What is Dispatches from Blogfrica? Pretty simple: I ask questions of an blogger for an opposing team; he answers. A truly revolutionary idea, no? This week: Rodger at Sippin' on Purple, SB Nation's excellent blog for all things Northwestern.
1) What hip-hop album best encapsulates Northwestern's 2013 season so far? I'd go with Magna Carta... Holy Grail. Y'all didn't film any commercials with Rick Rubin (you didn't, right?), but still: massive amounts of hype and expectation giving way to an enormously underwhelming disappointment? Seems pretty dead-on. You didn't even get a fat check from Samsung for your troubles.
I think you pretty much nailed it. Hey, douchebag, let me answer the questions!
In Adam Rittenberg's epic ridealong story about spending a week with the NU football team as they prepared for the program-defining game against Ohio State, he caught Pat Fitzgerald in the meeting yelling a lyric from a Public Enemy song at his team -- DON'T BELIEVE THE HYPE. He was talking about OSU, College GameDay and other stuff, but I s'pose we can turn that around and say the hype we weren't supposed to believe was about Northwestern. We can rename PE's album "IT TAKES A FANBASE OF HUNDREDS TO HOLD US BACK."
2) But for real, what the hell has gone wrong for Northwestern the last three games? It is all injuries or is there more to it than that? Are guys underperformning? Are the coaches failing to get the team adequately prepared? Were there warning signs in the first four games that you overlooked but now see clearly with the benefit of your trust hindsight monocle?
For starters, let's say the last two. NU fans were okay with the loss to Ohio State, since we played very, very well against Ohio State and came a few plays from winning. Carlos Hyde murdered us, but everything else was still clicking.
The last two games, tho, have been disasters of the unmitigated variety. Sure, a lot of issues stemmed from the loss of Venric Mark and Kain Colter, the all-conference type RB and his similarly speedy running mate of a QB.
But those same two dudes were hurt against Cal, and NU was fine then. Trevor Siemian stepped up and had a huge passing game, and Treyvon Green filled in with a pair of 100-yard running games. Against Wisconsin, Siemian looked uber-hesitant, getting sacked 10 times, and receivers still managed to make key drops on some of the few passes he threw. Thus, NU scored only 6 points. Against Minnesota, he threw two picks, one returned for a touchdown, and lost a fumble that led to a Gophers field goal, giving them 10 of their points in a 20-17 victory.
What we saw earlier in the year led us to expect Siemian to step up, and expect Northwestern would give his sidekick RB's some carries so teams couldn't gang up on him. Instead, he hasn't performed, the OL hasn't protected him, his wide receivers haven't helped him, and the coaching staff has eschewed the running game when you'd think we'd need it most.
The defense has some holes up the middle against runs, also due to an injury to Sean McEvilly, but they only gave up 31 points to Wisconsin since they were on the field all damn game and basically shut down Minnesota.
3) I fully expect Kain Colter to hobble off the injury report, channel the spirits of Brett Basanez, CJ Bacher, Mike Kafka, and Dan Persa before him and rip Iowa's defense to tasteful little cross-cut shreds. But assuming that doesn't happen, what should Iowa fans know about Northwestern's offense? Who are the main targets in the passing game? Who fills the Venric Mark-shaped hole in the running game?
Null set, y'all.
4) On the other side of the ball, who are a few defensive players that Iowa fans should know about? Who's going to be causing Iowa fans to crack open a six-pack of sadness after the game on Saturday?
TYLER SCOTT, DESTROYER OF WORLDS. He is our defensive end who was leading the Big Ten in sacks a few days ago and now I'm too depressed to see if that's still true. He's a bullrushing all-strength team type, and he's the anchor of a four-defensive end set NU brings in for passing situations.
Ibraheim Campbell intercepts a pass damn near every game at this point. He's plays safety like centerfielder that happens to be really mean to people.
5) Northwestern couldn't really miss a bowl game this year, right? Tell me how they avoid the ignominy of the Queso Bowl and land themselves in a bowl game come the holiday season. What's the path to that result?
Oh, good sir, we could very well miss a bowl game!
The path to making one? It starts on your home turf, jerkwads. We need two wins in five games. One has to come from the "rivalry?!?!?!" game with Illinois, because LOLBeckman and we can keep our Monopoly Piece trophy. The other has to come between Michigan, Michigan State, and Nebraska -- the teams we were hypothetically competing with for a B1G title before Catpocalypse Now -- or, you know, y'all. I'll take my chances with y'all over the other three combined.
6) What's your level of confidence entering this game?
7) OK, prediction time -- who ya got?
I'LL BE DAMNED IF I PREDICT YOU CORNLARDS TO WIN THIS GAME
NORTHWESTERN, 27, IOWA 20
SUCK IT SUCK IT SUCK IT SUCK IT
Thanks for being a good sport, Rodger, although I still hope your team loses by 50 on Saturday. You can check out Rodger and the rest of the SoP crew at Sippin' on Purple. You can also follow Rodger on Twitter at @rodger_sherman and SoP on Twitter at @sippinonpurple. The Iowa-Northwestern game is in Iowa City on Saturday, October 26, and is scheduled to start at 11:00 pm CT, with television coverage from BTN.