Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Talkin' 'bout Northwestern (Defense edition)...

Well Gopher fans, it's Tuesday afternoon in a world where your Gophers are 7-1. I hope you've enjoyed it as much as I have.

But just like the Gophers themselves, we should probably start looking ahead to N'Western, or as Jeffrick affectionately call them "The Purple Smart Kids." Let's start with the defense.

Pass rush... As Youngblood pointed out today, "Northwestern is leading the Big Ten in sacks while the Gophers are tight for eighth in the Big Ten in sacks allowed. Could be a bad combination, right?"

Northwestern is tied for the Big Ten lead in sacks with 24 (3 sacks/game), and they have the most negative yards off of sacks in the conference with -178. Meanwhile the Gophers are 8th in the Big Ten in sacks given up with 12 (1.5/game).

Yesterday I suggested that our offensive line could become a liability at some point this season, and my guess is that the NW D-line is licking their chops coming into this game.

Points... N'Western is giving up 18.3 ppg for the season, but have given up 22.8 ppg against Big Ten competition. The Wildcats have played two teams that the Gophers have also played. NW gave up 26 points to the Purdue offense while the Gophers gave up just 6 points, and 21 points to Indiana's offense, who only scored 7 points on the Gophers.

How to attack... The NW defense is giving up just over 335 yards/game. The bulk of this has been in passing yards with the Cats giving up 220.6 yards/game, ranking them 9th in the conference. Meanwhile they are giving up 114.5 rushing yards/game, good for 4th in the conference.

This actually creates a decent match-up for us since our passing offense has been far more reliable than our running offense. However, the N'Western defense practices against the spread offense every single day, and N'Western runs an offense that is probably more similar to our offense than any other offense the Cats will face this year. This familiarity with the spread type of offense will give NW a frame of reference that other defenses have not had.

Bottom line... The bottom line here is that the N'Western defense is pretty decent. They are a middle-of-the-pack defense in the Big Ten, and except for Ohio State, they are the best defense that we have faced this year. Our offense, and our offensive line in particular, needs to figure some things out fast.

We need to be able to produce not only yards but points, and not just points, but touchdowns, or this could be a very long homecoming game.

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