So tomorrow, we play Towson. The word surrounding our gameplan this week is likely to be "vanilla", and that's a great thing.
Last year's starting skill position players on offense had about three of game reps to gel before last year's Big Ten schedule. These guys have three weeks. Luckily, those three weeks contain three relatively easy games. NU's players are good enough to win this on talent alone, and won't need fancy playcalling, so look for that vanilla stuff to just help them get into rhythm and get comfortable with each other.
You can sort of sense this coming from the way NU handled last year's Syracuse game. In the first game of coaches McCall and Hankwitz, the playcalling was pretty bland, and in the second quarter, when the game was still relatively up for grabs, we saw Mike Kafka come into the game. However, since the game was still losable, Bachér and fam came back in until the game was safely out of reach, when subs started to come in in droves.
Next week, against Duke, the playcalling was a little bit more bold. One drive featured direct snaps to Tyrell Sutton and an end-around pass to CJ Bachér. So, the future weeks are for experimenting.
This week is just for going in, playing the starters for 20 minutes, and getting back out.
Offense: I don't want to see Mike Kafka running around. Judging from the way he merked Minnesota last year, Kafka is faster and most likely stronger than a lot of guys playing on the Towson defense. If he gets a head start towards the line of scrimmage on a bootleg, he'd probably be past the Towson secondary faster than Tecmo Bowl Bo Jackson.
But we don't need that. What we do need is a Mike Kafka that can consistently complete short passes to his receiving corps, and a Mike Kafka that doesn't have a concussion or some other injury. I want to see him passing out of the pocket and getting on the same page as his receivers. (Yeah, I know he's been passing to these guys on the second unit in practice for years, but, he's never played in a game with them . So he needs to get on the same page.)
Towson has a comically weak running defense, one I should've highlighted a few days ago in my post about their football team, but, here will suffice: the Tigers gave up 231 rushing yards per game. TWO HUNDRED AND THIRTY-ONE. Opponents averaged 5.57 yards per carry. Highlights include Navy's 558 yards on the ground (they only threw four times), led by Shun White's 348 yards rushing, Coastal Carolina's 302 yards on the ground, and James Madison's 440 yards rushing.
Luckily, NU has an unproven running corps that we need to see getting some action. I want Simmons, Fields, and Matthews each to get a large amount of carries. This is still an open competition, and I want to see these guys compete. If our running game racks up a lot of yards straight up the middle against Towson's swiss cheese run defense, it will go a long way towards selling our run game so that we can do more interesting things with our play calling. Let's keep it a little bit run heavy after Kafka completes a few out of the pocket.
Defense: This unit is too good for Towson. This team gave up six sacks in their spring game against a considerably less talented defense in, well, their own defense. If they do get throws off, our secondary is waiting to pounce. They'll quickly learn that passing will not work against our defense.
Stopping the run up the middle could be the weakest part of this year's defense, and, luckily, Towson's offense is extremely run-heavy, so it will be a good opportunity for our DT's to get some reps and step up and make some stops.
People I'm watching: Dan Persa. He should get heavy tick in the second half, so let's see if he can play.
Our whole running back platoon: as noted. These guys, as noted, should rotate in and out the whole game. I want to see everybody on the depth chart get in there and show whether or not they can compete or not. If Jacob Schmidt or Scott Concannon comes out having the best game, fine maybe he deserves more time. If Arby Fields has the best game, hey, maybe he should be starting come Big Ten season.
Corey Wootton. Corey's healed. I wanna see some maulings.
Pick in a mascot fight to the death: Tigers and Wildcats are pretty similar in name, but whiel you know that the Tiger is a vicious killing machine, a wildcat is a really vague term. It could be anything from a puma to a stray cat that's spent a few years on the streets. Therefore, I have to pick the Towson Tiger. Unless you're dealing with one of those Siegfried and Roy tigers, in which case, Wildcats.
Towson, 6, NU, 44. That's five touchdowns and three field goals. Fitz won't run up the score, but with a weak defense as bad as this, I expect even running up the gut in the fourth quarter to net a TD or two. I do expect Towson to get on the board, just based on us not being ready yet.
Wait's over, folks. Go Cats, yo.