If we lose this one...

So, tomorrow, we play Purdue. It could get ugly for Northwestern's season if we lose, because we'll a) be 2-3 and b) be incapable of beating a lower-level Big Ten team. Anyway, for real insight, go to Hammer and Rails, and here's SBNation's game page with all the links to stories on tomorrow's game. But now, my stuff:

Offense: So, Purdue has a bad defense. A really bad defense. Like, they allow 30 points in a game and 420 yards a game bad. 11th in the Big Ten in both categories, bad. 

And we have, all things told, a pretty good offense. Mike Kafka has been absolutely lighting up defenses with his dinky, dunky, 300 yards a game of passing, and look for that to continue. (Sadly, our defense has played poorly enough to make Kaf'ka's great play not matter.) But Kafka has had some seriously scary mental lapses every once in a while in his past two games, and it's resulted in NU losses in both: to state the obvious, if he goes turnoverless, we'll probably win. Basically, there's not much for me to analyze here. We live by the Kafka and die by the Kafka. 

And please, don't run that much. Especially not on first down. Yeah, Arby Fields and Jacob Schmidt have looked decent in small doses, but neither of them deserves more than ten carries in a game we really, really need to win. Our offense needs to rest on Kafka. 

Northwestern's playcalling last week was good - mainly short passes that tore up the d, an occasional long shot, most notably on 4th-and-1. If we can convert on one or two of those long shots we take - like the one to Sidney Stewart that was just out of his reach - I like our chances.

Defense: Long story short, this is going to be a shootout. They can't defend, and, uh, neither can we. Ralph Bolden, as noted, is a good running back. In the past, we've been unable to stop below average running backs like Minnesota's Duane Bennett last week and Eastern Michigan's Dwayne Priest, who demolished us for 127 yards. Quite frankly, I'm terrified to see what Bolden will do. He's averaging 6.2 yards per carry. Priest, who is averaging a solid 4.0 ypc outside the NU game, had a ridiculous 7.5 against us. Syracuse's Delone Carter averaged 3.5 in his other three games, and 4.7 against us. Bennett was a backup against Air Force and California before busting out for 89 yards and three touchdowns.

So, long story short, I'm worried. Not even so much worried about Bolden busting out 90 yard td runs, but about him consistently getting 7 or 8 yards on simple first down carries, and essentially rendering any other aspect of Purdue's offense irrelevant - because if you can run for 7 yards a carry routinely, why bother trying anything else? Minnesota figured this out quickly against us last week, and didn't have any trouble stringing together 10+ play drives and just marching us down the field on the way to another td. I'm not even worried about their pass game - if they decide to utilize it, I'm confident our secondary can shut them down - but Bolden is giving me shivers.

 

Person I'm watching:

Nate Williams: I'm expecting Nate to be the guy whose job it is to bring down Bolden on rushes up the middle, because our DT's have struggled with containing the running back. His tackling ability is key tomorrow, and if he has a great game at the middle linebacker spot, turning what could be 7-yard carries into 4-yard carries, we good.

 

Pick in a mascot fight to the death: The wildcat is fast, but not fast enough to stay away from a dude in a hard hat with a hammer. Game, Purdue (Mascot death fight records: Purdue, 4-1, NU, 2-3) (Note: the Wildcats are 2-0 when I say that their mascot will lose a fight to the death, and 0-2 when I say they'll win. Just sayin'.)

 

Prediction:

After the jump!

Northwestern, 45, Purdue, 41. Because I have no idea what the final scores will be, but think NU will win and have a lot of points.

 

So that's that: stop by tomorrow for the game thread. I know I will, and hopefully, some of my commentors from my old site (where you at, Patrick and Joshua?) will follow me over, because they haven't yet, leading to last week's awkward three comment game thread. You don't have an excuse tomorrow, because we're all going to be sitting at home, watching the game, unless you were man enough to make the trek to Ross-Ade. But I wasn't. 

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