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Opponent Q&A: Northwestern

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We sit down with Kevin Trahan from SBNation Northwestern blog Inside NU to discuss the upcoming game against the Wildcats.

David Banks
  1. Obviously Pat Fitzgerald and the Wildcats have been struggling to get Northwestern on the right track this season, especially following some very promising results in the seasons leading up to this year. Is this just a down year for the Wildcats, or is there something more disappointing behind the scenes in Evanston?
Given that it's happened in two straight years, I don't think you can say it's a fluke anymore. You certainly could say that last year, since NU was actually a pretty good team in advanced statistical rankings despite having a massive number of injuries. They just got incredibly unlucky. This year, the offense is far, far worse, and despite increasing talent, the results have gotten worse. I wrote today that this seems to be an issue of player development. That lack of results despite increasing talent is probably the most frustrating thing.
  1. The Irish come into this game heavily favored (-17.5 at the time of writing), but what can Northwestern do in this game to put a scare into the Irish? Obviously it will be a huge game for the Wildcats, playing in Notre Dame Stadium on national television. What tricks will Fitzgerald have up his sleeve?
To win the game, I think Northwestern has to be willing to blitz like it did against Penn State and get some pressure on the quarterback. If they do that, they can maybe force Everett Golson into mistakes. So that's a bit of a "trick," since NU never blitzes. We could also see more of four-star QB Matt Alviti, who played a bit last week and I believe had a Notre Dame offer. But I don't see Fitz being willing to give him many more snaps.
  1. What is the excitement level among Northwestern fans about heading to South Bend to take in the game? Obviously with such a short drive, are many of your fans planning on making the trip?
There are actually a lot of them. It seems like NU got a pretty big allotment. There are a few student buses going down there, and then a bunch of other students bought tickets through the school. I also know a lot of general fans who are going, so there should be a pretty good NU representation there - maybe better than any other away game I've witnessed than when they were at Cal last year.
  1. Who are some lesser known players on both sides of the ball for Northwestern that you think will step up to the big stage and make some plays against the Irish?
On defense, Anthony Walker Jr. needs to have a big game. They let him blitz a lot at Penn State in his first start, and they have to cut him loose again. On offense, watch out for Justin Jackson. He's just a freshman but he has the ability to be one of Northwestern's best running back ever. He has incredible vision for a freshman and he's great at picking up yards after contact.
  1. This isn't a football question, but I lived in Evanston for 2 years. True or false, Edzo's is the best burger place in greater Chicagoland area?
Man, Edzo's is good, but I've gotta go with Bat 17 as the best burger in Evanston. As far as all of Chicagoland, if you're willing to pay up a little bit (though not terribly), you won't do better than Au Cheval.

(Author's note: There's a world in which you go to Edzo's for lunch and Bat 17 for dinner. I lived in that world. It was spectacular.)
  1. Finally, what is your prediction for Saturday (bonus points for GIF usage)??
This says it all.

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Big thanks to Kevin for taking some time to answer our questions. Head over to Inside NU to see my answers to his queries.

Go Irish! Beat Wildcats!