Can The ‘Cats Capitalize On Rare Daylight?
Man, I’m afraid to check the NU-related news right now! A few hours ago, several Chicago media outlets reported that the patron saint of Northwestern Athletics, Pat Ryan, was taken to the hospital via ambulance due to complications with diabetes. On behalf of the entire Northwestern community we wish for a speedy recovery!
The Trevor/Kain Nickname Need
The 2-headed QB monster at NU needs a nickname, don’t you think? Coltemian? Train? Bring it on. I wanted to direct you to a comical chart by Kenn Ruby on the comparative skillset of the two, which will make any ‘Cat fan laugh -even Trevor and Kain. I clipped a sample of it here to whet your appetite. If you like, continue here to ChicagoSideSports.com .
Can The ‘Cats Capitalize On Rare Daylight?
Adam Rittenberg deserves some high praise. The ESPN.com writer, who covers the B1G beat, offerred up the single best perspective on the awful season the conference is suffering in football. Rittenberg is no stranger to you, as many of you read his posts and excellent coverage every day. However, unlike the legions of sports’ lemmings who have simply pointed out the obvious (“the Big Ten stinks this year!”), Rittenberg went the extra mile to really address the question “why?”. He did some real journalism and leveraged his status as one of the select few who has access to B1G commish Jim Delany (and it shows as Delany was refreshingly honest in the assessment of the current performance of the football B1G-ers). He talked to Big Ten coaches and got guys like former Purdue head coach, Joe Tiller, to open up and be candid. The theories ranged from demographics to recruiting and the lack of standout QBs, which I thought to be the most flawed considering the B1G offers more household, star power dual threat QB names right now (Braxton, Denard) than any other conference. It’s great stuff, and the kind of depth that this readership has told me they like.
So, now, that context has inspired me to try and take the NU angle on all of this. It appears beyond a reasonable doubt that Northwestern has a rare opportunity to run for daylight towards the top of the Big Ten standings this season. And, from a bigger picture perspective, with what appears to be a potential plateau for 2012 teams as well based on current rosters, a chance for the ‘Cats to really build some top of the charts momentum. Can the ‘Cats capitalize on the rare daylight opportunity?
I know, I know, let’s get through Indiana before we start talking about major program perception shifts, right? My point isn’t that Northwestern is that talented that this is going to happen, my point is that the stars have lined up for the opportunity for it to happen. Fitz and company will have to course correct quite a few things to keep the wins rolling in - secondary play, a semblance of a pass rush, opportunistic red zone play – you know the drill by now. However, this was the rebuild year for NU. All eyes were on 2013 from the fan base as only the outliers were saying anything over 7 wins. Most gravitated towards a 6-6-ish record with at least one non-conference loss. The feeling of playing with house money at 4-0 and entering the most documented three game Big Ten opening stretch I can remember for NU, well, eight wins seems to be the new floor. You’ve got the BTN folks picking NU to be second behind Sparty or Nebraska in the Legends Division. You’ve got everyone pounding on B1G teams, all of whom have significant flaws.
Opportunities like this don’t come around very often. Northwestern is favored by 12 over Indiana. Penn State, while I still believe to be a very strong challenge in our house of horrors, is undeniably down. A road win at Minnesota is not nearly what we thought it might be in August, but it’s no LSU. A 7-0 start means bright lights, and the most anticipated game of meaning at Ryan Field since…since…I would argue Michigan in 1996 or Michigan in 2000. The beauty of all of this is that NEXT year was our year. We lose precious few key pieces to this team and the momentum of a resurgent team, new facilities, the Under Armour deal and what would be the final piece – mostly purple packed Ryan Field (along with renovation on the stadium!) equals a potential game-changer couple of years for our program. Recruiting would continue to go up and…well, you get the picture.
The question is will this team capitalize on the opportunity. Simply put, there is not a single team on the schedule that invokes fear to even our fan base, let alone the team. They’ve been mature beyond their experience in their seemingly all-business approach so far. The stakes get much higher starting on Saturday, but I have a quiet confidence in this team. They have yet to come close to a complete game to date, yet they know it and you truly believe it isn’t just talk. They seem unflappable. They really seem to be tight-knit and cohesive. Jeff Budzien has evolved in to a weapon. Mike Trumpy seems to be the potential power we need to complement Venric Mark’s lightning. The OL has been great opening up holes. The front seven has literally shut down the run. Sure, we’ve got major questions in the secondary, but I expect Traveon to step up as early as Saturday, just like freshman and RS freshman are all over the field.
It seems to never be like this. NU’s best teams usually coincide with times when the conference is in national supremacy mode. Could it be, that we rise above when the conference is down? I wouldn’t care what everyone else says about the B-1-G if we were to get to Indy on a “down year”. I’d invite the backhand compliments of “they’re so down, NU emerged out of the Legends Division.” Man, what I’d do to have that kind of high class problem. Meanwhile, Purdue is sitting much like we are in the Leaders Division. Fans can pooh-pooh this all they want, I’ll happily take the recruiting spoils, the media coverage and the uptick in fan interest.
Oh yeah, don’t look now, but MLB season is about to end and there may be no Chicaog team present. The NHL is on strike and I’m sorry but no Derrick Rose equals no buzz Bulls. The perfect storm of sports media vaccuum, waiting to be filled by a feel good story is there. Pete Thamel just put the SI cover jinx on undefeated Notre Dame. It could be..it might be…God, I hope we take advantage of this.