Syracuse has a new head football coach. His name is Scott Shafer and the former Michigan DC and most recent ‘Cuse DC is obviously no stranger to Northwestern. Shafer’s appointment to replace the recently departed Doug Marrone, who took the Buffalo Bills top coaching post. This completes the 2013 Northwestern opponent coaching search which comprised a full 33% of our opponents. Cal has Sonny Dykes at the helm, Western Michigan just added NIU ’04 alum, PJ Fleck as their head man, and obviously Bret Bielema’s vacancy in Madtown was filled by Gary Andersen, the former head coach at Utah State. I’m a big fan of transition years for opposing coaches, although we fell to one such coach – Bill O’Brien – this past year. With the ‘Cuse on the rise and now needing to transition both to a new coach and one who won’t have Ryan Nassib at QB, it is a slight advantage in stability for NU. Any edge matters.
Separately, we talked in advance of the Gator Bowl about the potential fruits of a win and what it does for the off-season. Well, just a week later and the first ESPN “way too early” preseason 2013 poll is out and Northwestern cracks the list at #22, ahead of Michigan, Oklahoma State AND USC. Considering the amount of talent we return on both sides of the ball and the much improved defense, I frankly think our team, which finished 16/17 in the final Coaches/AP polls is underrated. Shocking, I know. We’ll be tracking and linking to the dozens of preseason lists that will attempt to fill the void between national signing day in early February and the start of fall camp in July. Along the way, Northwestern recruiting will be monitored as well, as we’re just about done with 2013 and already on to 2014. Scout.com has NU ranked 28th in the nation in recruiting for 2013, thanks to the recent star bump from three stars to four stars for stud RB, Godwin Igwebuike.