This week, the boys from Kalamazoo make the short trip to Evanston, Illinois to take on one of the fastest, yet smartest teams they'll face this season. We got together with Rodger Sherman from Sippin' on Purple and asked him some questions on the game. He asked us some too. Check out their site for some sweet Northwestern news (I mean, Sippin' on Purple! C'mon! Gotta see that!)
1. Kain Coulter and Trevor Siemian split time last week in a dominant win. What do each bring to the offense that makes them a scary duo?
It's been the same, relatively simple to explain shtick since the beginning of last year, and one Northwestern has made quite effective: Colter is a thrilling runner, especially well-suited for Northwestern's option game, and Siemian has a much stronger arm -- you can see as much from our chart of each QB's performance, and what throws each was asked to make. This tends to work pretty effectively, but the fear is that either QB will make NU's offense too predictable -- telegraphing the pass when Siemian is in, telegraphing the run when Colter is in. That hasn't been the case through two games, with Colter hurt for all but two plays of the season opener against Cal and the two guys operating near perfection against Syracuse. We've also heard reports Colter's arm is much stronger this year, but haven't really had opportunity to see it on the field.
2. 46 points per game in the first two games against "not bad" teams in Syracuse and Cal. What do you expect this offense to do against the Broncos?
Well... I expect them to do pretty well, on account of the "just lost to Nicholls State" thing. I don't think Northwestern has faced a strong defense yet -- Cal changed schemes and lost key starters from an already weak defensive team that went 3-9 last year, and the deficiency through the air was obvious in scouting 'Cuse -- but I am impressed they've put up such gaudy numbers, even without their star running back. The Broncos obviously did a good job shutting down Michigan State, but that really doesn't appear to be saying much.
3. Since Venric Mark is out, who else should Bronco fans be weary of on offense Saturday?
Mark isn't necessarily out -- we don't really know the nature of his injury -- but after sitting against Cuse and with a game NU is very much expected to win on the docket, it's a reasonable assumption to make. His backup, Treyvon Green, has been phenomenal through two games, basically tripling his 2012 production with 195 yards and three touchdowns on 6.5 yards per carry. While Mark is a 5'8 speedster, Green's a bigger, slower back, but he's shown his ability to be reasonably elusive between the tackles, power through hits, and had some nasty cuts against the Orange. And Michigander Tony Jones put has really emerged as a deep threat with 255 yards receiving in just two outings, so look for him to get open downfield when Siemian's in the game.
4. The Wildcat defense has been decent enough, but has still allowed 28.5 points/game. Is this a fluke due to the fast pace of the offense or is the defense suspect? Also, who are the main playmakers for Northwestern's defense?
Against Cal, there seemed to be legitimate problems as NU lost its second cornerback, Daniel Jones, in the first half, and his replacement, Dwight White, was horrendous as NU gave up over 450 yards passing to Sonny Dykes' Bear Raid. But against Cuse, problems seemed to be solved, only allowing seven points in the first half while scoring 34 before somewhat calling off the dogs after the break. NU has seven interceptions through two games, so I'm not thinking they're suspect even if the points say otherwise.
The playmaker to know is Tyler Scott, a bullrushing defensive end who is the Big Ten's returning sack leader. He and the front four have done an amazing job at either getting near the QB or getting their hands up to deflect passes, leading to Collin Ellis' two pick-sixes against Cal and tons of deflections against Cuse. The three linebackers, Ellis, Damien Proby, and Chi Chi Ariguzo have all been spectacular, and safety Ibraheim Campbell is a real centerfielder type with interceptions in four straight games dating back to last year.
5. Northwestern is in the hunt for a possible Rose Bowl berth. Despite a dreadful schedule (plays in the more difficult "Legends" division, first two cross-over games are Ohio State and Wisconsin), can the Wildcats return to Pasadena for the first time in 18 years and win their first Rose Bowl in (what would be) 66?
Well, I think you pretty much nailed it about the SOS. NU might be the best team in the division -- Michigan is very good, Nebraska should be too but their defense seems suspect, and, well, you saw how awful Michigan State is first hand -- but the crossovers against two powerhouses could put NU in a hole. For Northwestern, it's nice to be in the mix, and although we know this could be the year, we also see the extenuating circumstance that could prevent it from happening.
6. Back to the game, the opening line is around 31.5-35 points depending on the vendor. I'm sure unless someone isn't right in the head, we know the winner of this one. Do the Wildcats cover? What is your prediction?
35 points is a lot, man. I'm not gonna give NU that much. I've seen them play too many games to do that. What up, 27-24 win over an EMU team that went 0-12!
I do think it's a comfortable W, though. I'm going with 42-13, juuuuuuuuuust shy of the spread. Sorry if that seems arrogant, but I talked myself down from a 20-plus point win against Cuse to just 17 points and lost some standings in our very competitive prognostication sweepstakes, so I'm nervous.
HUGE thanks to Rodger for his answers and not being too hard on the Broncos. He's really a cool guy (wait till you see his questions). Party with him! Love him! GO TO HIS BLOG(s)! Follow him on twitter!