Tempo—it's one of, if not, the hottest of buzzwords in college football and in the Big Ten there may not be a team that plays at a faster tempo than Northwestern.
That's a good thing, because they head out west to take on Cal and their new "BearRaid" offense (yes, they are actually calling it that) this weekend and that means preparing their defense to play fast, very fast.
Having Kain Colter, Venric Mark and Co. lining up across from you all fall surely helps to prep for what Cal would like to throw at the Wildcats defense.
However, the biggest question for Northwestern is exactly what Cal's offense will even look like. All they have to go off of is the film from the spring game and that could be dangerous to a defense that will have to figure things out on the fly.
One of the advantages Northwestern may have is the fact that unlike some other schools, classes haven't begun just yet. According to Seth Gruen's article in the Chicago Sun-Times head coach Pat Fitzgerald sees that as the factor that evens out the advantages Cal has in knowing what the Wildcats will do.
It puts more on your plate when you [know] they have everything on us. So they’ve got a definite advantage from a standpoint of what their coaches have to do to teach their players. From our standpoint, we’re very fortunate we’re not in school.
If Fitzgerald and Co. take a look to what Sonny Dykes did at Louisiana Tech, he'll see an offense that put up averages of 51.5 points a game to go along with 577.9 yards of total offense—totals that led the nation last season.
Pat Fitzgerald says it's a huge challenge to get ready for a new coach at Cal in the opener but has studied Sonny Dykes at La Tech.— Rittenberg/Bennett (@ESPN_BigTen) August 27, 2013
As a team, the Bulldogs ran over 1,000 plays on the season, averaging nearly 88 plays a game. That's crazy fast and even Northwestern's frenetic pace on offense pails in comparison, averaging nearly 14 fewer plays a game than Louisiana Tech last season.
The fast-paced "BearRaid" is made to be simplistic in nature, but complex in volume of plays and players being thrown at you.
That's where Northwestern's multiple sets and true depth across the offense can help a defense prepare. Northwestern has the luxury of having perhaps the deepest and most varied roster it's ever had on offense.
So, while the Wildcats may not know exactly who goes where or who will be doing what, the roster of offensive players they do have can help mimic a lot of the different styles and sets their opponent could possibly throw at them.
As Northwestern finishes up prep for game week, the offense Northwestern runs may be just as important to the defensive prep as anything the players will see on film.