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 .


Can The ‘Cats Capitalize On Rare Daylight?

Adam Rittenberg deserves some high praise. The 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 might be…God, I hope we take advantage of this.


  • Mark

    Coming back from D.C. yesterday flying through Detroit Metro I drove through Ann Arbor and heard Angelique Chenguelis, who covers UofM football for a Detroit newspaper, saying you could tell how bad the Big 10 is this year when two of the undefeated teams are NU and Minnesota. Ouch! Although I agree that there are no excellent teams in the Big 10 and possibly no very good teams, I do believe that this is a year that the Cats could win their division and possibly the Big Ten title. (Caveat: I thought the same thing last year although I didn’t know Persa was going to be 50%.) UofM has greatly inhibited Robinson, the MSU passing offense is poor, and Nebraska is not yet the powerful, physical team they were before Callahan’s hiring. I do think Minny is greatly improved due to the coaching staff.

    • This is exactly one of my points. Bring that BS baggage with you. Happy to hear that nonsense should we get there. You know it will happen. Stanford had it until they went to back-to-back BCS bowls after a decade of absolute wretched play. Now, no one questions them as a “perennial top 25 power”

      • DT

        I certainly question Stanford as a “perennial Top 25” team… Two years back to back at the BCS level does not minimize the fact The Farm did not field a Top 25 team for the previous 8 years until your guy Harbaugh made it happen a couple years back… While Stanford looks competitive under Shaw again this year, the events taking place in Seattle tonight are proof positive they like most programs not named Bama or LSU, will struggle every couple years in a redbuild mode. Further, Stanford might want to refer to Northwestern in 95-96, to see how quick fame and fortune can be fleeting at the elite levels of D-1/FBC/BCS, et al.

        • Alaskawildcat

          Any takers on how far Stanford drops from #8 due to their loss to Washington? Probably not enough to open a slot for NU to move into Top 25 with NU beating Indiana. Assuming the Trees survive and end up at the Rose Bowl it would be an exciting match-up if we get there as well to play the Northwestern of the West Coast.

          • My guess is they drop to high teen range. They have the national love of beating USC still. I don’t see NU jumping them if we win.

          • DT

            With or without the Stanford loss, if The Cats take care of biz against IU, they will be a Top 25 team… On the basis of a 5-0 record, and the body of work, NU will be deserving of that nod…

          • Alaskawildcat

            Agreed, but mathematically someone has to beat someone who is in the lower quarter of the Top 25 IMHO though I guess Rutgers or Baylor could slip down even without a loss if they have close games or either are having a bye.

          • JimB

            I think they will fall into the 20’s, maybe lower. They did not look good against San Jose St either, despite winning and had no offense last night and defense was decent but gave up big plays. There are certainly more losses coming their way. They’re likely to fall from Top 25 in coming weeks. There is a LTP there, their, and they’re!

        • @DT – that was exactly my point. Two years doesn’t mean much, yet they’ve received the benefit of no one mentioning or even questioning whether or not it was a Toby Gerhart, Andrew Luck flash in the pan. You haven’t heard much media talk about whether or not Stanford will fall off (BEFORE the UW loss), you just hear them mentioned as a formidable opponent on everyone else’s schedule.

          • DT


      • JimB

        After watching them last night, Stanford is not a top 25 team even if they did beat USC. Just tells me USC was WAY over hyped as usual.

    • LondonAlum

      I am only to well aware of the sentiment that if Michigan, Ohio State or Penn State do not win the Big 10, it is a ‘down’ year. (You can probably now add MSU and Wisconsin to this list; Nebraska also probably belongs, but it is only their second year in the conference).

      At this point, we have no idea how good the Cats are. They may be a 12-0 team or they may be lucky to get to 8-4 or 7-5. However, no matter how good NU, Minnesota or Purdue really are, there are some sportswriters and fans who will believe that they should never be as good as UofM, OSU, etc. If they are, it will be a ‘down’ year for the Big 10.

      I am not sure that five or even ten years of great records by the Cats would change this sentiment.

  • nwildcat

    Amen. I feel the same way. Yes, the jitters and fear about IU still exist, but I, too, expect something very good from this team on saturday. It seems like whatever factor falters, another will pick up and go forward. We need this B1G game as a win. PSU and the U of M may seem winnable, but we’ve got to have this one to go, say, 8-4.

  • wcgrad

    C. E. Bell (formerly Chadnudj) and others at the Big Ten football blog Off Tackle Empire has coined the potential NU v. Purdue B1G championship as the “Curse of Carly Rae Jepsen” bowl, owing to a certain B1G video which ostracized those two mascots.

    Adam Rittenberg nor anyone realizes it, but this is why the B1G is down this year.

  • Cebpd

    There?? CMON MAN!!

    • Yeah, damn copy editors! I added another $1 to the “Their, they’re, there” jar. Also, misspelled “compliment”. That’s what happens when you blitz through without re-reading your own material!

  • pfoley

    Stop getting my hopes up! stop it I say!

  • cardiac_cat_fan

    i just got light-headed reading this article and probably won’t be able to sleep tonight out of too much excitement. thanks LTP

  • cece

    god speed to Mr. Ryan.

    and deepest condolences to the family and friends of Harsha Maddula. what a tragedy.

    • Alaskawildcat

      We were all hoping for a different outcome and I join you in your condolences. Unfortunately with so many questions remaining unanswered, closure will be difficult as well.

    • Agreed on both counts. I hope Mr. Ryan makes a full and healthy recovery (and, at minimum, is able to cheer on the Cats while watching on TV this Saturday).
      As for Harsha Maddula, condolences from the full Wildcat family to his family and friends. And while we don’t know what happened yet, let’s hope all of our students/fans are a little more careful going forward (whether it’s making sure to look out for each other, travelling in groups at night, etc.) so as to avoid tragedies like this.

  • birdofpreydavide

    FWIW, would love to see a Luke/ Ryder Cup post.

  • Update on Mr. Ryan. He’s doing great and went home last night…media reports were a tad bit off – he’ll be at the game on Saturday.

  • CatInTheHat

    It’s a rough morning for the Northwestern family. I know that the thoughts and prayers of the entire NU community–students, alumni, and friends–are with the Maddula family. At the risk of being frivolous at a time like this, a thought on football and LTP’s post:
    I want to believe in this team, but I will not allow myself to go there until we know a bit more about them. My mind can’t help but wander back to 2010 and a 5-0 start that had us in similar spirits. I remember that I allowed myself to bank on 6-0 and momentum that could take us to unexpected heights, only to run into the buzzsaw of a mediocre Purdue team that we all made the mistake of overlooking. I have a similar feeling about this Indiana squad. In fact, I sense that Indiana is stiffer competition than any of the FBS teams we’ve seen (and narrowly beaten) thus far. I am not sold on the notion that this is a special season yet. We’ve seen this movie before. I still see 8 wins as a reasonable expectation, but the more I look at this team and its body of work so far, the less convinced I am that we should be thinking big quite yet.

  • Cletown Joe

    On our co-QB nickname….
    2 If By Land, 13 If By Air
    It would actually work if Kain had chosen the #1 jersey.

  • Henry in CT

    There are two outstanding conferences in football this year – the SEC and PAC12. Everyone else is down. Never was this more apparent than when the probably 7th best PAC12 team UCLA beat the probably best B1G team Nebraska. The B1G is not just down; they are way down. So is this a reason for NU to celibrate? Does having a winning record in this dreadful conference mean anything at all? We had better hope for at least 5-3 and not another bowl loss.

    • DT

      Don’t give the PAC-12 too much credit, Henry… A team that got beat by 40+ points at LSU defeats the so called #8 team in the nation in a conference game… The real thing to be noted, is which conference has more legit Top 20 programs than others… The PAC-12 might have 3, but…

      • Henry in CT

        DT – I would venture that at least 8 B1G members could lose by 40 at LSU. I would also say that every PAC-12 program save possibly Utah and Colorado is strong and WSU will be. They would all contend in the B1G this year. More important, the PAC-12 has risen from also ran status to be the second best after the SEC and the only conference that comes close to being on a par with the SEC. Conversely, the B1G has steadily declined for the past 20 years at least to where it is the fifth best of the six BCS conferences and this year it might end up the worst.

        • DT

          @d7c2fdcc058d566bdff003fbdbea68f4:disqus –
          I’m surprised that you of all folks, think my lukewarm feeling about the PAC-12 is symbolic of my thinking the BIG 10 is playing at a higher level… Far from it.. As I’ve commented here, The Ten, Top to Bottom, is playing at a high Mid Major Level by any objective standard heading into conference play.. Further, I think EVERY Big 10 memeber would go to LSU and lose. I think the same fate would away every PAC-12 member as well, including SC and Oregon… After watching Rich Rod and his team make The Red Zone look like crossing Himalayas last weekend in Eugene (against a suspect “D”) and Stanford get beat by a very average Washington team, not to mention getting out with their life against San Jose State, I’d submit Zona, UDUB and The Farm are all playing a 30-50 level ball.. After losing to Stanford and watching Syracuse put big yards up against them, safe to say, USC was overrated. Cal, Oregon State and ASU may or may not be Top 25 programs when the dust settle in December, still, the jury is out.. Oregon State has played two games no less… The way I see it, Oregon, is the only lock in Top 10 from the conference and on that basis, calling the PAC-12 “outstanding” and mentioning it in the same breath as The SEC is a push if not overt hyperbole…

  • Chasmo

    The stars are aligned for NU possibly to win a Big Ten championship for the very reason that the conference as a whole is down this year and the Cats don’t play Ohio State. NU’s three previous Big Ten titles were all won under similar conditions.
    NU’s three previous championship teams were not talent-laden powerhouses by any stretch of the imagination as indicated by their bowl performances and the fact that none of those three teams produced a high-quality professional player.
    So perhaps beating Purdue or Wisconsin in Indy for the title and then getting crushed on New Year’s Day by a true college football powerhouse stacked with future NFL stars is what the future holds.
    Let’s hope for the best.