What is Dispatches from Blogfrica? Pretty simple: I ask opposing bloggers questions about their teams; they answer. A truly revolutionary idea, no? This week: Rodger Sherman, from SBN's fantastic Northwestern blog, Sippin' on Purple.
1) Northwestern got off to a great start: 5-0 overall, 4-0 in non-conference play. In fact, you were pretty much the only Big Ten team not to piss all over themselves during non-conference play (you and Ohio State, I guess) and you beat three BCS opponents (although B.C. might only be worth like half-credit), which is more than the rest of us combined, I'm pretty sure. So that was good. But you've gone 1-2 since then and the one win was over Minnesota. What's gone wrong? Is it just the fact that Penn State and Nebraska are better competition than you had been facing?
It's a combo of that and the fact that Northwestern decided to hastily castrate their offense, with only a hint of anesthetic, since the Indiana game. Kain Colter's in? It's either a run or short dumpy pass. Trevor Siemian's in? He's going deep. Northwestern fans have been sitting here, staring at the predictable playcalling and watching opposing defenses predict it for about a month now. Oh, and Northwestern's two losses came in games they were leading by two scores going into the fourth quarter, so it's not like they've been murderously painful or anything.
2) Along those same lines... what the hell has happened to your passing offense? I mean, I've watched Iowa's passing offense every week for the last two months and it is a goddamn HazMat zone, but according to the stats your passing offense is even worse, which makes my head spin. What happened to the Northwestern QB factory that pumped out undersized, scramble-happy, deadly accurate guys like C.J. Bacher, Mike Kafka, and Dan Persa?
First off, I'd point less to Northwestern's quarterbacks and more to Northwestern's system that let guys complete a poop-ton of short passes and spread the defense from sideline to sideline, with occasional scrambles, designed runs, and deep throws. If we were a QB factory, you'd think one of those QB's would be in the NFL, instead of being a UFL dropout, free agent deemed not good enough to be Mike Vick's third stringer, and GUY REHABBING AN ACHILLES INJURY, YEAH, I'M TALKING TO YOU IOWA FAN WHO TOLD ME AFTER THE 2010 GAME HE HOPES DAN PERSA NEVER PLAYS FOOTBALL AGAIN HOW DO YOU SLEEP AT NIGHT.
Also, to be honest, I think Kain Colter is that guy. You probably know he's a dynamite athlete, and he completes a pretty alarming percent of his passes. But he hasn't been allowed to throw recently. Northwestern is trying to cope with this weird "having a talented running back" thing, and apparently that entails waiting for one of those runs up the middle to inevitably be a breakaway touchdown.
3) Kain Colter: animal, vegetable, or mineral? Wait, that's not right... quarterback, wide receiver, or running back? Is there a chance we could see him return punts, too, to make the Antwaan Randle-El comparisons complete?
He started out the year as a starting quarterback. Then he was splitting duties for a bit. Then he was all of a sudden playing wide receiver and being great. Then he was all of a sudden not getting many receptions because other teams knew he was our best wide receiver and that Trevor Siemian would just try to hammer the ball into him and Colter was only running zone reads when he was taking snaps at quarterback instead of throwing. He's only thrown 15 passes in Big Ten play - completing 12! We're all displeased with the senselessly uncreative way he's being utilized, and so is Colter.
4) You guys might be missing your top two cornerbacks. Luckily, the Iowa passing offense is as toothless as my 92-year old grandfather when he takes his dentures out at night. Who's going to come out on top in this battle of the very stoppable force against the totally movable object? Will that be the key to the game on Saturday?
Nick VanHoose has been a great cornerback in his freshman year, and senior transfer from Stanford Quinn Evans was okay for a bit. (Ed. Note: The fact that you guys have a CB transfer from Stanford named Quinn is like the most jNW thing ever. Keep on keepin' on, bros.) They're both doubtful (translation: out) for the game, leaving Daniel Jones and Demetrius Dugar in there. Jones is okay and has been starting for a few games, Dugar is the reason Ryan Nassib had 470 yards passing in the season opener against NU - their offense entirely consisted of jump balls to the left side for an entire half, and it worked. I give Iowa's offense the edge, judging from last year's performance when we actually had some really talented cornerbacks instead of random backups out there, but James Vandenberg still got the job done.
5) The concession situation at Ryan Field was, literally, the worst I've ever seen at a nominal big-time sporting event when I was there in 2010. I've been to high school football games that had a better spread than what I saw at Ryan. Did you ever eat anything from the concession stands at Ryan? If so, what's good? Do you have to be, like, an Armani Club member to get access to the non-godawful food options there?
To be honest, I don't remember ever having gotten food at Ryan Field. It's just not a thing I typically do because the lines are long, the food doesn't seem great, and I'm really cheap. If I have ever gotten anything from the concessions, I was drunk enough that I don't remember and its lifespan in my presence was probably under 27 seconds. So I can't tell you. But my recommendation would be to either tailgate well or go to some of Evanston's awesome food options - Bat17 is my favorite place in the world and has beer towers, there's a grilled cheese pub that opened since I graduated called Cheesie's that I am not leaving without eating at, and there's a bunch of other places. Not to mention Chicago has food in it.
6) Okay, prediction time -- who ya got?
Northwestern, 33-28. Y'all gone score points, even with Vandenberg's guffaw-worthy season. I have faith that our offense is better than it has been and that Northwestern is cosmically guaranteed to win after losing last year.
Thanks for being a good sport, Rodger. Be sure to check out Rodger and all his Armani-clad cronies over at Sippin' on Purple. You can also follow Rodger and SoP on Twitter at @sippinonpurple. The Iowa-Northwestern game is in Evanston, IL on Saturday, October 27 at 11am CT, with television coverage from ESPN2.