So, tomorrow, the Gophers and Wildcats play. If you'd like a good preview, read The Daily Gopher, who have one, or check the SBNation game page, where all articles on the game are posted, basically, go anywhere else. . If you'd like a poorly put together preview by someone who knows exceedingly little about football, well, you're in the right place.
When we last spoke, Northwestern was a team in serious, serious trouble. I think it's a winnable game - in fact, I think it's a game we should win - but the way Northwestern has been playing the last two weeks certainly isn't a confidence builder. Anyway, here's my gameplan:
Offense: Mike Kafka hopefully scared the doo-doo out of Minnesota with last year's game in the dome. Hopefully, the Gophers are overpreparing for a whirling dervish who scrambles as much as he can and makes silly, ill-informed throws. Because that's what Mike Kafka was last season against Minnesota, and it's pretty much the opposite of what he was last week.
Against Syracuse, Kafka showed he can be a smart, hyperaccurate dinker-and-dunker for about 59 minutes, and he devastated Syracuse's defense from the pocket, only occasionally busting out the run. Minnesota's defense isn't vastly improved from Syracuse's defense, so we need the same exact thing from Mike (minus the pick), hopefully, this will be easily attained against a defense more worried about him taking off than throwing. I have a funny feeling the "run towards the line of scrimmage to draw defenders, then passing" trick will wreak havoc on the Gophers defense.
No offense to Jacob Schmidt, who has way outperformed my hopes for him at the beginning of the year - he's been a really good short-yardage back and was actually a passable first option last week - but he's not a starting running back, at least not now. Unfortunately, with Simmons out and Jeravin Matthews just returning to the lineup this week, that's what he'll be. Our running back corps shouldn't be more than a change of pace at any point in the game - we should be passing like 75 percent of downs. That being said, we need these guys, especially Matthews, to be active in the passing game as dump-off guys.
I know this is a rather simplistic preview of the offense, but quite frankly, how this game goes is pretty much entirely dependent upon Mike Kafka. If he has a bad game, we have no other offensive options, basically.
Well, Minnesota has a guy named Eric Decker, and we have to guard him. Double team. Triple team. Octuple team. Whatever it takes. Send Demetrius Dugar out there with a chainsaw if you gotta. (the team can handle the 15-yard penalty, it's really up to whether or not Dugar is willing to serve a life sentence.)
It does sound like we'll be getting Sherrick McManis back this week, so that's a major, major plus. He might be able to do Decker justice. Then again, players on our team have had issues with returning from injuries this year - we're still waiting on Corey Wootton to take the bus ride back from San Antonio, and players started dropping like flies before last week's game - but it would be nice to have our 11 defensive starters healthy, which has only happened once this year.
Last week, our team was entirely allergic to tackling. Hopefully with Nate Williams - the best tackler on our team this year - back, some of that will go away.
I think this is the last week we can pull the "hey, will our defense be as good as it should be this week?" card. If we can't tackle guys at the point of attack this week, if we give up 4+ yards a rush, and we bite on every possible pump fake, and we, uhh, still can't tackle guys at the point of attack, which is important, we're going to have to acknowledge this is less of a mind-blowingly great defense and more of a classic NU defense.
People I'm watching:
The injury gods: Who will be healthy, and who will come down with an in-play bout of swine flu while guarding Eric Decker?
Mike Kafka: For obvious reasons. He's our team right now.
Sherrick McManis: Sherrick, it's you and their best player. This is what you live for.
Pick in a mascot fight to the death: Gophers: not scary. Game, NU. (Mascot death fight records: NU, 2-2, Minnesota, 1-3)
After the jump!
Northwestern, 38, Minnesota, 31. No defenses to see here, move along. I really, really do have faith in Mike Kafka, especially after last week's almost perfect performance and with a healthy team, I like our chances. And that's all I gotta say about that.
I'd like to hear your picks and whatnot, so I got a poll, and I got a comments section.