.

Though the Cats finished last season winless in the Big Ten West, this year has plenty of narratives and names to follow. 

Junior offensive tackle Peter Skoronski, a prospective first-round pick in the NFL Draft, started off training camp with a haul of preseason honors and selection as captain, as voted on by his teammates. “Electrifying” is an apt descriptor for a running back group that features junior 1,000-yard rusher Evan Hull and returns junior and 2020 leading rusher Cam Porter, and the backs’ energy has already proven infectious during preseason camp. Senior defensive lineman Adetomiwa Adebawore and junior linebacker Bryce Gallagher lead the defense’s hopes for a bounce-back campaign, while the special teams unit has a new look.

Want even more intrigue? NU has yet to  name a starting quarterback.

Still, the storyline that I’ll be watching most closely revolves around the program’s identity, especially after a team with a strong defensive tradition fell to the bottom of the Big Ten West amid a rough transition to a new defensive system.

The same search for an identity extends off the field, where the Cats find themselves in a rapidly changing college football landscape with conference realignment and the growth of name, image and likeness and collectives. It’s not as simple as going back to the roots of what made NU so successful in recent seasons — it’s also about deciding what the program wants to be moving forward now that the game has changed.

The Gameday desk finds itself in a similarly invigorating challenge. Like the Cats replacing graduated stars in linebacker Chris Bergin and wide receiver Stephon Robinson Jr. with promising underclassmen, our team graduated three of its five 2021 writers, but we’re welcoming three talented sports journalists with experience writing about championship-winning teams. 

In a changing media ecosystem, we also hope to evolve and innovate in the product we have traditionally brought to our readership. As a staff with diverse skill sets and experiences, we plan to branch out further into multimedia with podcast content and redesign one of the Gameday desk’s hallmarks: its weekly spread in the print newspaper. We’re also aiming to challenge our comfort zones in our graphics and social media presence.

That’s a lot of change, but the goals we’re striving for are the same as always: to produce comprehensive coverage and become an essential part of how Cats fans follow the program. And the core of our identity, our features and postgame content, will remain our top priority — from kickoff in Ireland until the battle for the Land of Lincoln Trophy at Ryan Field in November.

So, which version of the Gameday desk will readers see in the 2022 season?

We don’t even fully know yet, and that might be the most exciting part. What we know for certain is that we are striving to report stories that will inform and enrich every NU fan’s experience watching game days this fall.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @jhnriker

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