It may not be the end of the world as we know it, but it sure as heck feels like the end of the business year today as office places seem to be ghost towns as holiday parties have folks nursing hangovers and focus is anywhere but on work for many of you. So, we figured a Friday afternoon dose of purple diversion would be good. First up, Fitz has sent everyone home for the holidays after some quality practice time. Next week, the ‘Cats head to Jacksonville, and as you’ll see in this video interview filed by Scout’s Chris Emma, he has a regular game week protocol in place. There are some great nuggets in here, especially about up-and-comers that have stepped up this bowl practice season like DB Dwight White and DL CJ Robbins:
Chicago Tribune’s Teddy Greenstein
LTP regular guest, Teddy Greenstein returns to offer up his perspective on all things Northwestern football. He’s got a great feature teed up for Sunday on one fan who is about to do something that perhaps no other fan has ever done. That’s my best Mike Greenberg-esque tease I could do. We’ll follow-up with that on Sunday. But now, let’s catch up with the Wildcat beat reporter for the Chicago Tribune….
LTP: As the guy who has been there every step of the way in the NU annual bowl prep, has Fitz made significant changes in his approach both tactically and/or mentally? If so, how?
TG: Well, some years the team goes to a Blackhawks game during its “bowl week” in Chicago, but that would have taken some serious favors this time around. Re: tactics … my sense is that Fitz feels the ‘Cats can beat Mississippi State by sticking to what they do best – run the ball (max out on the Kain/Venric combo) and stop the run.
Some of the players told me that Fitz gave them a little more time off their legs this year. Part was because of how the practice schedule worked out with finals and some was due to that ultra-physical game with Sparty on Nov. 17.
LTP: You’re a NY guy transplanted in the shadow of Chicago’s Big Ten Team. What’s your personal take on the addition of Rutgers and Maryland? Put on the purple filter. Other than the obvious tip of the hat to those markets’ strong NU alumni presence, what impact do you see it having in Evanston in the next few years?
TG: I am a big fan of the Rutgers addition, and not only because it will get me some free trips to NYC/NJ. Rutgers is in a talent-rich state (good for NU recruiting) and I can understand why its fans weren’t fired up to watch Big East football. How ‘bout when Penn State or Michigan or Wisconsin or even Northwestern (lots of alums in the area) come to town? Major potential there – and I can envision the conference getting rich off some game at Met Life Stadium, where the Jets and Giants play.
As for Maryland? Meh. Does little for me, though I like that it’s the alma mater of poker analyst/funnyman Norman Chad. I was surprised to read the Washington Post story that painted a picture of the Big Ten kneeling at Maryland’s feet. Should have been the other way around, given the disastrous finances of that athletic program.
It will be very interesting to see what the Big Ten does re: divisions. And if they do to 7-teamers or just wait for what seems inevitable – two 8-teamers (or four 4-team pods).
LTP: Interesting on the B1G perspective re: Maryland, I hadn’t heard that. I had heard how the president of Maryland moved heaven and earth, including some pretty weighty stakeholders in the beltway in incredibly quick fashion. Explain the difference in “vibe” this 2012 team has compared to others. It seemed like last year with guys like Persa and Peters, there was senior leadership and chemistry, but several times guys like Kain Colter and Brian Mulroe have cited the close-knit factor of this team. What’s your take on this team and whether or not it can carry over to 2013?
TG: That’s a tough one. Sometimes you hear things about former players/teams, but it’s not worth repeating without first-hand knowledge. Persa was a fantastic role model as a guy who busted his tail, I know that. And Peters would drag guys into the weight room if he felt they were slacking. This team also has great leadership. Kain and Venric have a swagger, not to mention NFL-level talent, and that gives their teammates confidence.
LTP: In the way-too-early to take seriously predictions, what do you think the bar for NU is in 2013 based on a)a win in the bowl game and b)a close look at the schedule?
TG: Man, why aren’t you asking me about 2015 yet? And whether Fitz’s young sons will be 4-star recruits?!?
Nah, I understand. It is fun to look ahead. As you know, the ‘Cats open at Cal, and the Bears have a new dynamic with coach Sonny Dykes. I’m sure his team will sling it around 50-plus times a game. Those matchups are usually nightmares for the Cats, but the secondary should be solid next year after losing only Jared Carpenter and Demetrius Dugar. Or the game could turn out to be a major struggle, a la the Syracuse opener this season. The Cal game could be an outdoor version of that.
Then, thanks to Vandy chickening out, the Cats have three manageable home games – Syracuse, Western Michigan and Maine.
Ohio State and Wisconsin jump back on the schedule, but there’s still no Purdue. Also gone: Indiana and Penn State. All that adds up to a tough slate, but how much is NU lovin’ having Illinois as its protected crossover rival?
LTP: Yeah, the 2013 schedule is pretty tough when you add Wisconsin and Nebraska on the road in that mix. Yikes. What storyline or player do you feel is the most underrated/untold from this team this year?
TG: Hmmm … I’m working on a piece about Kyle Prater. I’m not shocked by his lack of statistical impact (8 catches for 47 yards) but a little surprised. Trevor Siemian was more up-and-down than I expected, but I’m sure it’s not easy to attempt 35 passes one week and one the next.
I thought NU’s linebackers had an exceptional season. Chi Chi Ariguzo got the love for being the big-play guy, but David Nwabuisi was fantastic in the second half of the season and Damien Proby rock-solid.
Also fans should appreciate Jeff Budzien. Field-goal percentage around college football was down, at least through the first month of the season, and Budz was a stud. If NU’s offense gets him five yards closer against Nebraska, he’s 18-for-18 with a game-winner against the Huskers.
LTP: Favorite ‘Cats moment in 2012? Favorite player for sound bite? Your personal favorite story?
TG: I’ve got a funny one. Before fall camp, I wrote about NU’s plethora of receivers and included Venric in that group. Ace media relations guy Scott Hammer kindly reminded that Venric moved to tailback late last season. A few weeks later I’m in Kenosha watching practice and someone tells me: Venric will be THE guy. Not Mike Trumpy. Not Treyvon Green. Not Malin Jones. Glad I wrote that because – holy crap – was that guy proven right.
Venric had a remarkable season, and I enjoyed writing about his family through the eyes of both his mother and godmother. Wonderful people.
LTP: Indeed, an incredible story. I meant to ask him about that brushing motion he did in the Illini game after every play, can you add that to your list of questions as well? Here is the story Teddy referenced on Venric Mark and his family from mid-October. Teddy, thanks for playing and we’ll see you down in Jacksonville.
LTP Bowl Mania
Now is when I kick myself. Thanks to BYU’s win last night I’m now 3-0 like so many of you. The difference? I have a TOTAL of six points to date which puts me at the back of the 230-member LTP Bowl Mania pool. Tonight, I’m going against the grain and picking Ball State to upset UCF, which only about 25% of America picked. Meanwhile, the top of the LTP leaderboard belongs to Chart Moose, with 82 total points and close behind him are #VenricMackDaddy at 80 and Love Me Some Venric Mark at 75 points. We should start to see some separation by mid next week while for now everyone is still in the mix.
Here Comes Stanford
The Cardinal are in town and while this game would be pretty big news on the football field, there isn’t a ton of buzz for the 7-4 team entering Welsh-Ryan Arena. The ‘Cats have been devastated by injuries to date along with the suspension of JerShon Cobb, so tonight will be very interesting. The Cardinal will be pounding it downlow to big man Dwight Powell, a 6-11 center who has three straight 20+ point performances, including a road loss at #25 NC State earlier this week. Alex Olah is going to have his hands full once again.
Stanford plays primarily man which is good for us and our offense. It will be interesting to see if either Demps or Cerina are able to play tonight as they both could help a ton in this match-up. Stanford has beaten the teams they should have and lost to their quality opponents like ranked Missouri and NC State and Minnesota. They have one UIC-like loss, a squeaker to Belmont that is an obvious eyesore on the resume.
We’ll break it down after the game tonight. In other Stanford news, head football coach David Shaw got a much-deserved contract extension as our recruiting nemesis has gone from being behind us as a program to now an annual BCS team. I can’t wait until we resume that series which we do when we open the 2015 season with the Cardinal in Evanston.
LTP Bar Network Update – Milwaukee
Keep the Gator Bowl Watch Party info coming. We’ve updated the LTP Bar Network page as of today and there are a few new venues for the Gator Bowl in various cities. Such is the case in Milwaukee. You can soak up the sights of our streak-breaking potential win with fellow Wisconsinites here:
Mo’s on Bluemound
(Mo’s Irish Pub -10842 West Bluemound Road – Wauwatosa)
Complimentary hors d’oeuvres & Northwestern door prizes!
RSVP (appreciated but not required) by December 29, 2012 E-mail – Joe Gadbois at email@example.com