B1G Shoulders

Northwestern enters Saturday’s home game (2:30 pm ct, BTN) with a positioning and perception from our Big Ten brethren that might be quite different from a week ago. It’s no secret the B1G laid an egg with a ranked Nebraska team losing to UCLA and giving up the second most yards in school history, a then-ranked Wisconsin team that lost to an average Oregon State team and an Iowa team that lost to Iowa State and has scored one TD in two games. Throw in Purdue losing at Notre Dame, the Illini getting rocked without Nathan Scheelhaase at Arizona State and Penn State’s poor kicking debacle and last minute loss to Virginia and the most common context for Northwestern was in the “only Northwestern held up its end by beating SEC Vanderbilt” or something like that. Even Michigan saw itself hang on to beat Air Force. Add in the fact that 2-0 Indiana lost its best player, QB Tre Roberson, for the season with a broken leg in a win over UMASS (doubling the Hoosiers win total from 2011) and, well, it was a rough week.  I figured today it would make sense to take a look at both Northwestern and the rest of the B1G, along with some national notes of interest as we pivot in to the start of week three, which kicks off tonight.

The ‘Cats schedule has been getting a lot of love as we’re playing our third straight BCS automatic qualifying conference team.  BTN’s Gerry DiNardo has criticized AD Jim Phillips and Pat Fitzgerald for scheduling too challenging of a non-conference schedule. Well, when you win, you then look like a genius, right? Here’s some context.  Only nine, that’s right, NINE teams in the entire country can say they played two AQ BCS teams. Northwestern is the ONLY  one to emerge 2-0.  The other eight:  Vandy (0-2) Syracuse (0-2), Rice (1-1), Nevada (1-1), North Carolina State (1-1), Auburn (1-1) UTEP (0-2), UMASS (0-2).

Notre Dame grabbed the headlines of the day yesterday by announcing they will be moving to the ACC for all things except, of course football, and hockey.  The move prompted the following statement from B1G commissioner Jim Delany:

“Today’s announcement by the ACC that Notre Dame will join the conference to compete in all sponsored sports with the exception of football was not a surprise. Both the Big 12 and the ACC have openly expressed an interest in adding Notre Dame to their conference under such a condition.

“The announcement by the ACC is further indication that the tectonic plates underlying conference affiliation are still warm. As always, we will continue to monitor the landscape.
“We are very pleased with both our current conference membership and our conference structure.”

Adam Rittenberg did a good job of summarizing the B1G’s two attempts to “lure Notre Dame” here in yesterday’s post. You can bet I’ll have a post on this, but you might be surprised at the angle.  However, when I read that the school has “retained its identity” by keeping football independent (spoiler alert), I feel compelled to write about the cautionary tale that has, you know, rocked the sport to its core about priorities.

Speaking of Penn State, you get the sense their season is about to slide off the rails. After the team seemingly galvanized despite the loss of star RB Silas Redd and seven Nittany Lions, you wonder how long they stick together if the losses continue to mount. Just yesterday, WR Shawney Kersey decided to leave the team for “personal reasons”. Kersey had 6rec, 44 yds in two games this season. The WR roster is getting pretty thin.

Raise your hand if you predicted ‘Cats RB Venric Mark to be in the B1G rushing leaders team photo after two games.  Check out his company: (1) Braxton Miller (151 ypg), (2) Le’Veon Bell (144 ypg), (3) Denard Robinson (122.5 ypg) and our very own (4) Venric Mark (102.5 ypg).  Yes, this is where you can have some fun. If you had told me that Venric Mark would be outrushing Wisconsin RB Montee Ball after two games I would’ve told you….

 

A season-killing image for Hoosier fans.

You may have missed the fact that Indiana’s star QB, Tre Roberson, broke his leg in the win over UMASS this past weekend. There may not be a bigger offensive loss relative to the value of his offense than say Denard Robinson or Braxton Miller in the rest of the B1G.  Roberson was averaging, get this, 11.3 yards per carry for the Hoosiers and had led them to a 2-0 start, albeit against a very weak schedule. Even more impressively, the dual-threat QB has Indiana within a whisker of leading the B1G in passing.  IU is averaging 282.5 ypg in the air trailing rival Purdue and Michigan State who are tied for the lead with 285 ypg.  Northwestern is 11th in passing offense with  173 ypg for what it’s worth.  Indiana has had a calamity on their QB depth chart based on transfers and arguably the highest ranked recruit in a generation, QB Gunner Kiel, pulling out on his commitment earlier this year. There is a neat story HERE  by ESPN.com’s Brian Bennett on Arizona Western JUCO QB transer Cameron Coffman and how lucky the Hoosiers are to have him considering how desperate the search for a QB, any QB, was after the Kiel debacle.

Brian Bennett gets back-to-back link love as he pegged the post/article you knew was coming from me, or those that follow NU closely on the subject of the non-conference letdown game. Check it out here.

LTP is making the rounds again this week and today you can check out my appearance on BC blog BCInterruption.  Brian has been great coming over here this week and also answering your questions in the comments’ section.  Let’s do the same.

Link to a link to a link…As part of the daily ritual of connecting you to all things NU I do a daily whip-around of various websites, blogs and the like. SippinOnPurple’s link to BTN sideline reporter, Lisa Byington’s blog, was a great find It’s got a bunch of great info that she wasn’t able to stuff in to the Vandy game.  The three interesting takeaways to me – 1)Venric can dunk, 2)Fitz told her about the scheduling philosophy but admitted we don’t recruit much against Vandy or Duke anymore and 3)NU is one of the few (perhaps only) FBS school that has moved a head  team physician (Tori Lindley) to the press box to get a better handle on how and why an injury occurred and to be better able to spot players limping or looking off kilter.

This week’s BTN crew is a purple mafia set. Our man and NU alum Josh Lewin, the Mets PXP announcer who was profiled HERE earlier this summer is doing play-by-play for our BC game on Saturday (2:30 pm ct).  Also, sideline reporter and NU fellow NU alum Evan “no relation” Fitzgerald, a Milwaukee-based sportscaster, is making his debut on BTN.  Lisa Byington is also a Wildcat. Sorry B1G, our folks are everywhere on screen!

LAST CALL – LTP PURPLE CHALLENGE

The LTP email inbox has been unusually light for this time of year.  We are 15 NEW season tickets short of our goal, so I wanted to do one LAST roundup to see if you may have converted fans at the Vandy game (how could you not?!!!).  If so, let me know and drop me an email.  I will have the final tally up for this weekend. So damn close. I’m hoping I can shake a few stories out of your collective pockets. Email me at laketheposts@gmail.com .

  • Technically, Vandy also played 2 BCS teams to start the season. It’s just that the 1st one was an in-conference opponent. Thus, the accurate stat is Northwestern is one of only 7 teams to play 2 non-conference BCS opponents to start the season, and the only one of those 7 to win both games.

    • Great call. Need to either a) add them as you mention or b)remove them and UNC b/c of the in-conference game. Thanks for the correction.

  • cece

    I’m happy that ND is not in the Big1G. because any conference that takes them in and does not require that they opt in for all, including football lets ND exist with their lucrative TV contract. and by the numbers, that stinks. I don’t care if the revenue that comes to them is figured without the football money, as it should be. the existence of an exception for ND, the permission for them to have their own TV channel, nationwide all the time, stinks. how is this permissible under NCAA rules? it allows a financial imbalance to persist. the least the powers that be could do is to ax the sole source TV deal. and, besides, ND seems to be no better than other schools in the thug behavior quotient, so stop with the holier than the rest of you nonsense ND. Who are they playing this week? because I root for that school.

    • GradCat

      MSU, followed by Michigan. :-)

    • wcgrad

      I don’t have a problem with a school getting a tv deal – in a vacuum. If a TV company is dumb enough to offer you a ton of money, I can’t fault you if you take it, and the NCAA isn’t going to stop an athletic department from making money off its program (it’s the “students” ahem athletes who are amateurs, not the ADs, university presidents, other profiteers et cetera). But yeah, the whole cult (ure) or ND football just never has made a lot of sense to me.

      Maybe it’s growing up in Pennsylvania in the early 90s when Penn St. was independent and played ND every year thus having a rivalry, but I’ve been annoyed by ND from an early age, long before I became an NU fan.

      The broadcaster for ND who was suspended basically adhered to the “win-at-all-costs” attitude (in his “criminal element” comments to 670 WSCR-chicago), to the point of condoning the “thug behavior” to which @cece alludes, which the athletic department rightfully rejected, and for which he was justifiably suspended.

      As a product of Catholic education prior to NU, I have a lot of respect for most Catholic institutions of higher learning, but I still would encourage my kid to look at other schools instead of ND.

  • skepticat

    This has been stated and restated to the point of nausea. Can we please use some perspective? We’re 2-0 against teams that are a combined 0-4 (both of which get to beat up on FCS teams this weekend for meaningless Ws). We’re hosting a 1-1 BC team that beat an FCS team and lost to a Miami team that Kansas State used to mop up their entire campus with. Should we win, we’ll have run the table against teams that are winless against the FBS.

    Certainly you’ve got to win the games on your schedule, and Fitz has done that so far. I’ll take and enjoy every one of them. But by any measure it’s not a very high bar we’ve had to clear, yet you can the see the thing wobble as we continue to squeak over it.

    Fitz is right: we’re not very good right now, and Rettig looks to be more Nassib than Rodgers, which should worry everyone. The sole focus should be on beating BC. Let’s get to 3-0.

    • gocatsgo2003

      Which oversimplifies things (small sample sizes and all) while also overlooking the fact that Syracuse played with USC and Vanderbilt played with South Carolina. While neither team is going to win a BCS title this year, they’ve already proven themselves as capable teams.
      I think we are very much in the same boat as a team that won’t be winning BCS titles anytime soon, but can play with and put a scare into just about any team in the country.

    • cebpd

      Dude, Syracuse played USC, #2 in country, and Vanderbilt played USC, #8 in the country. If they had played schmucks it would be one thing, but they have played elite competition in their other games, and played them well.

      Rodgers is a pretty solid QB option and Nassib is also pretty good as well.

      • Scooter

        The difference though is that Rodgers is more of a run first QB, whereas Nassib is more of a drop back passer. Rettig appears to be in the same mold as Nassib. It’s hard to say with certainty that our receivers improved as opposed to the QB just couldn’t make the throws. Rodgers is possibly the best QB of the three, but it’s possible that our success stopping him had more to do with being able to play running QBs better than passing QBs than it did with improvement.

        Personally, I’m terrified of BC, but we’ll see what happens and if the ‘cats are for real. Go ‘Cats!

        • gocatsgo2003

          Can’t forget that Vanderbilt easily has the best WR corps we will face so far. Frankly, it was embarrassing that Syracuse’s WRs ran circles around our DBs without their best player (Alec Lemon). Nassib also did a repeat of his first half/second half Jekyll and Hyde show against USC as Cuse was playing from behind (similar to our game) — 1st half: 8-16 for 85 yards and an INT; 2nd half: 22-30 for 237 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT.
          From what I can tell, BC doesn’t really have any true game-breaking threats at WR after Swigert went down with an injury, though Rettig can sling the ball around the yard. Hopefully we can keep up the pressure if/when we get up on BC.

        • skepticat

          Scooter, thanks for clarifying/making my point. I didn’t say Rodgers is a bad QB. I’m saying our secondary will likely be thrown into the fire against Rettig much like they were against Nassib; almost certainly much more so than they were against Rodgers.

    • wcgrad

      I’m all for being skeptical about the strength of our D, despite the Vandy performance. And I don’t think anyone is saying that we are a B1G championship contender at this juncture (and if you are, maybe you should rewind yourself). There are still a lot of reasons to become more optimistic about this team based on the first two games, not the least of which is Fitz’s “we’re not very good right now.” He probably wouldn’t say that unless he knew the ceiling of this team is much higher.

      But let’s look at the statistic you quote: our opponents are winless against the FBS. First of all, half the games our opponents played are against us, so throw those results out of the stat. Second as @6bee1f8bba2971769f3d83aef83a7c6b:disqus points out, 100 % of our opponents’ other games have been against top 10 competition.

      Very few teams have played one opponent of higher quality than either Vandy or Syracuse and come out with a W.

      • wcgrad

        that should have read ‘@ cebpd’ – but the @ tags aren’t working….

    • skepticat

      Yes, I do know who Vanderbilt and Syracuse have also lost to. So what can we say, we can beat teams that lose to the best? It’s a pretty short season to be stockpiling the “quality” losses. We’re gonna be 1/4 of the way through the schedule with no real gauge of our opponents, other than that they haven’t been embarrassed by teams heavy on the pre-season hype.

      “We’re 2-0 against the BCS!” Well, ok. We had a quality BCS win last year too. Then we lost to a 3-win Army team while that quality win put together a 4-win season. Let’s wait until these teams accomplish something before thumping our chests too much. Come the end of the season, I don’t think we’ll get much credit for beating teams that can rack up losses to quality opponents.

      And even then, who cares? NU is notorious for letdowns. Just beat BC.

      And BTW, since when has 5 years at NU cost $60,000? :-/

      • Wildcat86

        @8093c16d7706de2f52aab062d602955c:disqus Fitz was referencing the PER YEAR value of the scholarship; all in, it costs over $60k per year at NU these days.

        • skepticat

          OK, that makes sense. And now that you mention it, I seem to remember reading somewhere that the scholarships are only given for a year at a time — I was thinking it was a 5-year scholarship.

  • Elston Gunn

    North Carolina has not played two BCS opponents. Their first game was against Elon. Perhaps you meant NC State, who has played Tennessee and UConn. However, in that case, the comment about one of these being a conference foe doesn’t apply.

    • Great catch Elston! My source was the NU game notes, which has since been corrected (I believe). Auburn was also added to the list, and yes it was NC State not UNC. LTP regrets the error.

  • Program Alert! Dan Persa will be joining us on LTP for a unique perspective on the mentality of playing QB in limited series, plus update us on his health status and a host more. You’re going to enjoy it.

  • Sherman and Noyes

    Does anyone know how the ND move impacts our home and home agreement with them?