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GUEST POST: Lake the Posts drops by Off the Tracks

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In honor of my 100th post here at Off the Tracks I am going to sit back on my lazy butt, kick my feet up, and let Lake the Posts take over for the day. Seriously though, Lake the Posts is one of the most highly thought out blogs in the Big Ten Bloggers' network, and I have enjoyed reading his take all week on the upcoming matchup of the only two teams without a state in their name in the Big Ten. The good writing has to come from that great Northwestern education. Apparently he thinks we draw some sort of comparison to Ivan Drago from Rocky IV. Since Rocky did personally end the Cold War I have to respect his parallel. After all, if I can change, and you can chage…

Anyway, without further ado please welcome Lake the Posts to the stage for this week's Q&A session. As always, I ask the questions and my fellow blogger provides the answers about our upcoming opponent.

1. It's been more than a decade since Northwestern came out of nowhere to go to the Rose bowl, yet teams still sleep on you and play the, "It's just Northwestern" card even though you've won a piece of three conference titles in six years there (95, 96, and 2000). You always have enough of an offense to bite someone, and you've proven to be more consistently dangerous than Indiana, Illinois, or Minnesota, so what gives? Why do teams sleep on you?

Great question. This is the primary reason for starting Lake The Posts. I was sick and tired as a fan of the "weren't you guys good in, like 1995?" sentiment. Fact is we have the 6th best BIG TEN record in the past 5 years. Granted, that is smack dab in the middle of the pack, but I'm sure a poll would reveal that most fans would think the answer is 11th. I think the coaches respect us, but 40-year season ticket holders are habitually circling "win" every August when they see NU on the schedule. If Fitz can get his own coaches in there and finish strong this year, we'll be looking at our once every 4-year noise-making year where we can compete for the conference crown. With the exception of a couple key linemen, we have every key skill player and most everyone else back next year. We prey on teams sleeping on us. It will take sustained winning - like we've done against teams like Iowa for them to really start keying on us. Come on, even though we've won 2 of our last 3 vs Purdue, a loss to us would be the end of the world in Boilermakers fans eyes right?

2. What is the real story behind Tyrell Sutton this year? Is he going to make an effort to play or redshirt? How pleased are you with the development of C.J. Bacher in the mold of Brett Basanez, Zack Kustok, Steve Schnur, and your other great spread QB's? How is the rest of the team coming along?

Tyrell went down in the first quarter of the second game of the season (vs. Nevada). It was a nasty high ankle sprain and he "returned" vs. Eastern Michigan and played in one play and was used as a decoy. I had hoped he could apply for a medical redshirt, but there was a lot of speculation on why/why not and whether or not he would be granted the redshirt. If you had told me we'd lose him after essentially 1 game, I would have told you 5-7 best case scenario. I actually revised an 8-4 projection to 5-7 as a result. Everyone knows how good of a runner he is, but he is the best receiving RB in the conference. Period. This enables our spread to be lethal when clicking.

CJ's development in recent weeks is the story of the year at NU. He was inconsistent early on, yet has put up numbers all year. The Michigan game was infuriating as we outplayed them and essentially shut down Hart as much as you can shut him down. We were up the whole game and then he melted down, throwing picks and not feeling the weakside blitz, coughed it up more than once handing the game to Michigan. Schnur wasn't an option QB, but Bacher is definitely going to be held in the same sentence as Kustok and Basanez by the time he graduates (he has one more year). Baz started all 4 years and thus was able to put up sick numbers (3rd all time Big Ten passer). Bacher, when he is on, seems to be even better. He is less consistent than Baz, though. The WR corps is scary. We're 7 deep. The O-line has been fantastic for the past 3 weeks, but it was not early on. The defense has been the major disappointment. And Purdue may get 300 yards of kickoff returns as we are the worst cover team I've seen.

3. What are your thoughts on the Big Ten as a whole? How can a conference in a "down year" possibly be down when it's still highly possible for 10 of its eleven members can get to bowl eligibility? Where do you see Northwestern falling in the bowl mix with 4 games left?

I feel that the entire nation is mediocre. Anyone who saw the South Florida-Rutgers game can't say these teams measure up to years past. Everyone is down - not just the Big Ten. The difference is Big Ten teams' non-conference schedules seem to be getting weaker and weaker each year. NU's was a joke - and we lost to Duke. Duke! (See next question). This is actually bad for NU since we are such a tiny school (7400) and have such a small alumni base. If it comes down to NU and anyone else in the country, we'll lose in most cases because we simply don't travel well. We somehow manage to always travel decently for Bowl games, in part b/c our alumni base is so spread out in NY, LA and other places. I've got the wins over/under at 1.5. Would love a 7-5 which i think would get us either to Champs or more likely Detroit for Motor City.

4. It happened with Miami (OH) in 1995, Iowa in 2000, Duke this year, and numerous other teams in past seasons. How does Northwestern have such good years but end up losing inexplicably to bad teams like that in years where the Wildcats have great seasons? Does this play into question #1 and the "It's just Northwestern" factor?

Yes...this is the other foot of being an NU fan. It has happened EVERY single year since 1995. We have not run the table non-conference in more than 40 years. Pick a year - Duke, UNH, TCU...it doesn't matter - infuriating. I truly believe the mark of Fitz could be that he wins the games he should and is competitive in those that he/we should not win. It truly is inexplicable. I will tell you, school starts late (trimester system) so our September home games are usually a joke. We have a small fan base and only seem to crank it up when a) we play Big Ten schools who travel well/have big Chicago bases and b) after big years (late 90s was good). I'm amazed that we get recruits based on how inferior our atmosphere is week in and week out. It's great for the big games (Ohio St., Michigan) but I'm always disappointed with our inability to capture Chicago. Our attendance has been the weakest its been since I've been following (1991) and that TRULY is inexplicable.