The epicenter of Northwestern sports on the web, Lake the Posts, was kind enough to stop by and educate us on his beloved Wildcats. LTP isn't optimistic heading into the weekend and I realize the last time a guest blogger stopped by to heap praise at the Buckeyes, we suffered through the stink-fest that was Purdue, but it can't happen twice, right?
First off, why six? Well, in the near century we've been playing the Buckeyes (1913 was the first game), we've only won six times against Ohio State at home. Six.
1. For Most of the Year LTP and Cats Fans are on the "respect" Crusade.
We're coming off ruining yet another homecoming at Minnesota, and despite elevating the program to where 6-6 is disappointing, we are very pragmatic when it comes to Ohio State. Our standard Wildcataganda! line to prove our point of competitive program is a two-bullet answer:
- After Ohio State and Michigan, NU has the most Big Ten championships since 1995.
- Only four teams have winning records against NU since 1995 - Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State and Purdue.
Then reality sets in and we face Ohio State. You are the lone team in the Big Ten that strikes fear of embarassment in NU fans. Cats fans actually believe we have a chance to win every single game we play. Except Ohio State. Last year was the first time I can remember NOT having the "oh my god, I hope we don't lose by 40" mentality. And you crushed us. No disrespect to the current NU staff and team, but as fans, we fear you.
2. We're Bummed About the Ohio Factor in this Game
Poor Tyrell Sutton. Our relentless Ohio born running back is out for the season and you'll remember last year he was out for the Ohio State game as well. As you can imagine, NU Ohio born players love to show their old state school what they missed. Now, freshman DE beast, Vince Browne is out for the regular season and he is a gamechanger. Guess we'll be relying on true freshman Jeremy Ebert to have the stick-it-to Ohio State factor.
3. The QB Debate
No one believes that both won't play. Fitz is saying he will start CJ if, and I stress "if" he is healthy. Kafka will surely see snaps. Most of us fear a platoon situation where we might as well just put a sign up for the Ohio State staff that says "run" (kafka) or "pass" (CJ). I truly believe to see some wrinkles that we haven't seen to throw Ohio State off, but none of us believe that Kafka will be able to simply beat your DEs around the end or cutback at will like he did against Minnesota. CJ has not improved from week-to-week and has NU fans continually hoping he'll avoid the big mistake. I just hope we don't outsmart ourselves with too much trickery. However, man for man you are quicker, more athletic and more talented, as always, so we have to create opportunities to win.
4. Quick Start Key
NU's achilles heel this season has been the 1st quarter. Our defense has been downright dominant in second halves of games and we've only given up 24 points all season in the fourth. The key will be similar to Minnesota and striking first. You could see the confidence build as we played our best quarter in the Pat Fitzgerald era. I wouldn't be surprised to see us take the ball first if we win the flip.
5. A New Look Defense
If there was ever a year where an assistant coach should win national coach of the year, this is it. Mike Hankwitz, whom Buckeye fans remember as the Wisconsin DC, is in year one at NU and has us ranked high in numerous defensive categories including scoring defense, sacks and TFLs. The "overnight" change has been dramatic and has given NU fans confidence that we won't be suffering the three year rebuild as this senior-dominated offense departs. Granted, Ohio State is actually ranked higher than NU in several of defensive areas, but the aggressive, attacking, hard-hitting style of play has us smiling.
6. Clinging to Pointless Stats
One of the few Tressel era hiccups is their performance after bye weeks. Combine that with the Big Ten's dismal bye week success rate this year and we're hoping a pointless statistic will magically have some type of impact on the game (Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Northwestern and Iowa have all lost after their bye weeks).