Wildcats arriving declawed
For those of you who read up on some Reusse this week (no, not the see-saw Kevin Love pieces), perhaps you caught the Gopher football article in which he adroitly points out that being named a Homecoming opponent is akin to hearing the host club saying something about your mother. Or, in the case of Minnesota/Northwestern, your great-great-great grandmother.
The Gophers and the Wildcats have been clawing since back in 1892, with Minnesota holding a substantial 49-29-5 edge in the series. It's of little surprise that Northwestern was scheduled for this Saturday's Homecoming, although -- prior to last week's dismal loss to Indiana -- the Wildcats began the season 5-1 and still stand behind Minnesota as shock stories of Big Ten success in '08, despite losses in two of their past three.
And speaking of losses, the Wildcats are arriving shorthanded. Top offensive threat, running back Tyrell Sutton (776 rush yards, 6 TD's) has been lost for the season with a bum wrist. He's replaced by capable senior backup Omar Conteh. Of more immediate concern, however, is the likely unavailability of quarterback C.J. Bacher, who's nursing a sore hammy. Junior Mike Kafka looks to start, but don't expect much of a "Metamorphosis" in the Wildcat passing game -- Kafka hasn't started behind center since September of 2006, and has never started a Big Ten game.
It's been reported out of Evanston that Northwestern has been watching "Matt Foley: Motivational Speaker" SNL skits to buoy their declining health and hopes. Will that be enough to spoil the Homecoming and derail a Gopher defense that ranks first in the nation in both turnover margin and takeaways?
In brief: No.
The Wildcats, while 5th in the conference on total defense, have allowed 100-yard receiving games in four of their eight contests. Look for All-American candidate Eric Decker (3rd in the national in receptions, 6th in receiving yards) to crush and for Minnesota to trend upward with their fourth straight Big Ten win while both Penn State and Ohio State have the week off.
For the nostalgic set, here's some old timey footage of the visiting Gophers taking it to Northwestern in a Homecoming of yore, 1940 style: