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Northwestern Downs South Dakota Plus Indiana (Starting the B1G Games) Preview


Wildcats Chew Up Coyotes, While Showing Mercy


The Wildcats came out to play, took control, and then showed mercy. The final score was 38-7, but the game was not nearly as close as the score might indicate. Looking at the predictions from last week, this game most closely resembles The Good:

By the time the 2nd half begins, NU is showing both class and smarts. Up 35-0, Northwestern doesn’t feel the need to try to hit triple digits. Or to try to embarrass the long distance guests. When the clock strikes “4th Quarter” the 3rd Team and a lot of walk-ons are getting experience, which could be valuable down the road. Oliver gets valuable reps and Watkins makes an appearance. The game goes down in the books as Wildcats 54 - Coyotes 10, but it was much much worse than the score would indicate.

Admittedly, the Wildcats didn’t win by 44, but they could have. Not only did the reserves get experience, but the reserves of the reserves got some play time. Oliver (NU’s 3rd team QB) got time, as did the walk-on QB of the scout team. Eight people are listed as rushers, seven as receivers, and there was even a substitute FG kicker (Flaherty hit from 39 yards). Northwestern’s subs continued to play with intensity - a lot of people got their chance to make the case to be a starter (or a 2nd teamer or 3rd team…). 

Showing class also shows smarts. The longer the starters are in running up the score (or increasing the margin of victory...I mean, how does the defense run up the score?), the greater the chance someone gets hurt and is not available for a B1G game. This was a smartly coached and played game. And you know what? Showing mercy to a foe who has zero chance of coming back is classy. A lot of teams would do well to learn some class. 


SANITY CHECK!


Looking at the non-conference portion of the schedule (the first “trimester” if you will), the Wildcats achieved a 4-0 mark - perfect. That doesn’t mean that all the play was perfect, but the bottom line results were. But “just good enough” will not do for league play.

Others at the head of the class include Ohio State (not terribly surprising, but a little) and Minnesota (*THAT’S* a surprise). As a result, a lot of the pundits have declared that “...the Big Ten is down this year…” 

Whatever...


Now They Count for Double! 


The Wildcats take on the Indiana Hoosiers at Ryan Field on Saturday. The Hoosiers are having a pretty good season thus far. They are 2-1, having doubled their win total for all of last year. They are gaining some confidence and should not be considered a gimme.

The Wildcats took care of business last week, but they were very obviously a far superior team versus the Coyotes. The Hoosiers may be the best team the Wildcats have faced to date. 

Looking ahead to next week, Northwestern will face an even tougher foe - the Minnesota Gophers. 

Northwestern is getting some positive press and is considered a Darkhorse candidate for the Legends Division and a trip to Indianapolis. The road to the B1G Championship game goes through Minnesota…

...but first it has to go through the Hoosiers. “Focus on the task at hand” is this week’s The Good, The Bad, and The Probable.


The Good:


Northwestern finishes their four-game home run with the Indiana Hoosiers. The Wildcats have a reasonable chance of being ranked if they win against Indiana. And being ranked is a sure thing if they defeat the Gophers next week. (Remember, Minny is currently taking on Iowa on Saturday. “Floyd the Pig” is on the line.)

One must also keep in mind that Northwestern and Iowa are tied for the NCAA program with the most losses: 632 instances of futility. Whoever loses the game gets the clear lead in losing. No doubt this will come up during the game. 

The Wildcats take the field on offense; Colter is running the show. Mark goes up the middle, around the edge, and up the middle again. First down. Colter sprints toward the edge with Mark as an option. A slight fake, and Colter takes off as Mark ties up the pursuit. Another first down. As the Cats methodically start a drive, the Hoosiers start to stack the middle. Colter starts another sprint toward the edge and fires a pass to a wide open receiver for a large gain. Moments later the Wildcats get a touchdown. 

The Northwestern defense is up next as the Hoosiers get the ball. Indiana immediately attacks via the pass...which is broken up. Indiana tries something different, knowing that NU knows that they are a primarily “Pass First” team... (did you parse that?)… and they try to run up the middle. It does not work at all; in fact the Hoosiers lose yardage. On third down they do the predictable and try to pass. Once again, it doesn’t work. The Wildcat D stands tall and gets a 3&out. 

As the game wears on, it is really obvious who is the superior team - Northwestern. And like last week, the Cats play a smart game - subbing in liberally. The troops get experience, Indiana gets to leave with some dignity (but gets stuck with the most losses in NCAA history), and the Wildcats walk away with win number 5 as they pivot to take on the Gophers. Wildcats 42 - Hoosiers 24.


The Bad


Northwestern finishes their four-game home run with the Indiana Hoosiers. The Wildcats have a reasonable chance of being ranked if they win against Indiana. And being ranked is a sure thing if they defeat the Gophers next week. (Remember, Minny is currently taking on Iowa on Saturday. “Floyd the Pig” is on the line.)

One must also keep in mind that Northwestern and Iowa are tied for the NCAA program with the most losses: 632 instances of futility. Whoever loses the game gets the clear lead in losing. No doubt this will come up during the game. 

The Wildcats take the field on offense; Colter is running the show. Mark goes up the middle and around the edge, but makes very little progress as the Hoosier defense is determined to take the run away from NU. On 3rd and long, Colter sprints toward the edge with Mark as an option. The option gets strung out for no gain as the Hoosiers pursue to perfection. The Cats eat a 3&out on their first series.  

The Northwestern defense is up next as the Hoosiers get the ball. Indiana immediately attacks via the pass...which is an immediate success, yielding a first down and then some. Second play gives a second first down. Indiana smells blood and on the third play, they strike long for a touchdown. 

The afternoon spins out of control as Indiana dominates the game. By the end of the debacle, Indiana is excited about getting their first Big Ten win since 2010. NU leaves Ryan Field without a shred of dignity (plus they get stuck with the most losses in NCAA history). Northwestern looks to the rest of their B1G schedule and suddenly bowl eligibility looks very iffy. NU 17 - IU 35. The Gophers get really excited about taking on their next foe. 


The Probable:


Northwestern finishes their four-game home run with the Indiana Hoosiers. The Wildcats have a reasonable chance of being ranked if they win against Indiana. And being ranked is a sure thing if they defeat the Gophers next week. (Remember, Minny is currently taking on Iowa on Saturday. “Floyd the Pig” is on the line.)

One must also keep in mind that Northwestern and Iowa are tied for the NCAA program with the most losses: 632 instances of futility. Whoever loses the game gets the clear lead in losing. No doubt this will come up during the game. 

The Wildcats take the field on offense; Colter is running the show. Mark goes up the middle and around the edge - leaving the Wildcats with a 3rd and short. Going for the 1st down, Colter sprints toward the edge with Mark as an option. A slight fake, and Colter takes off making the first. Next series and Colter runs up the middle, making some yardage but taking a pounding. On 2nd and short, Colter starts to sprint toward the edge and fires a pass to a wide open receiver for a first down. It takes some effort, but the Wildcats get a touchdown on their first series. 

The Northwestern defense is up next as the Hoosiers get the ball. Indiana immediately attacks via the pass...which is successful. Indiana tries again - and is successful. The Hoosiers get it going down field. Finally the Cat defense stiffens as Indiana enters the redzone. On 4th down and short, the Hoosiers decide to take the points and kick a field goal. 

As the game wears on, Northwestern is getting 7s and Indiana is getting 3s. It is really obvious who is the superior team - Northwestern. It is a tough and physical game but the Cats get the win; while the Hoosiers salvage some dignity but get stuck with being the program with the record number of losses. However, they get dinged up and a player or two is questionable for Minnesota. Northwestern gets win number 5 as they pivot to take on the Gophers. Northwestern 31 - Hoosiers 21.


Other Things


We are now into Week 5 of “Undefeated Watch”. We’re still watching Ohio State, Minnesota, and Northwestern. 

Iowa is now down to their 10th string or thereabouts running back. The guy is did great against Central Michigan (a MAC team, I might add - not a FCS foe). Unfortunately, his effort was for naught as the Hawkeyes choked on a “redo” of an onsides kick, had a critical penalty, and then gave up a last second field goal to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory: 32 - 31. (A MAC team, I might add.)

A diversion - those wacky Iowans believe in a particularly fickle god known as AIRBHG - Angry Iowa Running Back Hating God. 

Anyway...they plan on holding some sort of bacchanalia to try to appease this strange malevolent creature. This is going to occur before their game against Minnesota. It will be interesting to see who smites Iowa running backs faster during the Minny game - AIRBHG or God. This can only end in tears.

More later.

Go Cats!

BJ Mitchell (Former NUMB Spirit Leader)
Twitter: @nuspiritleader. 

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