Kain Colter did just about everything for Northwestern last year. What is his role in the offense this time around? Does the two quarterback system seem to be working, and why do you think the coaches went this route with the offense?
Right now, he's the quarterback. At the start of the year, he was the quarterback, but then, woah! Let's play Trevor Siemian too! He has a better arm! And now let's play Colter at wide receiver when Siemian's in! Hey, it's working! Wait, now everybody sorta realizes that when Colter's in at quarterback, we're gonna run because he's really fast and when Siemian's in, he's going to throw because he's good at throwing and is probably throwing to Colter because like why else would you do this. So, that stopped being fun, and Northwestern's offense began seriously stalling when defenses picked up on him. I think now, Colter will be the full-time QB - Siemian only had one passing attempt last game. It was a fun gimmick, but Northwestern wasn't inventive enough with it to make it worthwhile, so we're going with Colter, who's still killer out of the option and a decent enough thrower.
Venric Mark has been the dangerman for Northwestern this year. Tell us a little bit about his running style and how the offense uses him.
He's faaaaast. Venric is listed at 5-foot-8 and probably two inches shorter, leading to many concerns that he was too small to play running back in the Big Ten. But that doesn't really matter if people don't touch you. He's most murderous on punt returns when people outkick the coverage, because he can shift directions in an instant and make guys miss before going off to the races, but Northwestern's best success with Mark has come in the option with Colter. Both guys are great athletes with the capability to win a footrace, so teams have to account for both. Put an additional pitch man on the field, and there's few teams that can keep both guys from being able to make a play.
The defense has been very solid against the run thus far this season. Who are the important names for Michigan fans to know in the front seven? Do you think this unit can stop Michigan's offense if Denard Robinson is good to go?
Northwestern's best players up front are David Nwabuisi, the middle linebacker, and defensive end Tyler Scott. Somehow, Northwestern's players are good at tackling this year, which is a first for me as an NU fan.
As for Denard... well, Northwestern has played one mobile quarterback this year, and Taylor Martinez threw for 342 yards and ran for about 70 more. So, yeah, I, uh, umm, uh. Umm.
Conversely, Northwestern has been one of the worst teams in the conference when it comes to defending the pass. Is this more a function of the schedule, or is the pass defense just that bad?
I think the pass defense is better than it looks. We've dealt with some disappointing players thrust into starting roles after major graduations last year - Demetrius Dugar is the main reason NU gave up 470 yards through the air Week 1, Quinn Evans, a graduate transfer from Stanford, lost his starting job about halfway through what will be his only year at NU - but I think NU has found something with Nick VanHoose, a freshman, and Daniel Jones, a sophomore, starting at cornerback. Hope VanHoose can be healthy - he was dinged up and missed the Iowa game.
What do you think the keys are to a Northwestern upset?
UPSET?!?!?!?!?! Remember, sir, that Northwestern is the ranked team, and Michigan are merely the highly-favored team that isn't in the BCS Rankings. Everything makes sense about this situation and I scoff at you for pointing out the logical problems.
But seriously, I think the key will be turnovers. Northwestern has been great at not giving the ball up this year, and I think both of Michigan's QB's are liable to toss a pick or two. Throw in a Venric Mark punt return and a blown assignment on a run and we've got ourselves a game. These sound like dumb things to say because Northwestern hasn't won a game against a "good" team all year, just tearing apart lesser opponents for wins and dropping games to Nebraska and Penn State.
Any last minute predictions for the game? Who wins and what does the final score look like?
Michigan, 38, Northwestern, 34. Points all around, Denard doesn't play, but Devin Gardner gets the job done.