I exchanged some questions with Northwestern blogger Lake the Posts. My answers to his questions are here, and his answers to my questions are below. As LTP notes, I'm a bit pressed for time, so my list is shorter than his.
1. Obviously, IU has done nothing to inspire fear in anyone, but do you have any concerns about any Hoosiers in particular and what problems they might cause for NU?
The most unsettling is the uncertainty surrounding Kellen Lewis. An 80% Lewis scares us moreso than a 100% Chappell at QB. Gameplanning for both scenarios is something that may present problems. Lewis is a playmaker, pure and simple. We've never fared well against mobile QBs, but thank God Hardy has departed as we know firsthand how dangerous that 1-2 punch was. The idea of Chappell back there with your relatively weak OL has us licking our chops to see an all-out Hankwitz blitz attack all day. All eyes will be on our sophomore middle LB, Nate Williams, who must step in to fill the shoes of Malcolm Arrington who is injured and done for the season.
2. Both IU and Northwestern have lost head coaches to untimely death in recent years. Unsurprisingly, IU fans are experiencing some buyer's remorse concerning Bill Lynch. On the other hand, Pat Fitzgerald has steadily improved from 4-8 to 6-6 to a nearly certain winning season in 2008. If I recall correctly, Fitz was immediately given a long-term deal after Randy Walker died. How was that decision received at the time? Do you think Fitzgerald will return NU to Barnett levels of accomplishment?
Walker's death was so much more sudden that the announcement happened when we were all still in a shell-shocked state. I think I speak for most when I say the general feeling was it was too eary for Fitz, but he was the only choice and the right choice. Most went into the situation with a "let's give him a couple of years to get experience under his belt before we pass a lick of judgment" and for the most part that has happened. The 2007 season was one in which many started to voice concerns as the team was way too inconsistent. But, the offseason wholesale changes among assistants truly made this year's team "Fitz' team". I think it is unfair to judge any coach until year three. No one, and I mean no one can question his passion, desire and work ethic. In a word, the guy is relentless. Most of us feel he has already raised the bar of expectations that less than six wins on any given year is considered failure. We all hope that we have the rare catch of longevity - a la Paterno or Bobby Bowden. I can't see him ever leaving for another school since it is such a part of his DNA. He has had success quicker than any coach in the last 50 years including Barnett although to be fair to Gary, his hurdle was much more significant than Fitz'. Not only do I think he will return us to Barnett levels, I think we expect it. The true test will be curing the "NU is good every three years" trend and getting to bowl games in our "down" years. 2009 will be the first major test.
Thanks, LTP. I would with you good luck, but you guys have had plenty of it in our last four matchups and may not need it this time.