Sparty ’13 Football Game Just Got Better, Plus LTP Bowl Mania Update & More…

‘Tis the season.  I just love reading about early entry candidates from various Northwestern opponents. It is just one more data point that gives me a bit more bounce when we face those competitors in the coming season, knowing they’ll be without their top returning player(s).

Michigan State RB Le’Veon Bell became the third Spartans standout in a week to say good-bye to East Lansing. Bell reportedly informed Mark Dantonion on Wednesday night and will join B1G bad boy, DE William Gholston,  and TE Dion Sims to leave after their junior years for greener (sorry, couldn’t resist) pastures of the NFL.  Bell was the nation’s third leading rusher with 1,793 yards on a brutal workload of 382 carries as he literally carried the Spartans all year long. Meanwhile, match-up nightmare Dion Sims, the 6-7 stellar receiver is also bolting for the big leagues. William Gholston was a one-man offensive coordinator’s nightmare as he simple created all kinds of chaos in the backfield.  This is fantastic news for Wildcat fans as the heart and soul of the Spartans offense, along with their best defensive player, all of whom could’ve technically returned for the November 23 senior day clash, are now putting pressure on younger Spartans to emerge to pick up the slack.

In other B1G news, Penn State head coach, Bill O’Brien, one of the more decorated coach of the year recipients, has decided to spurn the NFL and stay at Penn State claiming that the kids committed to him to stay and that he can’t in turn leave them. It’s great to actually see a modicum of loyalty still around and had he left it would’ve felt downright icky, don’t you think?


We’re getting down to the final points in the LTP Bowl Mania contest. There are huge stakes on the line this year – the right to host the LTP Bowl Mania Trophy for a year – a 1996 Gary Barnett game-worn NU jacket.  Don’t call it a comeback, but I’m not quite out of it yet. I’ve had a resurgence starting on New Year’s Day, as I left all of my high number point games for now.  Thanks to Oregon last night, I moved up to 344 total points with a whopping 130 still left, which means I technically can catch FireCarmody, the current leader, who has 454 points, but just 10 PPR. It should be noted that FireCarmody picked AGAINST Northwestern (shame on you!) so rooting interest in him is suspect at best at this point based on that fact. In second place is Dan Baren with 443 with 43 PPR and in third is THEREAL Purple Wildcats with 429 points and 67 PPR. However, keep an eye on the fourth place Bruce 27505 who has 426 points but 89 PPR. For that matter, there are a TON of people still in contention. Heck, I’m in 103rd place in the LTP pool and still alive. Just look at 29th place “Wilcox” who has 395 points, but 104 PPR. You go up and down the list and there are quite a few of you in the high 300s with nearly 100 PPR left.  I’ve got Texas A&M tonight, Ole Miss tomorrow and my biggest point total of all is on Kent State.  You really don’t have to guess who I have in the national title game.

Heart Warming Angle On Win #50

You might remember that on Christmas Day that reader Zach Benjamin put up a free ticket to any Wildcat fan with one catch – they had to sit with him. Well, Mary Szymkowksi, took him up on that offer and could not have been more grateful. It turns out Mary really wanted to go, but it just didn’t make economic sense based on committing to some remodeling at her Wildcat friendly house. Well, this freebie was the nudge she needed and get this, it was within days of her 50th birthday. That’s right, Mary celebrated her 50th birthday watching Fitz earn his 50th win and of course, the bowl streak breaking euphoria-inducing win. Mary deserved this as much as anyone as she was at NU from ’80-’84 and likely never thought she’d ever see anything like this in her lifetime. Better yet, as I tried to explain in the post on New Year’s Day night, she made a new friend as we all seemed to down in Jacksonville. Here is Mary with her new bud, Zachary. Very cool story.

Zachary & Mary entered the game as strangers and left as friends celebrating the "w"!

Perception Changing Data Points

The emails are pouring in. They can also be found in the comments section. Fans sporting purple on their way back to the far corners of the States have been stopped by randoms and congratulated. A reader stopped in Tulsa and was congratulated on the win and praised for having Fitz as a coach. A Delta flight was congratulated by the pilot before takeoff. I was stopped in the Providence airport by a random and told what an exciting program we have. And then there is Michael McNerney. Michael is a diehard ‘Cats fan and well, displaced, would be an understatement. Mike found himself in Georgia for the game. As in the country, south of Russia, not the state. He somehow rigged his IPad to get WatchESPN and brought it to dinner with a group of friends that included Miss Bellarussia.  His email was hilarious as he tried to explain the randomness of being at a dinner table with a group that knew nothing about football and how he said “screw it” and pulled out the IPad at dinner and proceeded to get the group fired up about the ‘Cats. Apparently the 64-year drought is universal across sports and language barriers. Mike had them singing the fight song, celebrating with Vodka and genuinely getting them engaged. You’ll note that Mr. McNerney chose to take his photo with only the ladies, but regardless, there is a new outpost of Wildcat fans.

LTP N Flag Project

Jay Turley put this beautiful shot on the board on New Year’s Day. The shot was taken at Sea Island, GA, not far from Jacksonville.

Go Cats!

  • zeek

    Greenstein is saying the Big Ten is looking at shifting Northwestern into the East and Illinois into the West (among other changes).

    I really don’t like that idea; hope it doesn’t happen.

    • Chasmo

      Am I the only one who feels that a pure east-west split — especially since NU can no longer be considered one the conference’s weakest teams — makes the most sense for all involved?
      East — Rutgers, Maryland, Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Indiana.
      West — Purdue, Illinois, Northwestern, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska.
      Is the East slightly stronger on paper than the West? Yes.
      But is the difference so great that it should break up so many of the natural rivalries that an East-West split would maintain? No.

      • Nate

        So it’s true that the B1G is going to East-West divisions? I was led to believe that Illinois would move to the Legends division and Rutgers and Maryland would move to the Leaders, similar to what you did there Chasmo.

        Two years into this division stuff and a conference championship game and I’m already not fond of it.

    • CM

      Greenstein also added that NU officials are resisting a move to the East (thankfully), and that they think we will stay in the West. Although the divisions becoming an East/West split is still speculation, it seems that is the most probable route for the conference to take and if it is, I certainly don’t want to be shifted to the East. Joining Ohio State and Penn State on a yearly basis and at the expense of losing either our Illinois or Iowa rivalry? No thanks. Not to mention losing proximity for road-trips (trading Iowa City, Champaign, Madison, Minneapolis, West Lafayette in exchange for DC, State College, Columbus, NYC). That would be terrible. I’ll take those destinations…on a rotating basis. Not every other year.

      • JM

        Could not agree more. Road-tripping is central to B1G football, if you ask me. Also, losing the likes of Iowa and Minnesota for annual games with Rutgers and Maryland would not be good for the gate at Ryan Field.

      • NUMBalumDave

        Second that. Proximity is important, especially if you want students to road trip to the games.

    • Can you share the link. Can’t find it on the terrible Trib site.

      • zeek

        It’s all just tweets on his twitter account.

  • CM

    Oh, and DE Will Gholston is also headed to the NFL draft. Tough start to the off-season for Sparty.

    • Oh yeah. That too. Will add!

      • CSCat

        Also hearing rumors that DC Narduzzi headed to USC…could be more bad news for Sparty.

        • skepticat

          Lol. You said “nard”.

        • That would be huge. iMO he is the best DC in the B1G

    • cebpd

      probably wouldn’t have been eligible for next season anyways.

  • FloridAlum

    LTP, Mary was at the Purple Party on New Year’s Eve (I think she’s a buddy of TampaWildcat), so she had a pretty great trip to Jacksonville.

  • CrankyCat

    Where’s the Miss Belarus pic? Of all the pictures to omit…

  • Cliff Garstang

    Vote for Quentin Williams in this ESPN Poll for Best B1G Bowl Performance:

  • skepticat

    I think I just decided, regardless of where the Cats’ next bowl is, I’m going to Georgia to watch it.

  • PDXCat

    Unrelated. Patriots sign Kafka. Would be nice to see a situation like Bledsoe/Brady transpire with Brady/Kafka. Hey, a guy can dream, right?

  • WildcatSteve

    Can i go with…shhhh what a way to celebrate! IMHO i don’t care who stays for who or leaves! This team believes it can play with anybody and so do I.

  • Scott Feeney

    I can’t believe you complimented Bill O’Brien. His comments that he was not “a one and done” guy after interviewing with the Browns insults everyone’s intelligence. Obviously, at a minimum, he was mildly considering bolting from PSU or he would not have entertained the interview in the first place. And if he was so committed to PSU he would not have interviewed in the first place. He would have been more intellectually honest to say that he was thinking about leaving but none of the NFL jobs turned out to be the offer he was ideally looking for. Although not a perfect analogy, some of his comments struck a similar cord to those made by Gary Barnett several years ago after he had just interviewed for the Georgia, UCLA, and Detroit Lions jobs, before he bolted to Colorado. Do you recall Barnett talking all holier than though about how he did not feel the Northwestern program was on a secure track forward where he could leave the program. On the up side, his disingenuousness should shake the faith of recruits that he will be around for a prolonged period of time and set off the warning signals that he is already exploring ways out of Penn State. Hope we can snag some of their recruits. GO CATS!

    • You’re probably right. Taking the interview was clearly a leverage play and full commitment equals saying no from the beginning. I guess I’ve become accustomed to coaches leveraging better deals as the norm. Don’t think fitz won’t be/isn’t doing the same. With the top four paying jobs in the b1g paying another league from where he is, he is one repeat season away from jackpot money.

      • Scott Feeney

        Hopefully Fitz is one of the few who realizes what a great deal he has at NU. Sure he could earn more money elsewhere, pro or college, but would he have job security? If Fitz stays at NU, all he has to do is win 7 games a year and he is unlikely to ever lose his job. Look at folks like Levell Edwards former coach at BYU or Paterno. Never the highest paid coaches, but institutions in the areas where they lived.