We've done it everyone. We have Q'ed, and we have A'ed, and now we are on the last one. This is the last game of the year, and also the last Q&A of the football season, which is more meaningful I believe. It's such a sad day. I may cry.
But then I remember that it's Thanksgivin' and I can literally eat anything and everything, and not only will I not be judged, I will be revered.
Anyways, Tom forced me to actually talk to a Northwestern graduate. It was a very difficult experience, but I managed to email Rodger Sherman from Sippin' On Purple, and not be killed by voodoo, black magic. It's a miracle y'all. A god damn miracle.
1. Talk about regressing to the mean. Northwestern is having an awful year after having a tremendous, double-digit win season in 2012. What has gone wrong? Injuries have had their impact, but that doesn't explain everything, does it?
I'd pin it on four things:
1. Turnovers. NU got a ton of them last year and held tight in tough games, NU has lost some in critical games this year, leading to points for the other team.
2. Injuries. Venric Mark was Northwestern's best player. He suffered two injuries that held him to three games, and not even major roles in those three games. Add in Northwestern's second CB (Daniel Jones) best DT (Sean McEvilly) for long stretches, and best QB (Kain Colter) top WR (Tony Jones) and several RB's (against Nebraska, NU was down to just one scholarship back) for stretches, and it's been a season from hell. As opposed to last year, when NU lost six starts to injury all year.
3. Conservative playcalling: Lotta punts on fourth-and-short, lotta runs in passing situations.
4. Plain, dumb, crappy, just Northwestern luck. Come on! Did you see the Nebraska Hail Mary? And the way that Michigan game played out?
And that's how you lose seven games without hiring Tim Beckman as your coach.
2. How much will this season hurt the future for Northwestern? They had a great recruiting class this season, but since they now will not be playing in a bowl this season, with a maximum of one Big Ten victory, can Northwestern keep their momentum on the recruiting trail going?
The good news is it hasn't... yet. NU only had 15 spots to fill in the upcoming class and had, I believe, 14 of them filled. One big get left, four-star WR Dareian Watkins, but his "spot" was kinda replaced by four-star WR transfer Miles Shuler. We'll see if more decommits happen, but it seems like Pat Fitzgerald has convinced the kids in his flock that this is a blip, and that they're still a big part of Northwestern's future.
3. This season has pretty much shut up all the talk of Pat Fitzgerald leaving, so at least you have that, right?
IT'S ALL PART OF THE PLAN! STAY AWAY, TEXAS AND USC!
We never really bought Pat Fitzgerald leaving in the first place, since he's shown himself to be a friggin' loyal-obsessive weirdo who would turn down money for people who had showed him trust in the past. NOTE: if I was a college football coach, I would never do this.
4. To win the LOLhat, what will Northwestern have to do?
A lot of it has to do with Kain Colter's health. He hasn't practiced yet this week. He's a lot better than Trevor Siemian at this point in time.
5. What areas of Northwestern's defense will Bill Cubit be looking to attack?
Northwestern's defense was actually pretty solid in a lot of the games the team lost -- 60 regulation points in between games against Minnesota, Nebraska, Iowa, and Michigan, and 14 of those came off of Trevor Siemian pick-sixes. The secondary has had its weak moments, but those have (with a few exceptions) been quelled by the relegation of Dwight White to the bench, replaced by freshman Matthew Harris, and Ibraheim Campbell will still pick off a poopload of passes. Up front, Tyler Scott is legitimately one of the best defensive ends in the conference, although the aforementioned loss of McEvilly has hurt NU's run defense at times.
6. I really hate how much the Big Ten is trying to force a rivalry between Illinois and Northwestern. The schools just aren't rivals in my eyes. Neither team is consistent enough in football to have many of those matchups mean anything, and Northwestern basketball has a mountain to climb. Do you think that Illinois-Northwestern will ever develop into a true rivalry?
WE'RE FINE WITH GOIN 1-7 AS LONG AS THAT WIN'S AGAINST THAT TEAM DOWN SOUTH
No but seriously, we're obviously agreed that this is a forced thing, although I'd pin it more on Jim Phillips/Fitz and Mike Thomas/Beckman than the Big Ten. You can tell its not a real rivalry because it's been pretty back-and-forth the last few years -- 3-3 split over the last six years in football and, 4-4 split over the last four in basketball with some real nailbiters on both sides of the aisle -- and there's still very little venom. We'll work on it, since neither of us really have bigger fish to fry.
7. Prediction for the game.
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Thanks again to Rodger for answering our questions. And thanks to anyone who actually took the time on Thankgivin' to read this.