Offensive Key Matchups and Player Spotlight
LT LaAdrian Waddle vs. DE Vince Browne
We talked a bit about how I thought that Browne was one of the best play-makers on the defense in that he's really the only player that gets to the quarterback. We also talked a bit about how Texas Tech has somewhat shored up their pass protection as the sacks allowed has gone down as the season has progressed. As it is with so many games, a big part of the success of any passing team is the ability of the quarterback to protect their quarterback and Texas Tech fans really haven't heard Waddles name much at all this year, which is ideal.
Northwestern and Browne have been relatively consistent in getting to the quarterback all year, except for the last two games where the Wildcats had zero sacks. The entire defense was shut-out, not just Browne. And Northwestern has had multiple sack games for 6 of their 12 games thus far and Browne has been relatively quiet over the past 5 games in that he has only 1.0 sack for that stretch and to play this out a little further, he's only had 2.0 sacks over Northwestern's 7 games. Like Texas Tech, a bulk of Browne's quarterback pressures happened early in the season.
More after the jump.
|Statistics||79 Rec; 803 Yds; 10.16 Avg; 6 TD|
After seeing the types of players that Northwestern starts at linebacker, it seems logical to think that a guy like Lewis could really take off on New Year's Day. Lewis has done an outstanding job over his past 6 games where he's really improved his average per catch over the course of the season and it's been almost immediate since his position switch to inside receiver. Over his first 6 games, Lewis averaged only 8.68 yards per catch and had only 2 touchdowns. Over his last 6 games, Lewis bumped that average to 11.51 yards per catch and has had 4 touchdowns. You wouldn't think that a position switch, especially one inside would make that big of a difference, but it did for Lewis. He's been a better football player, and I had always thought that Lewis was the type of player that would excel inside with his size, which is more running back size than receiver.
Defensive Key Matchups and Player Spotlight
LB Bront Bird and LB Brian Duncan vs. RB Mike Trumpy, RB Adonis Smith and RB Stephen Simmons
With QB Dan Persa out for the game and QB Evan Watkins struggling to complete over 50% of his passes, it's not a stretch to think that Northwestern will try to rely on their running backs with the thought that they can help the Wildcat quarterbacks soften up the defense. Trumpy, a freshman didn't play their last game, but he's expected to play against Texas Tech. He's averaging over 4.57 yards per carry, which probably leads one to think that he's not a plodding running back. Smith, another freshman, helped fill in a bit as Trumpy was out, but we don't expect him to carry a big part of the offense and the lone upperclassman, Simmons, he did most of the heavy lifting with Trumpy out for the Wisconsin game.
And perhaps it's fitting to see players such as Bird and Duncan receiving my key matchup for the game. Although I'm sure I'll get some arguments, Bird has been much better late in the season in comparison to early in the year. He is what he is at this point, not the most athletic player and you wish he was a little more fundamentally sound, but he's not. Duncan has moved from inside linebacker where he played last year and moved to the pass rushing end/linebacker position during the spring. Duncan had some early season success, but that success dropped off as the season wore on and Duncan was moved back inside for the last 2 games of the year. Duncan is a solid run-playing linebacker and I'd expect to hear both Bird and Duncan's name through most of the Northwestern game.
|Statistics||79 Tackles; 6.5 TFL; 1 Sack;
1 Int; 2 Forced Fumbles
I could have picked OLB Brett Dewhurst, but for those of us that obsess about everything, what you saw the final 2 games was safeties and linebackers essentially inter-changing positions on the fly. It's going to be interesting to see how this works against a quality opponent that likes to run the ball, but watch Dewhurst and Davis. I think what you'll see against Northwestern is what you'll see next year in that both of these guys are going to come at an offense at different positions and perhaps the fact that one of this defense's biggest weakness is that there's not a ton of speed in the secondary, but what he does have are two similar players who are similar in size and speed and could really confuse a defense. And don't be surprised if we see Davis move full-time to linebacker next year with a few extra pounds.