An extremely quick look at whether you're doomed or not (You probably are)
Venric Mark may ring some bells for you: 2012 All-American running back from Northwestern, fast, mean, agile, and capable of racking up record numbers out of the backfield and in the return game. (A school record 2,166 of them, to be precise.)
Last week Mark announced his transfer from Northwestern to be closer to his family in Texas. That's the transfer of Northwestern's major skill player just two weeks prior to their opener at Cal, and in combination with the season-ending injury to Northwestern's other major offensive threat, wide receiver Christian Jones. The Northwestern offensive depth chart is a picture of damnation and angry divine judgment. Those aren't our words: they're what Northwestern bloggers are saying about their own team.
If you're into being fair, it should be noted that Northwestern had some incredibly horrible luck last year---biblically bad luck, as in Old Testament hellfire spun from the hands of Ron Kellogg the III. (When the form of the destroyer is Nebraska's backup quarterback, you're some special kind of double-bonus coupon boned.) The schedule seems favorable, but it looks a lot like last year's schedule: a pleasant intro of Cal and directional Illinois schools, and then right into the teeth of their Big Ten schedule with Penn State, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Iowa, and Michigan all in a row.
They finish that streak up with ACC "I'm just leaving a toothbrush and a few clothes here" member Notre Dame. The rest of the schedule is made up of Big Ten plague monkeys, one of whom very well could improve dramatically and bite Northwestern in the ass randomly. Assuming they take one game out of that long streak in the middle, and then file the rest away like so many tidily filed law school applications, and you're looking at a team that should go at least .500 against a fairly weak slate with a thorny, inhospitable stretch in the middle.
P.S. They have a good offensive line, and no team with a good offensive line is totally doomed.
Using only cold logic, is Northwestern screwed? No, probably not, though there are so many problems with schedule-picking here. The Wildcats might not come close to replacing Venric Mark's production, and those ghastlies at the bottom of the Big Ten might not stay so consistently ghastly. Oh, and if you lose to Cal and/or Minnesota then hoooboy does this get difficult to pull out of a fatal nosedive.
Asking only the superstitious Bulgarian peasant woman in your soul: is Northwestern screwed? Oh god yes, they're beyond doomed and should give up now, they have the mark of the yellow ghost bear on their souls and will roam the hillsides looking for honeycombs filled with invincible bees that will never yield their honey.