For your questions, we got a hold of Rodger Sherman, the manager of the popular SBNation blog Sippin' on Purple, to talk about what you should know from the opposition to help you with this weekend.
As always, we thank Rodger and everyone over there for their assistance in this.
1. It’s been a pretty roller coaster ride for Northwestern football. Win your first four, lose your next four. Obviously, it seems like the season flipped in the Ohio State game, when you had a chance to knock off Goliath, but in the end it didn’t happen. Why has the hangover lasted till now?
It hasn't been as much of a hangover as you think.
NU's struggles can be summed up pretty nicely by two pretty simple things: injuries to Venric Mark and Kain Colter (and a few other people) turned Northwestern's offense into a poop casserole, and, um, turnovers. NU dominated the turnover battle last year, 29-15. This led to NU trampling some teams they might not have deserved to trample and hanging in games they maybe shouldn't have. That continued this year, as NU led the nation in interceptions through the Ohio State game and had four pick-sixes.
Turnovers aren't completely random, but they're a little bit random, and, well, simply put, Northwestern's luck ran out and they violently regressed to the mean. They tossed a pick-six and fumbled the ball close to their own goal against Minnesota in a game they lost by three. They ruined two promising drives with fumbles, one on a pretty good pitch, in a game they lost in overtime against Iowa.
NU probably didn't deserve to be the No. 15 team in the country, and they don't deserve to be 0-4 in conference right now.
2. EVERYONE knew the offense for you guys would go through Venric Mark and Kain Colter to a fault. However, I don’t think that people would think that Trevor Siemian and Mike Trumpy would struggle like they have. Is this surprising to you folks as well?
Siemian looked like the thunder to Colter's lightning earlier in the year. Now, he's one of the most hesitant quarterbacks I've ever seen. The offense has been completely listless with him, racking up sacks behind a piecemeal offensive line. I wouldn't expect him to get much PT -- he played when Colter was hurt against Wisconsin and Minnesota, and it was a trainwreck and only saw the field when Colter was nicked up against Iowa.
As for Trumpy, who will be out against Nebraska, well, NU doesn't have any backups of Mark's caliber, and there's really no reason Trumpy should have been getting as many carries as he had been, especially in option-like situations where he was always a more power-y back. Freshman Stephen Buckley looks primed to bust out his first 100-yard rushing game, tho. They'll need something like that -- we're down to two scholarship RB's -- Buckley and Treyvon Green -- and Colter isn't much of a QB without a credible running threat next to him.
3. Defensively, it seems that NW hasn’t played too bad, save the Ohio St and Wisconsin performances. How will this D take advantage of Tommy Armstrong Jr starting instead of Taylor Martinez, and does the fact that Nebraska’s offensive line struggled tremendously against Minnesota give you hope?
NU's defense has looked pretty good all year, to be honest. The Wildcats struggled against Ohio State, but so has the whole conference, and I put the 31 points allowed to Wisconsin on the fact that NU's offense got, like, .5 first downs all game. Didn't get a chance to get off the field.
NU's line has been a key to victory all year, and that won't change. Tyler Scott's a monster bullrusher at defensive end. The worry was when opposing teams ran the ball up the gut, but with the return of DT Sean McEvilly from injury, that's been shut down a bit.
4. Some people are saying that Pat Fitzgerald is on a little bit of a hot seat, which I don’t believe at all. However, I would think that he’s under a little bit of pressure here to finish the season strong and make a bowl game to avoid the talk carrying into next year. What’s your take on Fitz’s situation?
hahahahahahahahahahahahpfffffffft who the hell says Pat Fitzgerald is on the hot seat
Yeah, we really want to make a bowl game. We've made a bowl game every year since 2007, and it would be gross for that streak to stop. But if anybody thinks there's a better person out there for Northwestern football than Pat Fitzgerald, they're delusional. I think NU would have to miss bowl games for a few years in a row for anybody to start getting trigger-happy on Fitz.
5. Speaking of a bowl game, there are projections saying NW isn’t going to even make it to Dallas or such. Is this really feasible?
NU's lost all four of their Big Ten games, and need to win two of their lat four Big Ten games. I happen to think that every team NU plays, including Nebraska, sucks violently, as I explained in this post, but I think Northwestern also kinda sucks. It's feasible for NU to win out and feasible for NU to lose out. (Well, it might not be feasible for us to lose to Illinois, but it might be close.)
6. Give us some names that we haven’t seen in the past 2 years to watch on Saturday afternoon that will make a difference in the game.
Buckley. He's been an impressive RB that fits.
On defense, I've already said Scott, and normally say Ibraheim Campbell since he's been a real ballhawk at secondary. But let's take a moment to hype NU's linebacking corps, that's been incredibly solid the past few weeks.
7. Score prediction time. How do you see this game working out, and who wins?
NU wins, 28-24. Get it? Both of our schools are NU. I'm hedging my bets! (Although in this instance, I'm referring to Northwestern.)