Q&A with a Northwestern Blogger

This week the Buckeyes will be going against the Wildcats of Northwestern. While for years (decades) it could be said there isn’t anything wild about these cats Pat Fitzgerald the former linebacker and current head coach is helping lead Northwestern onto the national stage. This week I had the privilege to work with Jay from Lake The Post.

MotSaG: The last time ESPN’s College Game Day has been to Evanston was when coach Pat Fitzgerald was playing for the Wildcats, Mike and Mike radio show will also be in town and there are reports that tickets prices are around 160 dollars. Is this the biggest game in school history?

LTP: No. However, if you talk about the past 50 years, it is the most media exposure we’ve received in a week leading up to a game. It is GameDay’s 2nd visit to Evanston and 3rd overall (they came to the Wrigley game in 2010). I did a full post on the context of the “biggest game since…” concept which you can view here – http://www.laketheposts.com/2013/10/01/biggest-game-since/

That being said, this game is huge. It’s huge from a perception standpoint. NU gets this stage infrequently and the “average fan” will take this performance as its baseline for NU perception until we get this stage again. It is the hardest ticket to get in the 22 years I’ve been following the team.

MotSaG: Ohio State fans travel extremely well to watch their beloved Buckeyes as was witnessed in California vs the Golden Bears, Are Northwestern fans worried Ryan Field could be hearing the O-H-I-O chant and half the stadium filled with Scarlet and Gray?

LTP: Uhhh..yes. We obsess over this fact. We use crutches like the fact we have only 8,000 students, yet we sellout the 5,000 seat allotment of students. If we had 50,000 like you, well..you get the gist. Opposing fan presence is the single most painful topic of our LTP community. We’ve steadily increased NU attendance and will likely be more guarded this year against Scarlet & Grey since NU scheduled it as Homecoming. We have the 2nd smallest alumni base in Chicago and the majority of alums would need to get on a plane to get to the game, hence the reliance on converting non-alums to fans. It’s a tall order when you are a private school without the defacto boost of having the state name in your logo. A win on Saturday night, and it will go a looooooong way to solving that problem. All you need to do is look at then Dyche Stadium in 1996 and 1997 when it was packed with all purple to see that even pro sports town Chicago loves a college winner.

MotSaG: Speaking of California Northwestern only won that game by 14 points I believe the difference being the Wildcats returning two interceptions back for touchdowns. Is this because senior QB Kain Coltier went down with a concussion thus forcing the Wildcats into using only QB (Trevor Siemian) , who isn’t the dual threat as Coltier is,instead of them being able to use both?

LTP: Kain Colter went out on the second play of the game and yes, that was some adversity. What Ohio State and other B1G fans aren’t realizing is that our All-American (yes, All-American), RB/PR Venric Mark played in two series in that game. Our 3rd string RB, Treyvon Green carried us. We moved the ball on offense and racked up yards, the close score was a credit to Jared Goff, a new coaching staff and a very conservative Cover 4 defense that resulted in yielding truckloads of passing yards and offense. You got the same treatment by Cal, but were able to score more than we did.

MotSaG: The Buckeyes have shown, especially since last weeks game, they can stop the run. The Wildcats are another B1G team with a stable of running backs and as a group are averaging over five yards a carry do you see this working against the Buckeyes Saturday?

LTP: No. I think Ohio State will bottle up the run, though Kain colter will awe you with his escapability, much like Braxton Miller. Venric Mark is the X-factor. He ran for 1,336 yards thanks in part to both the option and his between the tackles ability to find seams. My hunch is OSU will stack the box and challenge us to beat you through the air. Enter Trevor Siemian. He’s the make or break. He’s very accurate, good arm, not as mobile as Kain. We’re way more loaded at WR than at RB. Seeing one guy torch you (Jarred Abbrederis) when we know we have 3-4 such weapons is what is giving us hope. That and the adversity in your secondary. That being said…next question. Gulp.

MotSaG: How big of an advantage for Northwestern is it to have an extra week of prep time to try and figure out how to stop the explosive Buckeye offense?

LTP: If you analyze the W/L post bye week stats for B1G teams, you’d argue it is a disadvantage if anything. Simply put, NU fans are scared about you torturing one of our CB spots. We lost our starter for the year in week one (Daniel Jones) and the freshman back-up, Dwight White, has been picked on every game since. We know it, you know it and the coaches even acknowledge you’ll challenge here. It will be interesting to see how Mike Hankwitz schemes to compensate for this.

MotSaG: Northwestern has I believe to be the toughest B1G schedule this season having to play Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin and Nebraska. Can the Wildcats run the table?

LTP: Highly unlikely. It may sound like a crutch, but we could get to Indy after starting 0-2 in B1G play. If we lose to you and Wisconsin, we’ll have to run the Legends Division table to get to Indy. That I think is very possible. Michigan looks terrible, Michigan State can’t find an offense, Nebraska has zero defense and hopefully iowa and Minnesota remain Iowa and Minnesota. Iowa is the one that is starting to scare NU fans a bit.

MotSaG: Will the Wildcats be at full strength for Saturday’s game?

LTP: Venric Mark hasn’t played in five weeks. Expecting him to be 100% is unrealistic. He’s a gamechanger and led the nation in PR last year (was named All-American for that). Daniel Jones as we mentioned is out for the season and the most unheralded injury is DT Sean McIlvy which is a question mark. He would be a huge loss.

MotSaG: How great is it to be covering a winning football team again and other teams not being able to look past Northwestern?

LTP: It’s awesome. Granted, the bar at OSU is higher, but for NU fans the bar is now raised to success equaling Indy. Five straight bowl games, a 10-win season last year and arguably the best recruiting class in history for 2014 (it would be top 25, but we only take 15 guys per year and the ratings services weight total number of commitments too heavily), plus a $225 million lakefront practice facility and life is pretty peachy. If we could just solve that attendance thing.

MotSaG: Pat Fitzgerald was a great linebacker for Northwestern and has been at the helm of the Wildcat program since 2006 and has done a great job turning the program into contenders. Does Pat ever have to buy food or coffee or does everyone in Evanston give him whatever he needs?

LTP: Pat has definitely become a Chicago celebrity. However, when you have the Bears, Cubs, Blackhawks, Sox and a world class city, the college spotlight doesn’t quite give you rock star status. He definitely can’t go anywhere now without being noticed and the Chicago media love the guy as do general sports fans in the area. He’s become the most valuable brand the school has ever had in Athletics.

MotSaG: What is your prediction for the game?

LTP: I wait until Friday for my picks, but I will say it will be a single digit game. I expect OSU to explode out to a big lead and NU will claw its way back just like Wisconsin. We’ll have to be at least +2 in takeaways to have a shot, b/c you’re going to put up 40+ points on us.-here is the link to their site hopefully he has his prediction up http://www.laketheposts.com/

I would like to thank Jay for taking out the time to work with us here at MotSaG and I’m sure he has been busy with all kinds of blog requests this week.

I will be honest I am a little worried about this game. Fitzgerald will have the Wildcats well prepared for the Buckeyes and yes an extra week will help them. The Buckeyes do have more talent than Northwestern and should win this game. It will be a great game and hopefully Corey “Pittsburg” Brown is ready to fill the huge shoes of Christian Bryant and that secondary finds whats its missing. Also hopeful the Buckeyes defensive line gets into the backfield and really disrupts the flow of whichever qb is playing, I don’t believe the Wildcats offensive line is as strong and good as Wisconsin’s was.

If you want to get involved and have questions about upcoming opponents feel free to send them in to me and I can send them on. Email your questions to AskMotSaG@gmail.com or MotSaG@gmail.com. Would love to know your thoughts on this post and hope you enjoyed it.

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