Bowl Week Buzz Building, ‘Cats In Jax & Host of LTP Nuggets
I don’t know about you, but last night as I started to really dig in on bowl season with my LTP ESPN Bowl Mania chart in hand, I couldn’t help but draw the typical Northwestern filter on the night’s events. Bowling Green was battling top 25 San Jose State and while I had picked the Spartans with a 9-spot, seeing Bowling Green’s unmistakable orange and brown colors brought me back to the Motor City Bowl in 2003 and Jason Wright’s ridiculous performance in our 2003 loss. The Spartans would come back and win last night and I was very pleased to start the night 1-0 and move to 7 for 9 in the LTP Bowl Mania pool.
The next game featured a Duke team facing a 9-win Cincinnati team in the Belk Bowl in Charlotte. Perhaps it’s my penchant for academic-minded schools or perhaps it’s my attraction to a team without a bowl win in my lifetime (Duke had not won a bowl game since 1961), but I found myself going against my 10-point pick of the Bearcats and rooting for Duke. I finally came to my senses, as the last thing I want is a future NU opponent getting any kind of program momentum. David Cutcliffe is one of my favorite CFB coaches and he had me rolling at halftime as he called out Cincinnati for intentionally drawing a 5-yard substitution penalty on a FG before the half which went from a 53-yard make to a 48-yard miss. When Cutcliffe was asked how he’d fire up Duke like he had when they marched out to a 16-0 lead he replied with that southern scathing charm of “they’re about to hear from me” and it was hilarious. As I watched Duke get gashed for big pass after big pass, the program similarities started to smart a bit. Then, with Duke on the verge of the win, tied up at 34 at Cinci’s 5-yard line in the final minute, they fumbled. Cincinnati threw a deep strike to a wide open tight end for an 80+-yard TD and it was game set match. It made me appreciate how far NU has come as that program simply looked like a team that didn’t know how to finish. Yes, I know we haven’t figured out how to finish a bowl game, but if you saw this game you’ll know what I’m talking about. Well, at least I got my 10 points and moved in to 193rd place in my own ESPN Bowl Mania category. Watch out folks, 8-for-10 and 525 PPR! By now you can tell I’ve gone with the lower points early strategy.
Then, in the nightcap, the traditional scoreboard explosion bowl, aka as the Holiday Bowl, Baylor blitzed out to a 21-0 lead. Naturally, my mind drifted to the 2005 Sun Bowl and our 22-0 lead which evaporatd like water in El Paso, Texas. At the time I’m writing this post it doesn’t look like UCLA will be able to UCLA their way back like they did against us in that infamous New Year’s Eve battle, but good riddance, it will move me to 55 points and 9-for-11 and very much in contention despite my small point total.
The Baylor win did shake things up on the LTP Leaderboard and we’ll update that in a bit as the scores had not registered yet since the Baylor game wasn’t over at the time of this posting. I’ve got Lousiana-Monroe, Rutgers and Texas Tech as my winners today so feel free to talk trash all day long should I do as I usually do about this time and start that quick fade.
‘Cats In Bowl Week Mode In Jacksonville
NU’s Doug Meffley posted this blog account of Northwestern’s practice venue at Jacksonville University, a cozy spot at the home site of the non-scholarship Pioneer Conference member’s home. The ‘Cats had media turning out to start the bowl buzz and Fitz and the ‘Cats admitted they were shaking off some rust after the Christmas layoff. According to Meffley’s report, the weather is “crisp” and was in the upper 30s when they left the hotel and the forecast calls for very cool temps. I received some great photos of ‘Cats crooning including Tyris Jones, Kain Colter and Venric apparently doing renditions of the likes of Single Ladies and Gangham Style that were, uh, forgettable.
Deck The Bowl With Purple Scarfs
NU is hoping to don you with some purple for the bowl game. The Wildcat Fund, NU Athletics’ fundraising arm, is really trying to drive last minute donations between now and January 1 to help support what Jim Phillips and company have been working so hard on to support the program. If you make a donation between now and New Year’s Day you may win a limited edition Northwestern Gator Bowl scarf and it looks like we could really use them based on the forecast! Click here to make your donation!
Yesterday the dynamic B1G dot com duo of Adam Rittenberg and Brian Bennett both submitted their bowl picks and both had NU ending its bowl losing streak (27-24 and 28-27). Well, yesterday, Northwestern received its season “report card” and NU received an “A-”. Nothing in Brian Bennett’s report will suprise you (Offense B+, Defense C+), but it does offer a good big picture reset for the season and remind us all that this was our youth/rebuild year and we’ve got win number 10 so close we can tasted it.
Teddy Greenstein had a great feature in yesterday’s Chicago Tribune on the legit NFL prospects of several Wildcats, including Brian Mulroe, Patrick Ward, Demetrius Fields, David Nwabuisi, Quentin Williams and Brian Arnfelt. You’ve got to love the anonymous quote from Teddy’s source, an NFL scout, who said “typical Northwestern group….overachievers.” The article claims that Quentin Williams has the best chance to stick based on his size. It is a fun read and you can check it out here.
Local Flavor Coverage
The ‘Cats aren’t going to be swarmed by the Florida media between now and Tuesday, but articles like this one in the Florida Times-Union offer some interesting angles, most notably the striking statistical similarities between NU and MSU’s respective offenses. The feature by Gary Smits plays to both the darn near identical point totals, offensive yards per game and even the remarkable average size of both OLs (MSU averages 1 pound more (303) than NU’s).
Mabin A Brown
Congrats to former Wildcat DB, Jordan Mabin, who was signed by the Cleveland Browns on Wednesday and is now a member of their practice squad.
LTP Northwestern N Flag Project
We’ve got a couple of new entries to post as the flag photos pour in to our email inbox at firstname.lastname@example.org . Mark Bauer checks in from the land down under with this photo from Melbourne, Australia:
Also joining the party is this unique location, the Hearst Mansion in California, thanks to Andrew Thompson. Put it on the board!