I LOVE this move by Mike Polisky and the NU Athletic Department. Several of you have sent photos of NU billboards in Dallas marking the “Big D” as Northwestern Country. Some might question the validity and impact of these billboards, but Texas has become quite a recruiting pipeline for Northwestern. There are currently seven players from the Lone Star State and two from the Dallas area and Texas ranks behind only Illinois and Ohio for player pipelines. It also sends a message to bowl officials that NU will embrace, market and support whichever bowl we attend. Plus, when folks like me start writing about it and other news outlets pick up on it, the ploy garners earned media. Add in a sense of pride for the very strong alumni base in Dallas and you’ve got my full support on this splash. Thanks to all of you who sent the photos (Peter L & Co.)
The Dallas Morning News is giving some NU-angled coverage on the two-headed Watkins/Colter monster. Click here to get the local angle on the ‘Cats-Red Raiders game.
Big Ten Country
It is way too early to start drawing conclusions about the strength of the Big Ten in 2010 based on two bowl games, but you have to admit a depleted Iowa team beating #12 Missouri and Illinois pounding Baylor essentially in a road game bodes well for our conference’s on-field reputation. Clearly, we all understand that how we perform on January 1 and in BCS play is the true test, but it is enough that I’ve started to reevaluate our schedule and in some way, given more credence to our rough road this past conference season.
As I watched Mikel Leshoure shred Baylor and Nathan Scheelhaase pass at will against Baylor I started to have bowl envy. Reliant Stadium looked packed and the atmosphere was top-notch on ESPN for the Texas Bowl. I believe we could’ve landed in this bowl if Jim Phillips really pushed for it, but when it comes to match-ups on paper Texas Tech gives us the best shot for the win which is goal number one for the program right now. We all know the aesthetic will not be nearly as good for our bowl game as the simple math of a 92,000-seat Cotton Bowl wouldn’t be filled by 99% of the bowl participants. I was actually shocked to see some of the unsportsmanlike moments in the game as Baylor tried several times to ignite Illinois’ ire with cheapshot moves. I actually love the draw of getting Texas Tech from a match-up standpoint and like most, simply want the win – ANY win in a bowl game so we can raise the bar of expectations once again and eliminate any negative “streak” that lingers in the program.
Demos’ Depth of Injury Surfaces
I had heard several inside reports about the health challenges of Stefan Demos during the season, but at the time I felt it wasn’t in the best interest of the program to post about it. However, now that it has been publicized that he has been enduring a pretty serious hip injury that was kept “in-house” despite the consistent trials and tribulations on FGs and PATs this season. Scott Powers has the story here on ESPN.com and after reading this if you don’t think karma is on our side for a last second game-winning FG by Demos then we don’t think alike. Heck, I’d love a blowout win, but let’s face it, bowl history tees up Saturday for a white knuckler. I predicted last season after the Outback debacle that Demos would redeem himself in 2011 with a bowl game winning kick. To think about the alternative, well, it is too cruel to go there.
Shurna Limping Towards Start?
A positive progress report by ESPNChicago.com’s Scott Powers on John Shurna being able to practice yesterday. If you read between the lines of Shurna’s quotes, he’ll be far from 100% but potentially able to contribute. At least the news is trending positive. Click here for the update on his ankle.
Texas Tech DC Departure Reasons Becoming More Clear
James Willis made news earlier this week with the announcement of his abrupt departure from Texas Tech where he served as the defensive coordinator for this past season. The Dallas Morning News is reporting that Willis MAY be the subject of a domestic violence incident. He has not been named a suspect, but as this report states, a 33-year-old female alleged she was a victim.
It really is incredible how many Northwestern-specific blogs exist. Rise Northwestern posted this 1-on-1 interview with NU beat reporter Scott Powers of ESPN.com fame. It was interesting to note Powers’ comments on yesterday’s practice of NU running the Wildcat offense. Check out the interview here.
Bowl Mania Update
Ugh. LTP is in freefall and currently in 15th place. There have been some big jumpers in the LTP Bowl Mania, but Sanderson5941 is clinging to his first place lead with a total of 233 points. “Hudaifa” is hot on the trail in second with 226 points and keep an eye on East Lansing Cat who is making a run. There are four games on tap for today and Sanderson5941 has SMU over Army, Syracuse over Kansas State, Tennessee over UNC and Nebraksa over Washington.
Army battles SMU in Dallas and NU can get an in-person scouting report against one of our 2011 non-conference opponents. We had a phenomenal response to the road trip “sailgate” idea, meaning, an LTP-sponsored floating tailgate from Manhattan up to West Point for the Northwestern at Army game next September. We’ll be revealing more specific information after the New Year. Do know we’re making progress on the plans. It is going to be an event to remember.
The TCU Thing
Northwestern practiced at TCU yesterday as Fitz cashed-in a favor from his coaching buddy Gary Patterson. TCU is a program that always makes me do a double-take. Patterson reminds me physcially of Randy Walker and of course the purple is unmistakable. I just realized that the Rose Bowl will be half purple for the first time since January 1, 1996. Perhaps we should squint for the TCU-Wisconsin game to bring us to that happy place.
As mentioned earlier this week, Dan Persa made the Chicago Tribune’s Top Ten sports stories of the year. Yesterday, the official rank of “local story #4” was published so click here to get a non-Teddy G. perspective of Persa’s incredible season.
Tina Akouris highlights Venric Mark’s return to Texas (he’s a Houston native) and his progress across the board in this Sun-Times article. I love his quote about taking his return to Texas personally. Texas Tech has a stellar punt coverage (5.8 ypp) unit and solid kickoff return coverage team (20.7 ypr). Clearly, he’ll have his work cut out for him on special teams. Is there any question we involve Venric in some trickeration?
Completing the linkfest today is a neat piece on true frosh WR Tony Jones from the local angle at MLive.com. Nothing too shocking here in the article, but you get a sense of the maturation of Tony by both his quotes and the perspective of WR coach Kevin Johns.