Head coach Pat Fitzgerald of the Northwestern Wildcats encourages his players during a game against the Michigan State Spartans at Ryan Field on October 23 2010 in Evanston Illinois. Michigan State defeated Northwestern 35-27. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Part of Northwestern preview week.
During the lean months of the summer, the writers of BC Interruption will be extending olive branches to our foes in hopes of better understanding the various opponents the Eagles will face in the fall. Our first interview is with the SB Nation Northwestern blog Sippin' On Purple.
BC Interruption: Northwestern may be unfamiliar to most BC fans (other than kicking our butt in basketball last year). Who are a few football players in your football program that we should know about?
Sippin' On Purple: It begins and ends with Dan Persa. First team all-Big Ten last year, Phil Steele's pick to be first team again this year. NU won while he was healthy, and the reason they won was him. His connection with Jeremy Ebert accounted for a disturbing amount of offense last year. Defensive end Vince Browne is a definite pro prospect on the other side of the ball, but without any other passrushing threats, opposing offensive lines will key in on him.
BCI: Northwestern QB Dan Persa has been getting a lot of good press lately and rightfully so. Do you think he will improve upon his previous season where he threw for 2,500 yards and threw for 15 TDs? Which of Persa's assets make him the most dangerous?
SOP: Saying that he threw for 2,500 yards and 15 TDs isn't really doing Persa justice. He completed 73.5 percent of his passes and only threw four picks. Despite the offensive line giving up more sacks for more yards than any other team in the Big Ten, Persa only missed out on being the team's best rusher by 11 yards (after missing the last three games due to injury). NU runs what announcers invariably call "the dink-and-dunk" offense, looking to pick up about four or five yards out of the spread offense on every play.
Persa is an incredibly accurate thrower and also is fast. He also possesses the ability to scramble for gain, which makes him pretty much the perfect QB for the system.
BCI: Last year Northwestern allowed an average of 185 yards per game on the ground. Do they have a shot in hell of stopping Montel Harris?
SOP: No. (Short, sweet).
BCI: Follow up question, BC's offense was putrid last year but Northwestern's defense was equally as bad. Something's gotta give. Who will have a better game -- Boston College's offense or Northwestern's D?
SOP: If Boston College thinks they can throw the ball, it will work, but not as efficiently as the run game will, and it will give NU the opportunity to make some plays. Against Illinois last year, the Illini learned this fast, scoring touchdowns on their first two drives without attempting a pass, only to throw a pick on their first pass of the game. At the end of the day, Mikel LeShoure had over 300 yards on the ground. If the Eagles stick with what's working -- i.e. running the ball down our throats -- they could look like a legit offense.
BCI: What BC player (other than Montel Harris) worries you in this game? None is also an acceptable answer.
SOP: Luke Kuechly seems Pat Fitzgerald-esque. (That's a good thing).
BCI: What are your thoughts on this "Legends" and "Leaders" B1G Ten Division title nonsense?
SOP: I still can't believe how remarkably terrible decision-making that was in terms of naming by the B1G, as they now like to be hashtagged. But I'm not mad, mainly because their ineptitude is hilarious. The divisions will work themselves out -- they seem pretty even -- but the names are like, silly. I spent a good few minutes thinking "wait, they didn't really just do that, did they?" watching the unveiling show.
BCI: What Big Ten opponent would you most like to see the Wildcats beat this year?
SOP: I wouldn't really call last year a step in the right direction: NU has gone from 9-3 to 8-4 to 7-5 in the past three regular seasons, and after two years of hyperexciting bowl games, losing to ranked teams in overtime, this year was a boring loss to Texas Tech in a game invented for no apparent reason, the TicketCity Bowl. But to answer your question, the answer, of course, is Iowa: we've beaten ranked Iowa squads the past three years, five out of the last six and every year their fans get more and more irritated by it. I basically need us to keep winning because of the intensity of the trolling my site will receive should we lose this year. I'd also like to welcome Nebraska to the conference with a win at Lincoln - they're the clear favorite to win our division, a win there would be NU's best chance to shake things up.
BCI: Wisconsin put up 70 points against you last year? That must have stung.
SOP: Season summary: Northwestern was great on offense and competent on defense for nine weeks. Dan Persa got hurt throwing a game-winning touchdown against Iowa in week 9. Then NU stopped being able to get a first down, leading to our defense being on the field for like 48 minutes a game. To sum up what watching that game was like, read this thread.
I should mention Wisconsin shut down their offense in the fourth quarter, scoring all 70 points in the first three, ending the game by kneeling in the red zone when they could've kicked a field goal to make it 73. It was that bad.
BCI: What are the best case and worst case scenarios for this season. If everything turns out the way you hope it will, where would you like to see Northwestern bowling?
SOP: Barring my "we beat Nebraska and make it to the Big Ten Championship game win there win the Rose Bowl AHAHAHAHAHAHA" dream scenario. I'm not confident enough in our defense to think we'll be the able to go to one of those nice Florida bowls like the Outback or Capital One, but I do think it's conceivable to go above .500 in conference. That said, I don't think it's likely. I think this is a 6-6 or 7-5 team, I'd be pretty disappointed if they go below that and miss a bowl for the first time since I got to college.
BCI: Pat Fitzgerald is getting a lot of positive press as a great young coach. Are 'Cats fans worried his profile will get too high and some big name school will come in and scoop him up?
SOP: Yeah, people are worried but it's pipe dreams for other schools to think they could get Fitz. He just signed a 10-year contract extension and has had a lifelong, almost creepy devotion to Northwestern since every other school refused to give him a scholarship. There's talk of Fitz being a Paterno-esque figure at NU, and although we'll have to wait and see whether that actually happens, there's a lot of mutual love between Fitz and the school that could actually make it work.
BCI: Last one. Prediction time. Who ya got in this one? What's the final score?
SOP: 31-27 NU. I have no clue why
BCI: Can't say we care much for that prediction, but thanks for joining us!