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….
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 email@example.com .