Before each Minnesota football game, GopherIllustrated will ask an opposing beat writer five questions. This week, we sat down with Northwestern beat author Daniel Olinger from InsideNU for a preview of the Gophers’ Week 8 away game against the Northwestern Wildcats.
1) After a fantastic race in 2020, it has been a tough season for Northwestern. What have been the biggest issues for the Wildcats lately?
TODO: If we take off the rose-colored glasses of 2020, this 3-4 Northwestern team makes perfect sense. No one entered 2021 with a less experienced squad, let alone the ‘Cats’ who also replaced one of the best defensive coordinators in the country with a hire many of whom were tired in Jim O’Neil. Regression was inevitable. Otherwise, Northwestern faces the usual issues it encounters in slack years: limited quarterbacks, an offensive line that can be worked into by the Big Ten behemoths, and a lack of top speed throughout the roster. Neither problem is insurmountable (NU overcame similar shortcomings just a year ago by going 7-2), but only a few rebounds go against you, and you’ve got a 3-4 squad in danger of finishing. with a losing record.
2) What’s the injury situation for Northwestern in offense and defense ahead of the Minnesota game?
TO DO: Not great!
Having already lost Cam Porter in the preseason, Pat Fitzgerald confirmed that another of the best weapons in offensive wide receiver Bryce Kirtz was out for the season during his post-game press conference over the weekend. last end, in addition to linebacker Khalid Jones. In the news that Cats fans are probably only more excited to follow Hilinski’s brutal performance against Michigan, Andrew Marty was dressed for the first time since his fiery 15-minute cameo against Duke. While he hasn’t seen any snaps, the fact that he’s dressed indicates the ‘Cats are ready to give him another try now that he’s healed from his injury.
Northwestern’s top spreader Stephon Robinson Jr., but he missed the majority of last week’s losses to Michigan with a lower-body injury, and we haven’t been told about his condition since then.
3) Ryan Hilinski is the third different starter at Northwestern quarterback this year. Has it been that bad and how would you rate the overall passing game right now?
TO DO: Hunter Johnson’s 1.5 quarterbacks against Duke were just too terrible to put into words. He will never throw another pass for his team lest the apocalypse befall us all.
However, Marty was fantastic in his brief moments before his injury, and overall Hilinski was a good option for the “Cats”. South Carolina’s transfer isn’t too good or bad in a specific area of his game, which makes him about as average as he can get. Sometimes that is not enough, as NU is not loaded with game breakers or in this season a high end defense that can sit on opponents with any lead, but Hilinski’s game has ensures that teams cannot completely ignore the team’s antenna. aggression.
4) On defense, it hasn’t been very northwest in the Big Ten game with the Wildcats 13th in points awarded and last against the run. What’s wrong ?
TO DO: What went wrong is very simple – Northwestern has lost a bunch of upper class newbies and is paying the regression tax for all the sales luck they bought last year. It can happen to almost any defenses, but especially to one like Northwestern’s, which was nearly perfect in 2020.
The unit has shown major improvement pushing Rutgers and holding Michigan for about 2.5 quarters, but this young unit just doesn’t have the in-depth knowledge to make up for its shortcomings.
5) What are the keys for Northwestern if they are going to beat the Gophers at Evanston, and what is your scoring prediction for the Minnesota vs Northwestern game, and why?
TO DO: Score the first points of the game. Northwestern relies heavily on control of the game script, as falling behind early against Michigan State, Duke and Nebraska forced their attack into a one-dimensional passing unit that lacked the necessary firepower, and defending too slow to take risks feeling the urge to play and play.
If the ‘Cats can get on the board first, it will ease the burden on both shoulder units and give the team a chance to control the flow in the way they need to. However, I don’t think that will happen this Saturday at Evanston.
I have Minnesota leaving Ryan Field with a 28-17 win this weekend.