The ‘Cats have won the West! Here are the Warriors’ picks for our game today against Minnesota.
Game Summary: Apathy might be at an all time low for the next few weeks. There are two other historic dates in contentions….
November 11, 2000 – Northwestern @ Iowa and Purdue @ Michigan State.
Both NU and Purdue were 6-1 and leading the B1G. Purdue held the Rose Bowl tiebreaker over NU due to the head to head victory. They also held the Rose Bowl tiebreaker in a multi-team tie (hi, Michigan) atop the conference given that it had been the longest since they had gone to Pasadena (what a dumb rule in hindsight). Purdue got smoked that day in East Lansing. But, that game didn’t kickoff until 2pm EST. NU played at Iowa at 12pm EST. By the time we realized Purdue had a legitimate chance of losing (probably about 3:30pm EST), the ‘Cats had already blown their Rose Bowl chances by losing to a dreadful Iowa team on the road. NU never controlled their own Rose Bowl destiny in this situation.
November 25, 1995 – Ohio State @ Michigan
NU had the week off and had already clinched at least a share of the B1G Championship by going 8-0 in conference. Due to an early season 4th quarter disaster where the ‘Cats blew a 27-7 lead to a then Randy Walker-led out-of-conference opponent Miami (OH), there was still one team holding the ‘Cats back from the Rose Bowl here: Ohio State. The Buckeyes were 10-0 overall and 7-0 in conference. Their overall record would serve as the tiebreaker sending them to Pasadena if they beat Michigan. Thanks to John Cooper (2-10-1 all time as Ohio State head coach vs. Michigan) and an historic day from Michigan’s Tshimanga “Tim” Biakabutuka (313 yards rushing on 37 carries), Blue beat the #2 Buckeyes and sent the ‘Cats to Pasadena. NU never controlled their own Rose Bowl destiny in this situation either.
Enter 2018. As we all know, the ‘Cats lost to Duke and Akron in consecutive weeks. We were 1-3 at one point this season. Yet here we sit. We’ll enter December in uncharted territory: we will control our own Rose Bowl destiny. The ‘Cats have literally never been in this situation. We have played in the Rose Bowl exactly two times – one in 1949 when Big Ten rules prevented the conference champion (Michigan) from going to the Rose Bowl in back to back years and again in 1996 (as mentioned above). In neither situation did we find ourselves in a play-in game. What an opportunity.
We’ll all be there to watch in unfold on December 1 in Indianapolis.
In the meantime, in an hilariously unfortunate turn of events for the rest of the B1G West, there are still 2 more regular season games to be played. I really have no idea how Fitz and company are going to deal with these next 2 weeks. The team has to be riding such a ridiculous high after the festivities in Iowa City. Thankfully, it doesn’t really matter much.
The Citrus Bowl is probably in play if the ‘Cats go 8-4 and lose the B1G Championship. More than likely, Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State would get NY6 bowl bids in that scenario. It’s hard to see any other team getting the invite to Orlando in that case simply because a) the B1G pushes for its championship game loser to make the best bowl possible b) NU would have beaten all other contenders (Wisconsin, Purdue(?), Michigan State and Iowa) head to head (I realize bowl committees don’t give a shit about that, but the conference does) and c) none of the other team’s fan bases would be particularly interested in that game given their recent trips to Florida. However, if the ‘Cats lose one of these next 2 weeks then all bets are off for the Citrus Bowl and we’re probably headed to California one way or another (Rose Bowl, Holiday Bowl or Redbox Bowl).
The Citrus Bowl is a nice little bowl game (though a matchup against Kentucky… again… or Mississippi State… again…. sounds really boring), Minnesota absolutely throttled Purdue last week and this week’s game is on the road. Those three factors lead me to believe that Fitz will make sure the the team isn’t totally sleep walking. Though, some of that is going to be out of his control. If the ‘Cats stay woke, particularly on the defensive side of the ball, then I think they’ll walk away with another victory. It’s also important to point out that I think Fitz strongly dislike P.J. Fleck. How can you not? The irony of Fleck mandating that his players show solidarity by wearing a jersey with “Minnesota” written in place of their last name – yet simultaneously don his bullshit oars on their shoulder pads and helmets – should not be lost on anyone. It’s all about the team….. and P.J.’s brand. This guy is the ultimate loser. Fitz’s dislike for the guy might be a factor in this one.
Look for way too much Isaiah Bowser here (in both a good and bad way…. don’t get hurt) and another pedestrian (but limited turnover) affair from Clayton. That, combined with another stout performance from the front 7 should get the job done.
Game Score: NU 27 – Minnesota 14
Play of the Game: Trying to pick on NU’s backup Sky Team (our DB’s), Alonzo Mayo pulls in a highlight reel sideline pick.
Player to Watch: Thorson. He simply has to play better on December 1 for NU to have any chance. Will he start to right the ship this week against a suspect Minnesota defense that had some success last week? Or will he continue to look like as much of a pro prospect as Z Von (remember his halftime performance several years ago)?
Warrior to Watch: Doc Roche. Let’s not forget that Doc Roche was a key piece to NU’s clinching the B1G West last week. The ‘Cats needed Purdue to lose to clinch. Everyone knows that. I think some people forget – because it happened earlier in the day – that the ‘Cats also needed Wisconsin to lose at Penn State to clinch. That happened too. And I’m crediting Doc for that one as he made the pilgrimage to Happy Valley to cheer on the Nittany Lions. Let’s hope he never has to do that again (cheer on PSU, that is).
Other Game to Watch: Ohio State @ Maryland. Everyone assumes we’re going to be playing Michigan in Indianapolis. While they are the likely opponent at this point, that still requires Michigan to beat Ohio State next week. Having said that, if Ohio State slips up at Maryland this weekend and Michigan takes care of Indiana then it’s over (regardless of the outcome of the Michigan v. Ohio State game). Michigan it is.
Game Summary: The ‘Cats have clinched the West with two games left to play. Hell hath frozen over.
Northwestern has gotten better as the season has gone on, and we’re now 5-1 in our last six games, with the one loss coming against a top three Notre Dame team. I’m going to go ahead and attribute a lot of our recent success to the emergence of true freshman stud RB Isaiah Bowser, a kid who I touted as far back as the preseason and who has singlehandedly given the Northwestern offense another dimension (not that we had much of a dimension before). Bowser gashed Iowa, a team that ranked top five in run defense, for 165 yards on the ground. He seems to gain a minimum 3-4 yards every play and always falls forward at the end of the run; he never takes negative plays and he’s got more speed than people realize. You could inject Bowser highlights directly into my veins, I’m addicted.
The defense has come on of late, limiting our last three B1G opponents to 17 points or less. Our secondary has been decimated with injuries, but young players like Ruiz and Whillock have stepped up in a huge way and limited big plays. What really has me excited is the playing time these young guys are getting – that’s going to pay dividends down the road and this team’s future is very bright…in addition to the present.
So let’s come back to the present and talk about this week, a matchup against Minnesota up in Minneapolis. Minnesota is better than people realize, and destroyed Purdue last week 41-10. They sit at 5-5 and need a victory to gain bowl eligibility; they’re going to come out swinging in this game. Coach PJ Fleck is a master motivator and a huge d bag.
I really don’t know where the team’s head is at right now – we are in uncharted waters. Typically when we play a meaningless game in November it means that we have been eliminated from bowl eligibility…but now this game means nothing for positive reasons. Fitz has stated that he’s not going to take his foot off the gas and will play all out, but I don’t fully buy it and I hope it’s not the case. I totally get not wanting to lose momentum and keeping the team fresh, but we desperately need to avoid injuries. This is a great time to let some young talent get playing time and see what they can do…again this will only help down the road as these kids gain more experience.
I see this as a complete toss up game. Northwestern opened as three point favorites but we’re now one point dogs…Minnesota needs this one more than we do. It’s going to be cold as hell for this one, with a high of 24 degrees and 12 mph winds. Expect a low scoring affair. I’ve been wrong about almost every ‘Cats outcome so far this year, so I might as well flip a coin for this one. Heads is Minny, tails is NU…and it’s tails. ‘Cats win.
Game Score: NU 21 – Minnesota 17
Play of the Game: Bowser bursts through the line for a 40 yard TD.
Player to Watch: Just no injuries plz.
Warrior to Watch: ZVon. He’s from Minnesota.
Other Game to Watch: Duke @ Clemson. I’m curious to see if Duke can hang around here; Clemson hasn’t played a close game since they almost lost to Cuse.
Game Summary: Cats win. Don’t know much about MN except that Minnesota has a horrible person as its coach and that they are likely looking forward to Wisconsin, a team they have lost to 14 times in a row. In fact, last year, Minnesota played and lost to both Wisconsin and NU back to back, as they will this year. Last year, the combined scores of those games were 70-0 (NU 39, UMN 0 | Wisco 31- UMN 0). When the Gophers lose this one and the one next week, is PJ Fleck’s boat gonna be at risk of getting rowed outta town?
Game Score: NU 39 – Minnesota 0
Play of the Game: Thorson connects on a broken play to Flynn Nagel for a 60+ yard TD.
Player to Watch: Bowser, guy is a boss.
Warrior to Watch: Grayhack. This kid is big time stuff!
Other Game to Watch: Wisconsin vs. Minnesota next week. Prediction: Wisco 31, Minnesota 0
Game Summary: CATS WIN THE WEST BABY!!! I haven’t been good at predictions lately, so let’s hope my streak doesn’t continue. Going to be a tough one out in the biting Minnesota cold, but the Cats are clearly the better team here (remember the UofI game?!). Thing is the Cats have a bad case of playing down to their opponent this year and this would be the perfect time to do so, especially with Fitz (hopefully) not looking to take too much physical risk with his players. This is a pray for no injuries game.
Game Score: NU 21 – Minnesota 10
Play of the Game: Moten 25 yard TD run on a reverse
Player to Watch: Alex Spanos! Getting jacked up with the schmedium with a low of 11 degrees projected.
Warrior to Watch: SOTA!!
Other Game to Watch: ND / CUSE
Game Summary: The Cats are heading to Indy but in the meantime its time to deal with our old Boat rowing foe PJ Fleck. The same PJ Fleck who beat them at Western Michigan two years ago. The Cats have long memories and Coach Fitz isn’t about to lose to a team that gave up 55 points to the team downstate. Expect a heavy dose of Bowser and for Clayton to play his best game of the year. Cats win big.
Game Score: Northwestern 35- Minnesota 3
Play of the Game: Bowser turns a 4th and one into a 54-yard touchdown run
Player to Watch: Clayton Thorson – Let’s get some momentum going towards the ship.
Warrior to Watch: Rankin – Sources say he’s going to begin a hunger strike until the Big Ten Championship game to inspire the team.
Other Game to Watch: The Fighting Irish of Notre Dame vs The Orangemen of Syracuse – A Modern Day Battle of Cullogen at Yankee Stadium
Game Summary: This game just feels like a trap. Minny has won 3 of the last 5 dating back to 2013. They have shown signs of competence this year despite not being very good. We may come out soft given our current ticket which is already punched. All that said, I still think well pull out a close one in the end.
Game Score: ‘Cats 28 – ‘Sota 24
Play of the Game: Bowser seals it again, picking up a first down in the waning minutes.
Player to Watch: Clayton Thorson, naturally.
Warrior to Watch: Let’s say Trent here. Seems wise.
Other Game to Watch: Cincy @ UCF – Go Bearcats!
Game Score: ‘Cats 14 – Minny 13