Below is the first of two Q&As I will be posting from Northwestern bloggers. The second will be with SB Nation's own Sippin' on Purple. First, however, I am pleased to welcome Lake the Posts once again. My answers to his questions are here.
1. What is your explanation for Northwestern's excellence in close games? This has been a trend in the IU-NU series since the early 2000s, but now it seems to have spread? Is it just luck that is going to run out some day? Something more?
Great question. Pat Fitzgerald has certainly continued the Cardiac 'Cats trend that Randy Walker started, however, you might be surprised to know that Fitz's record, while stellar isn't as good as Walker's was in this regard. From a macro perspective, this program has seemed to relish playing from behind in games. It seems at times we don't want the responsibility of holding a lead and we like to scrap our way back. If you want to see NU at its worst, give us a big lead and ask us to go for the jugular. We simply have not been able to do that. I believe we are one of the worst teams in the FBS at stepping on teams' throats. This, of course, is a little different this year as expectations were average at best by the fans for the 2012 'Cats b/c we have so much youth and inexperience across the board. Yes, this team has exhibited the inability to put away both Syracuse (we were up 35-13 in the third) and BC (we had five FGs and were unable to convert five redzone trips in to any TDs), but it feels different this year. The team seems to be much more all-business. To your point, at some point it becomes mental. We've had so many, the comfort zone factor is there. When you consistently win them, it breeds expectations that you'll be in close games and that you'll win.
2. Despite the excellent start, a bit of a quarterback controversy seems to have developed. What are your thoughts on Kain Colter
and Trevor Sieman. How do you think it is going to turn out and how do you think it should turn out?
Controversy might be a strong word. The off-season speculation has played out almost as expected. Kain is a dynamic runner, but Trevor is the better downfield passer. Kain is a better passer than people give him credit for and we run the ball well when Trevor is on the field. I think fans are content, no, even want both to play some 70/30 ratio because the dynamic on the field is pretty different and keeps defenses on their toes. Plus, we want opponents to work twice as hard in game prep for us. My hunch is by the end of the season Trevor will be getting more snaps than Kain, but both will see significant playing time.
3. What do you think about your defense this year? I can't get much of a read from the numbers, nor can I get a read on the quality of the competition. Good? Bad? Players to watch?
The front seven has been spectacular. We simply don't have the athleticism to get a ton of sacks off the edge, but our rushing defense has been even better than the stats (11th in NCAA, 72 ypg). We've faced very solid competition relative to the rest of the Big Ten, at least as far as size of the lines and quality of the backs - especially Vandy. Tyler Scott at DE is a beast, our LB corps is very solid across the board - swarming, speedy, smart - and our DL has improved greatly in the middle with the youth movement. Brian Arnfelt, a senior is the heart and soul of the line, but true freshman Dean Lowry has been a dynamo at DE. Chi Chi Ariguzo is that "he's everywhere" kind of guy for us at LB and has already been the B1G Defensive POTW once and could've had it another week as well. He's great. The place to watch this week is #10 in the secondary. We've got a lockdown corner in Nick VanHoose (originally committed to Indiana if memory serves), but the other side of the secondary is the glaring weakness. Fitz just burned the redshirt of freshman Traveon Henry who is a beast and will likely start at safety this week, or at least get the bulk of the snaps. Stanford grad/transfer Quinn Evans appears to be capturing the other CB slot that has been a revolving door so far.
4. Finally, how do you think this one is going to turn out?
You want to scare me? give NU a double-digit point spread. I can't remember the last time it happened in conference play. Dave Revsine of BTN fame said this series is the single closest in point differential in the entire FBS over the past 8 years. That INCLUDES the lone blowout - last year. Think about that. I'm a sucker for history playing a role and I expect a one possession game. Northwestern 31 IU 24.
Thanks as always, LTP.