Look, I have no problem with Northwestern. They're wholly inoffensive as both an athletic and scholastic entity, their fans have no problem disowning Michael Wilbon when he says dumb stuff, and god bless 'em their basketball arena makes the BJC look like Jerryworld. So I apologize for not pointing out a purple-clad foe that won't be wearing pads this weekend.
I will NOT, however, apologize for deep dish pizza. I know Jon Stewart has obliterated and demolished and body slammed Chicago-style deep dish on multiple occasions, and this has informed your opinion because you can't think for yourself. Is thin-crust great? Of course. It's pizza. But deep dish is some amazing shit, and I won't stand for Penn Staters using deep dish as trash talk fodder against Northwestern. Go ahead, tell us how deep dish "isn't even pizza" in the comments below and ENJOY THE LAST FIVE SECONDS YOU HAVE AS A MEMBER OF THIS BLOG BEFORE I DROP THE BANHAMMER ON YOU.
This Season - Northwestern: 1-2 (0-0); Deep Dish: Delicious
Northwestern probably wasn't as bad as their 5-7 record indicated in 2013, but this season is proving to be a different story. The Wildcats have yet to defeat an FBS opponent through three games, with their lone victory coming at home versus Western Illinois. Venric Mark wasn't a huge part of last year's team due to injury, but they sure could've used him this year in Evanston - the Wildcats currently have the worst offensive output of any Power 5 conference school.
Just how bad has Pat Fitzgerald's offense been? This InsideNU piece suggests Fitzgerald's playcalling might be the problem, and a big one at that:
Last week, when the initial S&P ratings came out, we diagnosed the offense's problem as a drop-off in efficiency. Even last year, the offense was relatively efficient, but this year, Northwestern has been extremely ineffective at moving the ball. The Wildcats have a success rate - defined as percentage of "successful plays" - worse than nearly everyone in FBS, and it was just as bad as against WIU as it was in the first two games.
(From Football Outsiders, a successful play in college football is one of the following: 50 percent of necessary yardage on first down, 70 percent on second down, and 100 percent on third and fourth down. So NU has run a successful play around a quarter of the time.)
That seems bad. Then again, the safe playcalling could very well be attributed to the talent Fitzgerald is working with. Senior quarterback Trevor Siemian is averaging a mere 5.6 yards per attempt and completing just under 60% of his passes. The deep passing game isn't clicking, and it's limiting what the Wildcats are able to do with their possessions.
Running back Justin Jackson has been effective enough to warrant an increase in carries in each game. The 5'11", 180 lb freshman earned 23 touches against Western Illinois last week, parlaying them into 104 yards. Saturday will give Northwestern fans a great insight as to what they have with Jackson as he faces the nation's top rush defense.
Ok, so the best way to attack deep dish is with a fork. "But it's not pizza if you have to use a fork!" So what, straw man? We're talking layers of toppings here. Layers of toppings. Have a seat, get a napkin on your lap, and bust out the fork. Life is short. Enjoy your pizza.
Here's where things start to look up for Northwestern. The front seven will provide significantly more pushback than UMass did against Penn State's o-line - Wildcat opponents are averaging just 3.08 yards per carry through three games. Defensive end Ifeadi Odenigbo is the playmaker up front, even if he isn't an every-down guy - the sophomore speed rusher has two sacks and three forced fumbles on the year. If they can fend Odenigbo & Co. off, the Nittany Lions should have an advantage through the air against the NU secondary, which is currently ranked 93rd nationally in yards allowed per game.
There is no defense against not liking deep dish pizza. I think this has already been well established.
Last Week: 24-7 W vs. Western Illinois
Special teams did have a big impact against that Walukis (that should totally be Western Illinois' nickname if it isn't). NU blocked a kick and a punt to keep the Western Illinois Leathernecks (ok nevermind that is their real nickname and it rules) from ever putting the result in jeopardy, giving the Cats a much needed first victory.
Blog You Should Also Be Reading This Week: Inside NU
I've already linked to a ton of their great work, but here's their best work. Go 'Cats.
Very fun and little known true fact: deep dish pizza was invented by Northwestern's own Thomas Deepdish in 1933.