Previewing Duke...

So far its been a tale of two seasons - <b>Northwestern</b> [1-2] with 2 disappointing losses, <b>Duke</b> [2-1] with 2 wins in a row.<br><br> Maybe it comes down to which NU team shows up Saturday?

Its a tale of two seasons - Northwestern with 2 disappointing losses, Duke with 2 wins in a row.
The Wildcats are down in the wilds of Durham, NC, where roundball reigns supreme [there are basketball stories leading in the newspapers even now], and everyone is cleaning up after a hurricane [and not the Miami team].

But there's a lot of interest in the gridiron because the Blue Devils have won 2 in a row!

To be sure, they've won their games against a 1-AA team and Rice, but these guys have won with their #2 QB, freshman Mike Schneider and some big gun  running backs - Chris Douglas and fullback Alex Wade. A healthy Wade had 134 yards against the Cats' last year.

What should be different this year is a renewed emphasis by NU to stop the run and the apparent inability of Duke to do the same. What makes things worse for their defense is that 6 of the starters had lower leg injuries in the game with Rice and some may not make it back for the game tomorrow.

The Dookies have given up an average of 185 yards per game on the ground this year - they're worried about Jason Wright and Noah Herron running behind that big O-line. Stopping the NU ground game is listed as the top priority this week, but the Duke defense has only done well against a 1-AA team.

They're also waiting for frosh QB Mike Schneider to have a break out week. Last week his receivers had the "dropsies," they hope they'll hold on to the ball this week. Schneider also gets "happy feet" and takes off running, but he doesn't slide and lets himself get tackled. NU Safety Marvin Ward may convince him to start sliding at the end of runs...?

The Cat's biggest problem on pass defense, the continued loss of Safety Louis Ayeni, was made worse by an injury [bruised back] to CB Marquice Cole. Another backup who's unavailable will be Jr. Herschel Henderson who still has a sore knee. The NU secondary is probably thinner this week than the Offensive Line!

Brian Huffman will again be handling kickoffs - and watch for changes along the Offensive Line as freshman center Trevor Rees and soph guard Greg Lutzen get some more playing time.
What bothers me...
1. Last week Miami came into Evanston off a game where their QB had a whole bunch of dropped passes and interceptions. Their receivers stepped it up and the Redhawks picked the Cats' D apart. I'd be worried that this week could be the same, except that Schneider is not Ben Rothlisberger, yet.

2. Duke has been playing very well on special teams lately - they hit on 9 of the 10 goals set by the coaches last week.

3. A fired up group of running backs and O-linemen, out to make a statement against Northwestern.
What's encouraging...
1. The attitude of the Wildcats' upperclassmen regarding this game. From Jason Wright down to the linemen, the talk is "lets get serious."

2. Duke's defenders just got torn apart by Rice wishbone attack, but prevailed in overtime. They're battered and banged up, and nobody seems to be looking forward facing the 315+ lb O-line of Northwestern. I just hope its Run, Jason, Run
As you know, I never pick the games - but this one should be a win for the Cats.

We'll chat during the game - and listen to WGN - game time is 1 PM Central.

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