Adam Rittenberg doled out a host of Big Ten related news from the spring meetings in Chicago. Most notable was Fitz’s public support of the embattled Buckeyes coach, Jim Tressel. According to this AR report, Fitz said:
“More than anything, I tried to let him know I was there and have his back,” Fitzgerald said. “He’s been unbelievable with me since the moment I had a chance to start a relationship with him, and I’ve always been thankful for that.” – Pat Fitzgerald on Jim Tressel as told to Adam Rittenberg on May 17, 2011.
Even bigger news was the narrowing of future football championship sites as two groups, according to the busy Rittenberg, have put together a football/basketball host package. The Indiana Sports Corp group is packaging what actually is already in place for this past year – men’s and women’s hoops tournaments at Conseco and a football title game at Lucas Oil Field all in downtown Indianapolis. Meanwhile, the Chicago group would host football at Soldier Field, the mens’ tournament at the United Center and the women’s tournament at Sears Centre.
You’ve got to believe a Chicago “win” for the tournaments and football title game would be an additional big time recruiting sell for Fitz as it underscores the Big Ten epicenter as being Chicago (along with the Big Ten Network, a friendly to Big Ten student/athletes for internships). While Northwestern has been downright horrific in attendance for hoops tourney games, a Soldier Field championship in our own backyard is spine-tingling. A decision is expected in a few weeks. Stay tuned. Well done Adam!
Northwestern also received all kinds of friendly pub around its stellar APR ratings, paving the way as one of only three FBS schools (Duke, Navy) to be publicly recognized in both football and basketball as well as the Big Ten leader in programs getting top honors (nine) with Penn State. Ohio State, to their credit, was also recognized for being in the top ten percent.
Pardon the Interruption!
Now, back to BC week. I don’t know about you, but man am I having fun digging in for a full week on our season-opening opponent, Boston College. Today, we host the first of two BC bloggers to LTP for some firsthand expertise on the Eagles. SBNation blogger, BC Interruption has graciously accepted the offer to step up to the mic and offer some insights. Brian has one of the most unique perspectives of this match-up as he is a BC undergrad, yet boasts Northwestern as a graduate degree (a one year MBA program at Kellogg, 2009-2010). With that, let’s get in to it with BCI:
LTP: So, you’ve got a BC undergrad degree and a Northwestern graduate degree. You’ve got a rare chance to speak from a firsthand perspective as to both the schools’ football programs and academic perspective. How would you react to my assessment that Northwestern and BC are very similar on many fronts? Support or reject the claim.
BCI: I absolutely will support this statement. Having attended both schools, I would certainly argue that both schools and both football programs are similar on many different points. For one, both schools are top-tier, private schools with solid academics. Both play in secluded, tree-lined suburbs a stone’s throw away from two of the best cities in America. Both struggle to get fans to Alumni Stadium and Ryan Field on Saturdays and both struggle for recognition both within their respective cities and within the ACC and Big Ten.
I will say though that I think BC has achieved a bit more historically than Northwestern (starting in the 1980s with Flutie), but I also believe that Northwestern is on a much better upward trajectory under Fitz than BC is under Spaz.
LTP: They say defense wins championships. Frank Spaziani knows defense. However, BC boasted the #1 rush defense and #13 overall defense in 2010 and barely made it to a bowl game. Considering the fact the D-line is gone on that side of the ball, are you concerned about a drop-off?
BCI: We’ve been worried about a drop-off, particularly on the defensive line, since BC graduated run-stuffers — and eventual NFL first and second round draft picks — B.J. Raji and Ron Brace. It always seems that BC is a year away from a complete collapse on the defensive line, but the Eagles always seem to find a way to replace guys on the D-line. This year, guys like Dillon Quinn, Conor O’Neal, Kasim Edebali, Max Holloway and Kaleb Ramsey (recovering from back surgery) will have to step up if BC is going to achieve another high-ranking defense.
Where I’m not concerned about a drop-off is in the linebacking corps. While the Eagles do lose 2008 ACC Defensive POY and cancer-survivor Mark Herzlich, the unit should again be solid, anchored by consensus All-American (and tackling machine) Luke Kuechly. Sophomore Kevin Pierre-Louis looks to have another outstanding year at WLB.
The BC secondary should again be fairly strong, despite the losses of BC DeLeon Gause and FS Wes Davis to graduation. Senior corner Donnie Fletcher and junior safeties Jim Noel and Okechukwu Okoroha will help anchor this unit.
LTP: You don’t need to be a BC grad and NU grad to know the reason BC struggled in 2010 was lack of offense. The Eagles mustered only 18 ppg and just under 300 yards of total offense per contest. What signs are there for big improvements in 2011?
BCI: It starts with new offensive coordinator Kevin Rogers, who comes to BC after five seasons as Minnesota Vikings quarterback coach (and who had the unenviable position of coddling Brett Favre’s ego for the last two). Before his stint with the Vikings, Rogers coached the QBs for Frank Beamer at Virginia Tech, and also made stops at Notre Dame and Syracuse.
Rogers replaces offensive coordinator Gary Tranquill after two seasons, who was downright terrible at BC. When Spaz was hired, he coaxed Tranquill out of college football retirement to take on an offense that had no quarterback with any experience throwing a pass in college. The resulting product on the field was an offense than ranked 98th nationally in total offense in 2009, and 109th in total offense a year later.
If Rogers can get the BC offense, led by Rettig, Montel Harris and a corps of young receivers, to even crack the 60s (middle of the road) in total offense, scoring offense and the like, that would be an enormous improvement on the last two seasons.
LTP: What are the early reports on the scheme and philosophy that Rogers will bring to BC?
BCI: There was some worry that Rogers would bring a totally different offensive philosophy. He’s previously worked with a lot of mobile QBs while coaching college. If he’s planning on implementing changes, we haven’t seen them. 100% of the snaps were taken under center in the spring game. Coach Spaz has also said that the offense won’t be much different under Rogers. So of course fans are thinking “won’t be much different? We had a total offense that ranked 100+ last year!” The offense better be different … well, at least better. Doesn’t necessarily have to be different, but need to get results.
LTP: What is your perception of this match-up? How big is it for BC? Any chance the ‘Cats are underrated by the Eagles and their faithful or will the fact it is the opener ensure you’re ready?
BCI: For me, this one is personal (ed: hey, you stole my line!). This game means a lot to my family just because we have spent a good part of our lives living in Chestnut Hill and Evanston. Plus since I’ve graduated, the ‘Cats have bested BC twice already this spring, both in the second round of the NIT and the NCAA Women’s Lacrosse Tournament. I’m hoping for a better result the third time around.
For BC fans in general, I’m not so sure. While I can attest to the upward trajectory that Northwestern football is on under Fitzgerald, I don’t think playing NU in football holds the same sort of weight with BC fans. Let’s face it, your average college football fan doesn’t really keep up with the programs that are rising and falling and really only knows the name-brand schools in college football. Sadly, NU is no Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State, and guys like you and me who follow the sport year-round are certainly in the minority.
I think it’s entirely possible that the ‘Cats could be a bit underrated by the Eagles and Superfans heading into the season opener. The fact that the game is on the Saturday before school starts may also help Northwestern in this one. As ‘Cats fans are well aware, home games played before school starts tend to be … only moderately attended.
Make no mistake though. This game is a big, big one for BC. A win here will help put the Eagles on the right track for the rest of the season. After Northwestern, the Eagles have the chance to rattle off four straight wins with Central Florida, Duke, UMass and Wake Forest on the sched before a difficult October stretch sends BC on the road to face Virginia Tech, Clemson and Maryland. A loss could easily change the entire rest of the season for the Eagles.
LTP: Clearly we know about All-American LB Luke Kuechly, but with so many new faces on “D”, who are the rising stars we should be fearing?
BCI: Ex-Miami commit Albert Louis-Jean is definitely a guy to keep an eye on. He has an opportunity to start right away at corner. Also watch out for the aforementioned Kevin Pierre-Louis, who put together a good season as a true freshman at linebacker.
LTP: Is sopohomore QB Chase Rettig a lock to start this fall? What’s the BC angle on the QB situation heading in to this season? What is the make or break for this team?
BCI: Coach Spaz hasn’t officially named a starter yet, but I would be shocked if anyone other than Chase Rettig starts under center against Northwestern. While his numbers weren’t outstanding coming out of spring ball (20-of-29, 182 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT), he’s clearly head and shoulders above the other QB candidates.
If Rettig goes down, so too do BC’s chances at a decent season this year. Might be the difference between 1-2 wins if say, Dave Shinskie or a Mike Marscovetra have to play under center for the Eagles.
I’m cautiously optimistic Rettig can be the guy to lead BC, especially with a change at offensive coordinator.
LTP: How often has BC faced a no-huddle, spread attack, like Northwestern? Does our offense pose unique problems to your stingy “D”?
BCI: The Eagles haven’t had much experience defending the spread attack, though they are coming off a bowl game against Nevada (ed note: a 20-13 loss in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl) and Chris Ault’s Pistol offense.
The BC D has actually done fairly well playing against mobile quarterbacks like Persa, and has seemed to struggle more with more traditional, drop-back pocket passers. BC’s defense held Nevada’s Colin Kaepernick to just 214 total yards in the bowl game (192 yards through the air, 22 on the ground). They’ve also recently held QBs like Virginia Tech’s Tyrod Taylor in check.
I don’t think NU’s offense will pose too difficult a challenge for BC, particularly with the Eagles’ usually stingy defense. But then again, it’s all relative because who knows if BC will even crack the 20 point threshold on offense.
I certainly wouldn’t expect a barnburner in this one. A final score of 7-3 sounds about right.
LTP: Thanks for all of the insights Brian, it was great to have you. Best of luck in weeks two through twelve! Can you point us to some past posts that might be helpful for us to brush up on our BC-ness? Also, be sure to tell your fanbase that since 1995 only Ohio State and Michigan have won more Big Ten titles than Northwestern (3).
- On new OC, Kevin Rogers click here.
- 2011 BC Spring Game wrap-up – aka, Chase Rettig is improving! Click here.
- BC spring two deep roster click here.
The Real Raw Deal
The College Football HOF announcements came out yesterday and 14 deserving football souls will be immortalized as a result. From coaches like Lloyd Carr to fellow Big Tenners like Eddie George, colleges across the country are puffing their chests out to claim their own have been given the ultimate collegiate football honor not named Heisman. However, with no disrespect to Eddie George, the oversight of Darnell Autry on the list will become a new crusade for this blog (so many crusades, so little time) joining Rich Falk’s omitted home scoring record and of course, butts in seats at Ryan Field. More on this early next week. You didn’t really think I’d let this one slip by without noticing, did you?
Iowa Off Field Woes Continue…
When will the other shoe drop for Kirk Ferentz, the Hawkeyes coach who earned more than $500K per win in last year’s 7-5 season? Adam Rittenberg followed-up on the saga of RB Adam Robinson who has been dismissed from the team for good (as expected), but now it was also announced fellow RB Willie Lowe won’t play this season, but will stay in school. For Lowe, the reason is due to injury as he was among the 13 players who was hospitalized for rhabdomyolysis due to an over strenuous workout. It is complete speculation, but the hospitalization of the players, in my opinion, will come back to cause chemistry and distraction issues in 2011 as several parents are reportedly none too happy with the incident.