Gator Bowl Bits, The Battle For Barnett’s Jacket & Winning the Egg(head) Bowl

We are just two days away from the start of the college bowl season and LTP fans get to compete for much more than pride this season in our ESPN College Bowl Mania contest. That’s right, the winner gets to host Gary Barnett’s game-worn 1996 jacket for the entire year. There are braggin’ rights and then there is this. Forget about the green jacket, we’ve got the purple one and it is coveted. By now you know the rules. Simply click here, follow the 1-2-3 sign-up instructions (don’t worry, it is free) and search for the group “LTP”.   Rank all 35 bowls based on your confidence factor. We’re hoping to eclipse the 200 contestant mark for the first time ever, and after launch day (yesterday) we were already at 75 and counting. Now, on to other news and notes:

Mississippi State Back-Up RB Out For Gator Bowl

Bad news for Bulldogs fans. MSU back-up RB, Nick Griffin, is out for the season after tearing his ACL on Saturday at practice in preparation for the Gator Bowl. The 6-0, 225 back rushed for 223 yards in 2012.

Mark Talks About Wearing Out MSU Impressive D-Line

Jack McCarthy of ComcastSportsNet Chicago had a nice feature on Pat Fitzgerald and Venric Mark’s perspective of Mississippi State and some of the specific challenges they present. Fitz gushed about Jim Thorpe award winner, Johnathan Banks, the nation’s top defensive back, along with the impressive D-line. Venric Mark, also impressed by the sheer size of the Bulldogs line, was very Venric in his confidence talking about how he thinks NU can wear them out with the option. I found it interesting that Fitz made the comparison between Dan Mullen’s squad and both Iowa and Michigan State – “downhill running” teams that invoke the, gulp, play-action (our nemesis!).

‘Cats Voted BCS National Champ – In Top 25 Meets Academics, Time Magazine Blog

This article is the single most emailed link I’ve received in months. Sean Gregory, a writer for Time, covered one of the more unique CFB meets academics rankings I’ve seen and Northwestern was ranked #1 in the nation (using a pool of only Top 25 teams).  The New America Foundation puts out the list and its methodology is a bit more complex than the NCAA level stuff. It uses things like graduation context for each football program as it relates to the general student body, as well as by white-to-white and African-American-to-African-American comparisons. You can read much more about it above, but Northwestern, ranked #20 in the AP, gets the nod as the #1 overall program, while NIU surprises just about everyone, especially when you consider their football graduation rate is nearly 20% below Notre Dame. Hey, as a PR tool, any time you rank Northwestern #1, you know I’m a sucker for promoting it.  For those in the know, the Mississippi State-Ole Miss game is known as the Egg Bowl. This? Well, we’ll call it the crown of the Egghead Bowl and be very happy about it.

So Much For That Theory

Just Tuesday we had USA Today’s Paul Myerberg join us to talk about the potential preseason rankings love we’d get with a win over Mississippi State and its potential impact. Well, Athlon has ALREADY come out with their preseason Top 25 and NU didn’t make the cut (shocking, lack of respect…that would be sarcasm). The ‘Cats are on the edge in this countdown, but I’m convinced if we can beat the cowbell team, we’ll be getting all kinds of love.

Speaking of Cowbells

Teddy Greenstein tweeted yesterday that the Gator Bowl has allowed Mississippi State fans to bring cowbells in to the stadium.

Gator Bowl Fun Facts

Let’s start leaking out some history and pageantry about the Gator Bowl for fans to start acclimating to a relatively recent B1G add in the bowl line-up.

  • The ‘Cats January 1 game marks only the 12th time a B1G team will play in the Gator Bowl and the record is none too kind. The B1G sports just a 2-8-1 mark in the game.
  • The ACC leads all leagues with 41 appearances, followed by the SEC with 37 and then the league formerly known as the Big East is third with 18. The B1G is next.
  • Florida (9), Clemson (8), Georgia Tech (7) and North Carolina (7) lead with most games played in the bowl game that dates back to 1946.
  • Florida beat Ohio State 24-17 in last year’s bowl which was a virtual infomercial for Urban Meyer.
  • Mississippi State played in this very bowl, just two seasons ago, and you might remember, ended RichRod’s Michigan career with a 52-14 thumping. Dan Mullen was the coach of that team as well.
  • Some notable game MVPs include Michael Vick, Phillip Rivers, Donovan McNabb, and Thurman Thomas.
  • Four Heisman Trophy winners have played in this game.
  • Everbank Field, home of the Jacksonville Jaguars, is the site of the game and holds 77,510

More Awards Trickle In

Congratulations to Wildcat freshmen CB Nick VanHoose, SB Dan Vitale and DE Dean Lowry, all of whom were named to the B1G All-Freshmen team.

Cushing Props

Adam Rittenberg of fame tabbed NU OL coach, Adam Cushing, as one of the top B1G assistants of 2012 thanks to the drastically improved run game and the role the line had in that.



  • Mark

    Funny novel about big time college football – SEC style – for the holidays: “Love’s Winning Plays” by Inman Majors. Laugh out loud funny by someone who grew up around a father and uncles, including Johnny Majors, who played and coached.

    • Cliff Garstang

      Hey! Inman is a friend here in Virginia–my group hosted a reading he did recently. It definitely is a funny book. (But he’s a Vandy alum . . .)

  • NUMBalumDave

    If the Cats went 24-0 over two seasons, won both bowl games, and returned all their 3-year starters they STILL would not be pre-season ranked. As Keith Jackson once noted, “This Northwestern we’re talking about.”

    I say, good. Locker room posting material. (cue the theme from Underdog)

  • Sharon S.

    Is there any word yet on how the Gator Bowl ticket sales are going? I’m curious because the stub hub prices (for tickets in the NU section!) were MUCH cheaper than that official ones through NU.

    • From TG on Twitter: FYI re: #Northwestern Gator Bowl ticket sales: School won’t release figures but says sales up 47% over last yr (Houston).

      • My interpretation…it was low last year and 2X1 = great increase. Bottom-line, boosters step-up and purchase unsold tickets making us technically a great draw since we sellout our allotment.

      • I am buying my tickets today. Just have to confirm any last-second people who want to join my party!

    • NUMBalumDave

      A difficulty for far-flung alums (like me and mine) is the inability to guarantee tix through NU. We have bowl priority points, but haven’t held season tix in several years, and our points are likely relatively low by now (whereas they used to be relatively high due to my wife being an N Club member). So, here you are trying to make travel plans etc etc and you can’t find out if you have tix until the 17th?? Sorry, NU, but I bought mine on the B1G side through the Gator Bowl site. On the 40.

      Say, NU, now that the band is run by the athletic department, how’s about some priority points for us NUMBalums, huh?

      • Sharon S.

        I agree. I feel badly we didn’t buy through the school but it’s expensive enough to get to a bowl game as a Young Alum already. At least we’re going and contributing to the purple in the stadium!

      • I second the “NUMBALUMS should get priority points” issue. Good thought.

        • NUMBalumDave

          This issue was brought up practically the minute (i.e., 1995) they Wildcat Priority Point system was devised. The system rewards devotion to the athletic department for donors, season ticket holders, and letter winners. No argument there, But we asked if they would consider offering some amount of points to band alums, and the answer was no. Back then it probably made sense to exclude band participation, if for no other reason than that you could not adequately administer it. But now that the bands are actually athletic bands, I wish they would revisit this issue.

      • cece

        this is a situation that the Athletic Department should fix. glad you will be at the game.

  • cece

    Cowbells. well, this is a time when “more cowbell” is not welcome. so what do we do about that noise? what else are we allowed to bring in? how does the team work with the cowbell noise in their ears? memories of the Nebraska game literally ringing in my ears and hopes for the offense that this will not make a difference. and usually the cowbells and such are not allowed during regular season games. I’ve seen someone get the bells taken away. what the what?!?

    • Catatonic Joe

      What is good for the goose is good for the gander. We must be able to bring some noisemakers ourselves. Is anyone looking into this on behalf of NU? I would rather do something of our own, but if we know that cowbells are permitted, we could bring our own and give MSU a taste of its own medicine.

      • NUMBalumDave

        Agreed. If Gator Bowl allows them, we should bring them. If we threaten to bring them enough, they may ban them. I’ve already emailed them suggesting this is a bad idea that can get out of hand.

        • Seriously, stop this. It makes this into a distraction for everyone, when we need to focus on beating MSU. Fitz should obviously practice with crowd noise factored in, but let’s not make this a sideshow that ends up distracting all of us, or worse, the team.

          • Mr Marbles

            As we learned in the post-game interviews, Fitz did not prepare for crowd noise before the Nebraska game–even
            though you, me, and everyone that has ever been to Ryan Field knew there
            would be a sea of red at that game. So maybe Fitz and the team really
            should be distracted/prepared with this news.

            Also, and I only question
            this because you said you were serious before your scolded our distracted commentators, would you like to explain why it
            is so important that the readers of this blog remained focused on
            beating MSU? Will anything change if we focus on beating MSU vs focusing on unicorns prancing in a forest?

          • You know very well how these things go — fanbase builds cowbells into an issue, journalists pick up on it, it becomes a question to players, and then the whole story about the bowl game is no longer about Northwestern vs. Mississippi State and the B1G vs. SEC and Northwestern’s great season, but rather “Wow, listen to those cowbells! How will Northwestern deal with that noise?!”
            The cowbells are fun, and while loud, hardly worth paying attention to.
            What we should be focused on is getting fans in purple to the Gator Bowl, supporting our team, and keeping the focus on how successful Northwestern’s season has been and future will be. I just think fans being petty about “Oooooh, MSU is bringing cowbells! Whatever will we do?!?!” is beneath us as a fanbase.

          • NUMBalumDave

            I disagree, for two reasons.

            1. The only people who will care about this issue are the fans at the game. Unless the place is filled with vuvuzelas, the media won’t care about the cowbells. The only distraction that counts is whether the team is distracted and they won’t be. Not by this.

            2. An official assured me that the athletic department and the conference argued against the cowbells. Why is this important? Because the conference couldn’t/wouldn’t let us play in Cap One, and now they can’t even get the Gator Bowl to enforce it’s OWN policy against noisemakers in our favor. This issue is not beneath us, because it shows just how little regard the bowl has for us as fans, and how the conference is not willing to go to the mat for us as a team with this noise thing. I think it is a big deal. No one is calling anyone else names or trash talking or anything like that. That kind of activity is beneath us. But arguing for a fair playing environment and a good fan experience is beneath us, somehow? I disagree.

            So someone decided, “Aw, those stupid cowbells just are not worth arguing about.” Well, neither was our participation in Cap One. What else isn’t worth arguing about on NU’s behalf?

          • It is unfair and I am glad the Big Ten has fought the SEC on the cowbell issue. They will make a lot more noise. I am sure, unlike the home game against Nebraska, I think Fitzgerald and his team can prepare for the cowbells. it is a little different, but not entirely.

            The thing I like about the bowl games is that we get to share our traditions with a fan base we don’t see all the time. The cowbell tradition is very important to Mississippi State fans, I would not want to take it entirely away from them.

          • cece

            thanks for the info PRR and all. it is mystifying how one school’s tradition is allowed to triumph rules and have potential to affect play. the next time I see the fan in Ryan Field who had the purple leather strap and the cowbell, I’m finding her a lawyer. Noise up.

          • Yeah, there are some interesting stories about it. I remember seeing an ESPN report on it maybe at one point. The Mississippi State stadium doesn’t allow cowbells officially either. But everyone sneaks them in and it isn’t enforced or something. I will suggest to LTP to get a “history of the cowbells” explanation when we begin making serious bowl preview preparations.

        • NUMBalumDave

          An NU official assures me that this issue has been argued forcefully by the school and the conference. At least they’ve tried.

          I am rethinking going to the bowl game. This really fries me.

    • NUMBalumDave

      No one wants to go the vuvuzela route. No one.

    • NUMBalumDave

      From the Gator Bowl’s own web site, and I quote, “PROHIBITED….. * Noisemakers…”

    • The cowbells are a tradition at Mississippi State I think that is why they might betting an exception. So bring extra car keys to jingle.

    • byebyefitz95

      Wow….total freak out.

  • Cliff Garstang

    Cap One Wanted NU

    Once we get our bowl win out of the way, I hope we go back to aiming for the best bowl with the most exposure.

  • MD1956

    I don’t know. The NUAA Charter didn’t sell and was cancelled. I was able to get a room at the team hotel yesterday and $7K for 48 hours in Jacksonville is a lil sttep IMHO

    • NUMBalumDave

      You mean $700, not $7000, right?

    • byebyefitz95

      Dude jax sucks. Shitty bars and just spread all over. Be thankful its 48 hours and not 48 years.

  • CM

    Just submitted my LTP Bowl Mania sheet on! 91st entry!

  • For those that are curious. I did some initial research into the history of the cowbell at Mississippi State. It is an interesting little tradition. It might be annoying on Gameday, but I am all for sharing traditions. Hopefully we will be jingling our keys a lot!

    It seems like SEC rules on artificial noisemakers limit the cowbells to halftime, pregame, breaks, etc. That might be different for bowl games. And if they are allowed in the stadium, nobody is stopping anybody.

    Let’s not make this an issue and just win the ball game. Fun story though to establish the tradition though!