Each week in the Golden Gopher Football blog, we chat with a beat writer or member of the media who closely covers the weekend's opposition. This week, we talked with Tina Akouris, who covers the Northwestern Wildcats for the Chicago Sun-Times.
My thanks to Tina for taking a few minutes to share her thoughts on Northwestern Football and this weekend's Gopher-Wildcat matchup. Follow Tina on Twitter @takouris. Here's my interview with her:
GopherSports.com: What's the buzz around the Wildcats, with the team in the midst of a winning streak?
Tina Akouris: It seems like every time I've gone to practice people are talking about bowl possibilities. We're not getting into specifics with the players or Pat Fitzgerald, but among the sports info guys and the writers we are all speculating as to where the Wildcats will end up if they win one or both of their last two games.
GopherSports.com: Not many teams go into Lincoln and win. How much confidence did the win at Nebraska give Northwestern?
Tina Akouris: I think it was huge. No one picked NU to beat Nebraska. People had written them off at that point and I think the team just wanted to go into Lincoln and show all of us that they can finish a game. Realize this: Northwestern never trailed at Nebraska. They led the whole time.
GopherSports.com: With a game vs. Michigan State next week, how much pressure is there on the Wildcats to win this week to reach bowl-eligible status?
Tina Akouris: The Wildcats host Michigan State at Ryan Field, which could be an advantage. NU has played six road games this season and Fitzgerald has said how happy he is to be home for the last three.
GopherSports.com: Who/what has Northwestern's attention when it comes to Minnesota?
Tina Akouris: I think the quarterback MarQueis Gray because of his size and the way he is a dual-threat kind of player. Also, I think the Gophers special teams are on the Wildcats' minds, too.
GopherSports.com: Minnesota fans are certainly aware of Dan Persa. Who are some of the other Wildcats who are making big contributions?
Tina Akouris: Kain Colter is the big one. He plays receiver and some running back when he's not taking snaps in place of Persa. Persa and Colter have been doing the two-quarterback system since Persa came back full-time during the Wildcats' 38-35 loss at Illinois on Oct. 1. Colter is quick and has faster feet than Persa did before the ruptured Achilles.
GopherSports.com: Are there any position matchups or game-within-a-game situations that you're particularly interested to see this week?
Tina Akouris: I'd like to compare Gray with how Persa-Colter do and I'm also looking forward to watching the Wildcats defense against Gray. NU was known earlier this season for having a poor pass rush defense, so that angle interests me.
GopherSports.com: How does Northwestern win the game?
Tina Akouris: Not blowing a lead in the second half, having its receivers be more aggressive in fighting for passes and finishing drives in the red zone.
GopherSports.com: How does Minnesota win the game?
Tina Akouris: Capitalizing on Northwestern mistakes, picking apart the defense and controlling the clock.