‘Cats – Illini Gameday (Literally) Edition

Let’s hope the immense distractions that have been playing out nationally regarding this game are only distracting us and not Evan Watkins and the ‘Cats.  NU students have been up all night with many reading this in the dark while standing on the set of ESPN Gameday.  I feel as if we’re about to experience the most surreal football experience in our collective lifetimes.  And considering that feeling we had walking through the looooong tunnel at the Rose Bowl to take to our seats that is saying something.  LTP caught wind that we are wearing throwback uniforms of the mid 1990s variety – the purple and black Fitz-era type.  I have yet to officially confirm, but be on the lookout.  Away. We. Go.

ARV/#25 Northwestern (7-3, 3-3) vs Illinois (5-5, 3-4)

GAMEDAY INFO
Date:
November 20, 2010
Kickoff: 2:35 pm ct
Location: Wrigley Field (39,800) – Chicago, IL
Series since 1995: Northwestern leads 10-5
Alltime Series: Illinois leads 52-46-5
Trends: ‘Cats have won six of the last seven
Favored Team: Illinois (-8)
TV: ESPN PXP -Mark Jones, Color – Bob Davie, SL-Erin Andrews
Radio: WGN Radio.com PXP – Dave Eanet, Color – Ted Albrecht, SL – Sam Valensizi
Sirius Radio Channel 90, XM Radio Channel 196; WNUR 89.3 FM (student station)
Twitter: @NU_SportsLIVE
Coaching Stats: NU – Pat Fitzgerald (5th year – 34-26, 18-20) vs Ron Zook ( 6th year – 26-43, 15-31)Fitz vs Illini: 3-1
Zook vs ‘Cats: 1-4

The Ground Rules:
Before we jump in to the “normal” coverage, it is important we are all on the same page with the wacky ground rules for this once-in-a-lifetime approach to a college football game:
1) All offensive plays will head toward the West end zone, including all extra points and all overtime possessions.
2) All kickoffs will be kicked toward the East end zone.
3) After every change of possession, the ball will be repositioned for the offense to head toward the West end zone.
4) As a result of a coin toss held by the conference office Friday morning, Illinois will occupy the West team bench in the first half and Northwestern will occupy the West team bench in the second half and for all overtime periods.

2-Minute Drill
I’ve never been so exhausted BEFORE a gameday. Today, the country will find out where the heck ESPNU is on their respective TVs as the ‘Cats and Illini meet for the 104th time in a trophy game, The Land of Lincoln Trophy, but have generated so much national PR this game has become must see TV. Since defeating Iowa in dramatic fashion, the college football world has had a rather roller-coaster diversion from Cam Newton files as the right field wall may have become Auburn’s best friend. With the Big Ten’s decision to step in and force both teams to play offense going in one direction – West – the gameplan(s) have been revised and the only thing that is certain is now surreality.

The ‘Cats enter as 8-point underdogs but it feels as if both teams fan bases feel as if these are teams heading in different directions. My, what a difference two weeks can make. The Illini have been crushed two lockerroom challenging losses – one getting scorched for 67 points in the 3 OT thriller at Michigan and then last week a collapse against previously conference goose egg holder Minnesota (we ‘Cats fans know to not throw stones at that one). The press has questioned the Illini’s cohesiveness and you wonder if there may be in-fighting and fractures with team chemistry that similarly plagued some of Juice Williams’ teams. This media hype on Wrigley and NU has projected a feeling that we SHOULD be favored yet we’re in our familiar underdog role, which is our collective comfort zone. The Illini opened eyes with incredible “D” against the likes of Ohio State and Penn State and took care of business against Indiana and Purdue in ways that we can only dream about. Yet, it feels like a different team ago.

The major headline in all of the actual game is Evan Watkins’ debut as a starter. The 6-6, 245 pound manchild and RS frosh will get to play in one of the most memorable events in NU history in his own hometown. The lack of game experience by Watkins has NU fans clutching to the QB-U success we’ve developed in recent years having success plug-and-playing QBs. Watkins has a stellar arm and can throw big time and his mobility is the most underrated attribute. I am concerned about all of this chaos leading to distraction, but who knows?

When Evan Watkins Is On The Field
Let’s hope first and foremost he remembers which direction to go. God knows I’m confused and I have zero bearing on the game. I’m expecting an unfavorable play mix of too much run early by NU which could be troublesome. I’d love to see him jump out of the gate tossing the rock, but I feel as though we are ultra-conservative on this and will likely try to ease him in to it. The Illini secondary is the weak link here and we MUST test them downfield. It will be really fascinating to see how we handle the first drive, but candidly I’m prepared to be frustrated by the play-calling early. I hope I’m wrong. If we’re handing off on 2nd and 3rd and ten I’ll be mightily upset. Prove me wrong Mick McCall. Keep an eye on who steps up to be the calming influence and Persa-like captain on the field. My money is on Ebert or Dunsmore.

When Nathan Scheelhaase is Facing West:

No secret to Mike Hankwitz’s plan here. Its’ called contain, contain, contain.  Contain Mikel Leshoure, the standout Illini RB who averages 100+ yds per game on the ground and contain Nathan Scheelhaase who is evasive like Dan Persa, but not nearly as accurate.  Force Scheelhaase to beat NU downfield and Hankwitz is doing his job.  The key will be stopping the run on 1st down and putting the accomplished freshman in 2nd and 3rd long situations.

The Wrigley Factor:

Several folks, including Fitz have mentioned the old street football addage “losers walk” after a score.  If there is one big advantage to me it is the fact NU won the coin toss yesterday for the sideline positioning. Northwestern won the toss and will have the advantage of being close to the now famous west end zone meaning easier communication when driving for scores and close proximity for substitutions once we cross the 50. We get it for OT as well if necessary. 

Wacky Stat
The Rodney Dangerfield “no respect” cards will be out today. The ‘Cats have been underdogs in every one of Fitz’s appearances against Illinois, yet we are 3-1 against them during this span. The puzzling part is NU has been an underdog in a season in which they entered 7-3 and 6-4 in games against sub .500 Illini teams. In Ron Zook’s six seasons, he has had only one .500 or better season. Conversely, Fitz has had only one season in which he hasn’t been at least .500. Go figure.

Birthday Boy

I’m expecting at least one spine tingling “Dan Persa” chant tomorrow and with good reason.  It’s Persa’s birthday which will be his most bittersweet as he watches from the sidelines.  A reminder – PLEASE send in your notes of inspiration and ‘Get Wells” to Dan by emailing me at lake the posts @ gmail.com – we have nearly 70 to date and I want to make it to 100. We’ll ensure he gets them on Monday so get them in today!!

Ring The (Wedding) Bell:
Congratulations from LTP to former Wildcat player Doug Szymul who is getting married today to former Wildcat tennis player Stacy Kokx. In addition to their collective last names being a bonanza in points on a Scrabble board, the two lovebirds are bummed their missing the game.  However, in true ‘Cat fashion, be on the lookout for ten guys in tuxedos around the Gameday set.  Szymul is an ESPN employee and has some pull to get around the set.  Doug – be careful my friend. You don’t want to be late…best wishes from LTP!

Lake The Posts Factor: 9.0

OK, I admit beating a 5-5 team is not worthy of ripping down FG posts, but c’mon. When you have students who can rest their beer on the post in right field (don’t even think about it!) there is a tempting logistical factor that weighs in on this usually-reserved-ranking-for-importance metric.  Let’s face it, this is a bowl-like game that because of the attention will now have many more eyeballs and an 8-3 mark sounds pretty nifty don’t you think? Three straight 8+ win seasons? THAT would be progress. 

Pick to Click: Drake Dunsmore

It’s time for double “D” to step-up and assume the leadership role in Persa’s absence. With Ebert having a shot to eclipse 1000 yards receiving you can bet Vic Koennig is focusing on shutting down #11. Hence, Drake’s breakout game of the year is due. 

ESPN Gameday Factor

Please take photos that we can share tonight and tomorrow from the festitvities on LTP.  Also, screen grabs will be very much appreciated. I’m thinking any LTP references might get special props. Hmmm…

Prediction:

Flip a coin. I haven’t a clue of what to expect. I do like the coaching advantage as I’m hoping there is just enough of an edge that it’ll make a difference.  The ‘Cats are in familiar territory – an underdog in November with bowl positioning on the line.  Will Mr. November get us to 11-5 during his tenure? I think so, but barely. I’m pretty confident the craziest stat I know of in the FBS will stay in tact – that is, NU has gone 26 straight games either being tied or ahead in the second half of a game.  I’m expecting a VERY low scoring 1st quarter with teams finding their flow in the second half.

Northwestern 23 Illinois 21

LTP will be at the game and therefore won’t be posting until late Saturday night. Feel free to use this space as the community to share, hi-five, moan, groan and hopefully bring home the win.  A full report coming later tonight when I get home. 

Did (N)U Know?

With a win today, Pat Fitzgerald would tie his mentor, Gary Barnett with 35 all-time wins at NU and be within one of Ara Parseghian. Fitz is 15 shy of tying the all-time wins mark (49) at NU.

And Finally…

LTP will be at the game in full force so use this comments section as the community to hi-5, rant, rave etc…Expect a recap post LATE tonight after I get back from the Wrigley festivities.

  • Errr, LTP, I think your post was cut off near the end, there.

  • villox

    Just to clarify, we’ll occupy the west sideline only in the second half. The teams will switch at halftime. I still consider this an advantage, especially since the first drive is usually scripted.

  • gavin

    its 4:15 AM and I’m bouncing off the walls. gameday is here. GO CATS!

  • Al

    One thing about the “westward ho!” rules that I haven’t heard discussed is the fact that most of the game will now be played on the sodded-over infield, possibly causing bad footing for the players. Isn’t that just as unsafe as a brick wall? Or possibly more so, because you can avoid a wall, but it’s hard to avoid the field.

    Oh well. (another deep subject)

    Go ‘Cats!

  • villox

    Why would most of the game be played on the sodded side? Unless you presume to say that both teams have poor defenses and thus there’ll be tons of scoring.

    It’s still a 100-yard field people.

  • GameDay signs I’ve seen on the air so far:

    “Northwestern
    95% Graduation Rate
    100% Ownership of Iowa”

    “Hey Corso, show us your Willie!”

    “Ron Zook: Coming soon to your nearest retirement home”

    “Dan Persa 4 Heisman 2011”

    Looking forward for more when I can actually run GameDay on the next hour.

  • cece

    lessons for the future……Fitz pix work, long wordy not so much, purple always.

    and re the P…Y word in a sign for ESPN, to the holder/maker…you are an idiot.

  • J.R.

    Most disappointing sign:

    Fire Demos

    Not sure if anyone outside the program or fan base will get this, but why be a hater?

    Best Sign:

    I have to go with the 100% ownership of Iowa that was featured on this site.

    I also liked the “Keep Zook” in purple. Nice.

    Nice GO U/NU chant going on now. Nice feature on the band too on the ESPNU pregame show.

    Erin Andrews is beautiful, but she is horrible on camera. Historical? Really? Gotta love her purple coat though.

    LOTS of purple, but nothing compared to some of the Gameday mobs I’ve seen in other weeks.

  • zeek

    I loved ESPN’s opening for GameDay by Rinaldi. That was a really awesome piece.

    Lots of purple, tons of other fans as expect though. Still, having the purple marquee and all the big posters in the background keeps the focus on Northwestern.

    All in all, it turned out well. I agree that the Fire Demos sign is stupid. He’s just a student-athlete, you can’t put that on him.

  • J.R.

    LOVED the opening montage/tribute to Wrigley and the final shot of the Cats entering the field at Ryan field.

  • buckyor

    Yeah, whoever has the Fire Demos sign ought to be taken out back and beaten. Weak.

  • J.R.

    I take it back. My FAVORITE sign is the Fitz for Prez sign with the Land of Lincoln trophy on his head and a Lincoln beard on his chin.

  • bigtencrazy

    Got Wildcats! My Boilers are going to try and derail Sparty’s party. But I will keep an eye on NW.

  • zeek

    As long as Purdue has Kerrigan, you have a chance in any game just due to your defensive strength.

    As for us, we’ll need all the help we can get. Illinois’ offense has been quite prolific, and we don’t have that great a rush defense, so this is a bad matchup for us on paper.

    We’ll need our offense to gel quickly if it comes to a shootout, which is tough to imagine, so right now the only way I see us winning this game is if we hold Illinois to only 3 TDs. That’s a really tall order.

  • PBRCat

    I am enjoying ESPN College Game Day, but Erin Andrew’s feature on the visitors’ locker room at Wrigley Field was lame. Yes, the players will have to double up on lockers — baseball rosters are typically twenty-five men. Yes, this locker room is cramped — by design. Former Cubs General Manager did not enlarge the space when the Cubs remodeled the home team’s locker room. His reasoning: let them suffer.

    Has Erin ever done a feature on the visitors’ locke room in Evanston? Similar complaints there too. How about the powder puff pink visitors’ quarters in Iowa City?

    This was really silly. Beautiful hair as always Erin.

  • Joe

    “How about the powder puff pink visitors’ quarters in Iowa City?”

    Doesn’t Gameday have to bother going to Iowa first?

  • In my latest column (http://northwesternmix.com/), I tried to cover all the ways that points could be scored in the east endzone. It will be interesting to see if any such points are scored today.

    Go Cats!

  • Cranston

    There was no doubt that Corso was going with Illinois — and he made a point of picking Wisconsin over NU next week. Guy loves to stir the pot.

  • zeek

    Yeah Cranston, I loved though that they all gave massive props to Fitz and the job he’s done. The way he’s talked up as much as he is nowadays should help him with recruiting.

    All in all, we got 3 hours of national advertising (including the 1 hour on ESPNU), along with all of the publicity all over the play that was literally wall to wall the past couple of days.

    Tons of folks should be tuning into the game even though it’s on ESPNU just to see how the game is going to be played, so this all worked out great. We got our program advertised all over the place with our win over Iowa as a big part of the story.

    Now the key is to prove Coach and Herbie right and win the game.

  • Cranston

    Yep, it was pretty much all positive about Northwestern and Fitz especially. Hopefully, this can be part of a nice video montage which culminates in Corso putting on the Illini helmet and then highlights of Northwestern whooping up on them.

  • class of ’10

    with an untested offense, our D needs to be better than that. heck, with any offense our D needs to be better than that.

  • zeek

    Whole team looks jittery. Hopefully it passes, and they play more smoothly, but we can’t dig too big of a hole for Watkins.

  • GoCats

    Apparently Dan Persa was also 75% of our defense.

  • zeek

    This game is just exposing how important Persa was to the offense, no idea what happened to the defense though.

  • zeek

    The crowd split looks really good on TV. Looks mostly purple with just patches of orange.

  • zeek

    I would guess 70-30 at worst for purple.

  • vaudvillain

    So we somehow avoided what looked like an ugly blowout to go into the half down only 3. And we even got a pick-6 for the right field fans!

  • zeek

    Yeah vaudvillain, thankfully our defense came alive in the second quarter to hold them to two made FGs.

    And Watkins is making quicker reads; he looks more comfortable. We still can’t use him to run which is a problem, but we’ve gotten a lot of breaks to be in this game at this point.

    Hopefully, we come out fast in the 2nd half, maybe since we came out slow this game as opposed to the rest, we’ll do the opposite in the second half unlike previous games…

  • cdmarine

    Well. That was unfortunate.

  • vaudvillain

    Ouch. Our run D looked kinda like it did against Penn State. Mikel LeShoure just ran all over us, and our O never found a rhythm.

  • zeek

    Hard to know what to say about this game. Can’t really blame our offense for this since Persa wasn’t there and Watkins was having trouble with the reads; there was no way we could match them in a shootout without Persa.

    We gave up 500+ yards of rushing, and 330 to LeShoure (10+ per carry). We need to spend this next week practicing tackling and focusing on stopping the run attack because that was a disaster, and Wisconsin is going to watch tape of this game and love it.

    Overall, let’s just be glad that was on ESPNU, since most people probably watched Ohio State-Iowa. We got a lot of publicity but gave up a record-setting amount of rush yardage. A mixed bag at best, but the focus will be on the bowl game now.

  • DT

    @Zeek-

    I’d say the Wrigley, was about 33% purple, 33% orange, and 33% neutral from my viewing of the game on ESPNU… Agreed, it was positive this was not the main event on ESPN/ABC and NU was reminded of the lesson we have learned via multiple bowls dating back to 95, in regards to visibility, exposure, and publicity, “Be careful what you wish for”… Disappointing, to get gashed like they did in the second half, and the fact, the “O” pretty much got stoned as well… Thought, we had taken Illinois’ best shot in the first half… Caved like a house of Cards, or moreover, The Cubs in the playoffs… Let’s not forget, Papa Bear Halas was an Illini, and if NU wanted to shake down the thunder as it were, might have shook down the wrong echoes from one of the Mount Rushmore of Football…

    Net/net, they had better get some rushing “D” quick or Bucky might put up 80+, and Watkins, needs his reps to have a chance at making a bowl game win a reality… That from the get-go, was the main objective for the season… Still, plenty to play for on that level…

    Let’s hope this publicity stunt is one and done, and the next time we play Illinois at home, will be at Ryan Field… The Home, of The Northwestern Wildcats, be it Dyche or Ryan….

  • zeek

    I don’t think there’s any chance that we redo this game. I mean it did turn into a gimmick after the whole one-way thing.

    Still, not a good thing to get blown out like that when we brought so much publicity to ourselves. Overall though, this may not be such a bad thing.

    Now we get put in the TicketCity Bowl in Dallas; that’s on ESPNU on Jan. 1 when there’s much more high profile games on, so it’ll just be our fans and Baylor?’s fans watching. Hopefully, we can get it done then.

    I don’t even know what to say about the Wisconsin game. If that was today we would lose 80-20.

  • buckyor

    That was embarrassing.

    It appears not only that our defense has little heart, but that we decided not to change the offensive gameplan one bit to adjust for the loss of Persa. Really a bad effort from all involved.

    If I weren’t from Wisconsin, I really would not be looking forward to next week in Camp Randall.

  • zeek

    One of the things I’ve really been worried of late is that while Fitz’s recruiting of skill players has clearly increased over the past couple of years, our lines haven’t benefited from the recruiting boost. Any team that makes the right adjustments (pre-game as Zook’s staff clearly did) or after the first half, tends to do really well against our line on both sides of the ball.

    It’s a concern worth focusing on over the next year.

    This game proved that we’re a 7-5 team. Let’s just try to show up defensively next week, and then focus on the bowl game. We can still have an 8 win season, and look forward to next year when Persa gets back. But I really hope our line play improves, particularly on defense.

  • This was really tough to watch. While I expected some issues with the offense, I didn’t expect the defense to get crushed by the run. This does not bode well for Wisconsin. However, I do not expect the Wildcats to just roll over next week. If the Cats can play a full 60 minutes, they can have a shot. But a repeat of tonight would be ugly.

    Go Cats!

  • NUinNY

    That was… rough. Really really rough. Like everyone else, I have tremendous appreciation for Coach Fitz, but he has got to figure out a way to improve the quality of our line or we are never going to take the next step as a program. Go Cats!

  • PBRCat

    In terms of the pregame atmosphere, the visit to Wrigley Field was electric, but so was the night game against Purdue. The results were the same, but today’s loss to Illinois stung a little less because we were opposing a better team (Illinois is a middle of the road program now) while we were missing our star quarterback. Illinois had much more to play for. I think Northwestern played too conservatively on offense and that may have made the difference. We saw some thrilling plays, but did not secure the “W.”

    From a marketing standpoint the game was another public relations success, but I wonder if the Wildcat players struggled with all of the pregame hype? Nonetheless, I was really glad to be there despite my displeasure with the final results on the scoreboard and my annoyance that so many Pumpkinheads were able to secure tickets. It was a Purple majority, but the margins were not as great as I would have liked. The scalpers must have obtained some tickets somewhere as Illinois seemed to be well over its customary visiting team allotment. Our entire group of ten was composed entirely of NU fans. Other people must have resold their tickets.

    Our upperdeck seats were good. We studied the diagram which was available online and purchased seats based upon the view of the gridiron, not the highest available ticket price since a good baseball seat does not always equal a good football seat. The decision to make all of the offensive plays in the direction of the West end zone actually helped us see more of the action, but we had good views of the entire field.

    Some trickeration from the Illini backfired and Peters proved to the student section that the East end zone was still in play. I was really surprised at this gift pick six since the Illinois player could have easily eaten the ball and taken a sack rather than putting the ball up for grabs.

    A final comment on the East end zone and player safety: At the end of the day, the conference probably made the correct call. My objection was to the timing of the decision which seemed to be a reaction to a media manufactured controversy (the Chicago Bears played at Wrigley for decades with short end zones) in that the way that it was handled created a distraction that everyone could have done without. Jim Delany or his staff should have had this straightened out weeks ago. By the way, how is that no similar controversy attended the Emerald Bowl? That game is also played on a baseball diamond with tight dimensions.

    What was most discouraging is that Northwestern started the game so slowly on defense and Illinois managed to put points on the board without being seriously challenged. If not for the timely interception returned for a touchdown, it would not been much of a contest. After this play, Northwestern gained some momentum and made the game interesting for a time.

    I was surprised at the inability of Northwestern to finish tackles as Illinois made so many yards on the ground today (the disparity in statistics for rushing yards was painful to read) , including many important third down conversions, on second effort pushes that picked up additional yards. On other plays, the Illini runner literally pushed the entire pile of defenders forward while the officials allowed plays to continue and did not whistle the play stopped when the scrum continued. After half time, it seemed as our defense could not get off of the field. Illinois totally dominated during the second half.

    The Big Ten officiating lousy as usual. The Illini QB, Scheelhasse, gained valuable time to scramble and to complete plays because the officials elected not to throw flags for what should have been blatant holding. We all know that holding occurs frequently in games, but this crew missed almost everything. In fact, the slow footed officials seemed to be almost immobile. The crew did have to spot the ball frequently due the rules imposed upon the game, but to say that the zebras were less than mediocre may be putting it mildly. Given the final score, some will say that it did not matter, but the Wildcats entered this game at a distinct disadvantage and not getting some basic penalties called when the Illini were holding so often compounded their difficulties.

    I will not fault Evan Watkins for not coming off the bench and equaling Dan Persa in his first start. He is a work in progress and needs to gain experience and confidence. He seemed to hesitate on several runs when openings were available and he failed to pick up the maximum number of yards possible on his scampers and missed one first down just before crossing the needed yard marker.
    Trumpy made a great run today, but, I believe that the Offensive Coordinator did not mix in enough passing plays, once again. So many rushes for two or three yards at a pop that netted us nothing. I will renew the argument that Northwestern ought to be a pass first offense and this is a decision made out of necessity. On the day, Watkins did misfire on a few passing downs and one of his receivers seemed to quit running on a long route that looked like it could have been a possible touchdown reception. I do not blame the quarterback for this particular incompletion.

    Our special teams had a good day, but I silently cringed when a long 63 yard return was stopped without a touchdown being scored. The way things were going on offense, I felt that the special teams unit had a better shot at finding the end zone then did the offense which was out of synch.
    I was disappointed that Dunsmore and Ebert were not utilized more often. For most of the day, it was as if they were not there at all.

    I am discouraged about the upcoming Wisconsin game to finish the season. The Wildcats need to play much better on both sides of the ball or it will be a total rout. What bothered me the most is that after halftime, Northwestern had no answers while Illinois had made some adjustments. Scoring a grand total of three points in the second half continued the Wildcats woes after the break.
    Three and outs or piling up yards by moving the ball without scoring. Ugh!

    In the second half, the Illini were able to move the ball on the ground and eat up serious amounts of clock time. It became clear that the Wildcats were not going to be able to mount any late heroics this week since there was insufficient time to stage a rally. The game was really lost in the third quarter when the Wildcats received the opening kick off and did nothing.

    For Illinois, this may be a Pyrrhic victory of sorts. If Gunther is rehired and Zook is not dismissed on account of attaining a lesser bowl (It is sort of nice to think of Illinois visiting Ford Field in December), the Illinois program may continue its underachieving ways for a few more years to come under the current management.

    I-L-L, I-N-I.

    Is there a more annoying chant in college football? Seriously, I believe that this simple spelling exercise is an important part of the entrance exam at the land grant college in Champaign-Urbana and, arguably, it may be one of the few things that most of its graduates learn while in attendance there.

    I hope that the Wildcats prove me wrong, but I think that Wisconsin is likely to send the team home with a 7-5 record overall and a 3-5 record in conference play. As always, I am concerned about the bowl implications. I am worried about Northwestern being jumped by a 6-6 Big Ten School.

  • JP

    An 8-4 team can jump a 9-3 team, and a 7-5 team can jump an 8-4 team, but I think the line is drawn at 6-6; unless I’m mistaken, a 6-6 team cannot jump a team with a winning record.
    GO FRESNO STATE!

  • zeek

    Illinois is going to jump us. But look, we didn’t even come to play on defense, and they did, so there’s nothing we can do about it anymore.

  • I’m not really sure what to say. I felt a bit better coming off of the Penn State loss not just because we had Persa, but because guys were in position to make tackles. They just forgot how to. This afternoon, though, was different. Much of the time they weren’t close to being in position to stop the run.

  • JP

    @ Zeek, so you are assuming Fresno State won’t win at home against Illinois? Or are you saying I’m wrong?

  • zeek

    You’re wrong. The old 6-6 rule doesn’t apply. As long as there are enough slots for 7-5 teams, a 6-6 team can be picked over.

    We’re going to Dallas. We should be happy because we were looking at possibly the Pizza Bowl if Purdue had won against Michigan State.

    We’re going to a News Years Day bowl; it’ll be overshadowed from the point of publicity (although we already got tons of it off the Wrigley game, more than enough) due to all the other games on at the same time, and we’ll be on ESPNU again.

    But maybe that’s for the best. Today exposed our huge problems on the defensive and offensive lines, since Persa would cover up for the offensive lines by scrambling and turning sacks/throw away incompletions into yardage gains.

    We still got a big win against Iowa. We lost out on a program building win that would have helped us with building a base in Chicago in this Illinois game, so that sucks, but it is what it is.

  • Next Saturday against Wisconsin will be 2:30 on ABC with a reverse mirror on ESPN nationally.

  • Sam

    PBRCat’s observations are good.
    However, I’m not sure I-L-L, I-N-I is any worse than Go U! N-U! A chant’s a chant’s a chant.

  • Richard

    That’s amazing. I would have thought that the 2:30 ABC game would have been MSU-PSU (as it is most years). Is NU turning out to be a good TV draw?

  • zeek

    @Richard, it has more to do with the fact that Wisconsin can grab a Rose Bowl berth with a win. That’s a big enough deal for it to go to ABC.

  • Richard

    Well, not quite; it would come down to BCS ranking if Wisconsin, MSU and OSU all win (or if we beat Wisconsin and the other 2 win). The Badgers are leading in the BCS coming in to this week, though we don’t know how much of a boost beating Iowa will give OSU.

    Granted, more neutrals probably care about Wisconsin’s game than MSU’s since UW is higher ranked.

  • zeek

    ESPN knows the formulas though, and they know that Ohio State’s win over Iowa wasn’t impressive enough to push Ohio State over Wisconsin in part because Iowa is now going to be unranked. The Northwestern win over Iowa really hurt the odds of an Iowa win helping Ohio State as much as it helped Wisconsin earlier in the season.

    I’d be shocked if Wisconsin isn’t higher than Ohio State in the BCS standings tomorrow night. In my estimation, putting Wisconsin-Northwestern in the ABC slot is predicated on this being a play in game to the Rose Bowl for Wisconsin.