Go West; NU football “bracket” bodes well
Go West, NU Football “Bracket” Bodes Well
ESPN.com’s Adam Rittenberg has been Johnny on the Spot when it comes to all things B1G football. Yesterday, he reported the realignment and renaming of the much discussed B1G football divisions will likely be a mostly geographic east/west split. Much to the delight of many fans, the names will likely be changed to “East” and “West”. Michigan and Ohio State will be in the same division, thus eliminating the fear they could play in back-to-back games (final game of season and then B1G championship), while Indiana and Purdue are still being tossed around as to which one goes west and which one goes east.
The realignment will take place for the 2014 season to accommodate the entrance of newcomers Rutgers and Maryland. In my opinion, this is a potential gamechanger for Northwestern. Consider our potential division:
- Purdue (or Indiana)
Meanwhile, it should come as no surprise that those teams in the proposed East are squawking quite a bit about the potential imbalance. Take a look:
- Ohio State
- Penn State
- Michigan State
- Indiana (or Purdue)
I’ll take the West for 200, Alec. I’ve got to believe based on historical performance that Indiana goes to the East, while Purdue goes to the West. From a Northwestern fan’s point of view, we should be sending thank you cards to Park Ridge. It’s as if Jim Delany’s crew took a look at Northwestern’s recent historical Achilles heel teams and shoved them in the opposite division for us. About the only complaint you could have is the large New York area fan base will only get to see us play at Rutgers once every six years or so.
If you look at this through the Pat Fitzgerald era lens, five of the six opponents in our proposed division rank in the top six of Fitz’s winning percentage. Here is the order of our head-to-head for all 11 opponents in Fitz’s seven years:
Michigan State: 2-5
Ohio State: 0-3
Penn State: 0-5
Holy smokes. How ‘bout them apples? I bolded the proposed West teams above. Obviously, things change and the balance of power on any given year (see: Michigan, Iowa 2008) can shift, but all things considered, a quick glance of our division and most fans will put Nebraska and Wisconsin 1-2, if you’re looking at recent tradition. Most would probably put Iowa ahead of NU (from a record standpoint), but not even Iowa fans could put them ahead of us based on our mastery of them and the fact most are “arrow down” on the program after their 4-8 debacle in 2012.
It looks promising that we’ll be moving towards a 9-game schedule, starting as early as 2016, which would mean three crossover games per year (in addition to six division games). There is so much that will come in to play on any given season based on that variable, it is really hard to judge potential schedules until then. The fact remains, the B1G folks will do their best to balance, and likely will try to eliminate WEST teams from playing, say, Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State (or Penn State if they remain any good) in the same year.
I probably weigh history way too much. I loathe playing Penn State for this reason. They own us. We’ve beaten Ohio State once in my entire lifetime. Any scenario that us playing those two teams less is fine by me. Meanwhile, based on only two games, I think we’ve got a rivalry brewing with Nebraska. Two games, two nailbiters and split decisions. We already have their fans’ respect, which has been hard to come by against many other opponents. Plus, I feel that there is a mini-rivalry with Wisconsin based on our .500 record against them over the past 20+ years, along with some really classic finishes on both sides.
Overall, if you take the top four teams in each division and compare their past five years, it supports the strength of opponents atop these divisions is overblown (people forget about Iowa’s success and Michigan’s struggles). When you inject the traditional success and play it forward, that’s where fans say “whoa”, hold on a second. And of course, Northwestern is likely underrated by most fans when looking at the two divisions. Just the way we like it.
I meant to post the front page of the Chicago Tribune Sports paper version yesterday. As you know, Teddy Greenstein posted an article about Northwestern’s facilities, specifically Welsh-Ryan, and explored what kind of negative impact it had on recruiting. The wide shot interior photo of Welsh-Ryan, from a 2006 practice, took up about two-thirds of the page and had many of my non-Northwestern friends emailing me and talking to me about it. Teddy used Jim Phillips’ quotes about the discussion of its impact being overblown and also cited the fact anything relating to Central Street (home of Welsh-Ryan Arena) wouldn’t happen until the completion of the Lakeside practice facility, which won’t be complete until 2015. To me, the interesting part of the article was hearing from multiple current Ohio State players Lenzelle Smith Jr., Shannon Scott and Sam Thompson, who had different points of view on its impact. All three, according to Greenstein, had the grades to get in to NU and were recruited by the ‘Cats. Yet, Lenzelle gave the quote we all feared:
“When you take visits as a young kid, you want to see flashier things, new things,” Smith said during the 2012 Big Ten tournament. “Big things catch your eyes. You imagine yourself using those facilities. Hands-down, Ohio State has some top-of-the-line stuff. It’s two different worlds.” – Lenzelle Smith Jr., Chicago Tribune March 19, 2013
Teddy used his Medill skills to be fair in the article and used this Shannon Scott quote to balance Smith’s take:
“You notice it a little, but it’s not that bad. It’s a regular gym, an OK spot.”
Personally, while I think Welsh-Ryan would be painted as Cameron-like, if we were a perennial Tourney team, the bigger issue seems to be practice facilities among recruits’ perceptions. Jim Phillips and company have the market research on what fans want at Welsh-Ryan (would love to see those results) and if it had wider concourses, better concessions, seats instead of bleachers, and a 21st century scoreboard, I’d be more than fine with it.
Glass Half Full
Jim Phillips has been criss-crossing the country to meet with the Sina family and the Taphorn family. As we talked about yesterday, the Sinas asked to be released from the national letter of intent, which Jim agreed to on the spot. Jaren has not ruled out Northwestern, but is clearly looking at other options. He will make a decision by April 17. Phillips then got from New Jersey to Nate Taphorn’s hometown of Pekin, Illinois, several hours south of Chicago. The good news here is that Taphorn was genuinely moved by Phillips’ gesture and did not ask out of his letter of intent as he plans to stay at Northwestern, according to Scout’s Nick Medline. It’s some much needed good news on the basketball front.
LTP Tourney Pool
Remember, sign up to be a part of the free LTP Tourney Pool on ESPN.com. Simply register your name and then search “LTP Tourney Pool” and enter the password: gatorbowlchamps and pick away. I’ll be curious how many of you end up picking Miami to win it all like I did. Now that I said that, you probably are better off not picking Miami to advance past round one!