The Complete 2002 Lowes Line
Line is an e-mailed description of NU's next
football game, with an invariably fearless prediction of the outcome
how NU will fare against what the other "experts" predict. Our
friend and Brother Marcus Lowes began the broadcast mailing in 1996.
The crack Lowes Line Staff (alumni Jersey Cat,
GallopingGrapes, Eric Cockerill, Joel Kanvik, Charlie Simon, and
MO'Cats) have continued the Line in memory of Marcus.
During the 2002 season HailToPurple.com began posting the column,
for anyone to enjoy. Thanks to the gridiron brain trust at the Lowes
Force Preview and Prediction
By Jersey Cat
Northwestern (0-0) at Air Force (0-0), Saturday, 8/31, 12:00 pm
ABC regional coverage (aka pay-per-view for yours truly and most of the
to the Lowes Line for another season of
NU college football. When we last left our Wildcats, they were
their giblets handed to them on Thanksgiving Day in Champaign, falling
the Illini and ending the 2001 season with a six-game losing streak to
up at 4-7. Quite a downer considering the preseason hype.
has a twelve-game schedule this year, with this weekend's game at Air
followed by non-conference home games against TCU and Duke, and one at
prior to the eight-game Big Ten slate that excludes Michigan and
expectations are not too high for this year's squad, and that's a
to no one. NU lost 11 of 24 starters, and is very young on both
of the ball. On offense, gone are the likes of Kustok, Anderson,
Simmons. The 'Cats start the year with Tony Stauss at
a sophomore who saw some time in four games last year. He's a bit
physically than Kustok, with a better arm but less mobility.
bet on seeing 50+ yards of rushing out of him each time out. The
news is that he should have a solid group of receivers available.
wideouts Jon Schweighardt and Kunle Patrick are
Aikens, who spent a good deal of time last year returning kickoffs,
see extended time. NU is deep at tight end, with freshman Joe
as the starter. Did NU hoops coach
miss this guy,
and he wound up on the gridiron instead of the hardwood? Could
He goes 6-7, 280, and will hopefully be a routine target for Stauss, as
plans to get the tight end more involved in the offense. In the
Kevin Lawrence, who backed up Damien Anderson last year, has not yet
recovered from off-season knee surgery. Junior Jason Wright and
Jeff Backes look to get most of the reps. Up front, NU is led by
Austin King at center and Jeff Roehl at left tackle, both of whom have
preseason All Big-Ten accolades. This offensive line is young,
a freshman and a sophomore, but they're also big, averaging over
and 305 pounds, led by freshman Zach Strief, a right tackle who comes
at a whopping 6-7, 335. New offensive coordinator Mike Dunbar
have a tough chore in living up to the numbers of last year's squad,
averaged 442 yards per game of total offense.
On the other
side of the ball, NU also replaced their defensive coordinator, hiring
Colby to replace the oft-ridiculed Jerry Brown, who was somehow
to assistant head coach and secondary coach.
I guess it
to pursue other business interests", the age-old euphemism for having
ass sh*t-canned, which many argue should have happened. It's
to go but up on defense, as NU finished 11th in the Big Ten last year
both scoring defense (34.4 pts/gm) and total defense (467.5
Consistency should be one of the goals of this squad who, although
with future NFL draft picks Napoleon Harris and Kevin Bentley last
couldn't seem to catch a cold, much less an opposing running
As with the offense, this troop is as green as an enraged Bill Bixby,
only starting seniors being preseason All Big-Ten linebacker Pat Durr
left cornerback Raheem Covington. The tackles are sophomores
Clark and Thomas Derricks who played in every game last year, and the
are a pair of redshirt freshmen, David Thompson and Loren Howard.
Marvin Ward is back at right corner, one of the more athletic of the
will be taking on an Air Force team that went 6-6 last year, and
as is normally the case, will win games on the strength of its running
Air Force only returns 10 starters from last year, but year in and year
they manage to put up a lot of points and win consistently in the
West. The offensive line is predictably small, but the Falcons
up for that with speed and agility, which allows their wishbone attack
be successful. Quarterback Chance Harridge leads the option for
Falcons, which tends to give NU fits. The Air Force defense tends
struggle, having actually surrendered more points per game last year
than did the Wildcats. But seven of their ten returning starters
on defense, including safety Jeff Overstreet, who was heading towards
All-Conference season before getting injured in the fifth game last
Northwestern to see this game as an opportunity to pick up
large chunks of yardage on the ground as the offensive line has their
with the smaller, inexperienced Air Force defensive front. That
be true, but look for NU to get the passing game involved as
The 'Cats will need to do more than merely show up on defense, as they
most of last year. Look for some sloppiness at times, considering
youth of both teams and the fact that it's the season opener.
look for some points, as the defensive issues for both sides may not
been completely resolved yet.
As I'll be
out of town for the Labor
Day weekend, the search for a watering hole with a satellite dish near
I'll be staying has already commenced. I'm told the place I found
a biker bar. We'll see if I can convince the locals to put NU on
tube and switch off the Hells Angels Telethon, which stars Ogre from
of the Nerds. Possessing a full set of teeth and no tattoos may
to my disadvantage here, but I'll do my best.
Pick: Northwestern 34, Air Force 30.
Preview and Prediction
By Joel Kanvik
Texas Christian University Horned Frogs (0-1, 0-1) v.
Northwestern University Wildcats (0-1, 0-0)
Frogs by 5.
several images that arose out of the ashes of the 'Cats' shellacking
at the hands of the Falcons of Air Force. NU's afternoon on defense can
epitomized by two clips: 1. LB Pat Durr (arguably the best returning
with his leg taped and iced, early in the first quarter, and 2. LB
Cartaya running and waving his arms in a futile effort to distract a
open Falcon receiver as the ball sailed over his head into the
open arms for TD #3 of the afternoon. You know you had a bad day when
best the media website can come up with concerns the lone field goal
kicked late in the third quarter. Reminds the Lowes Line of the
undergrad days when, to make a team look bad, we simply had to score on
Back before I
reported to NU for work week in '89, I attended the Wisconsin-Miami
(Fla.) game at rainy Camp Randall Stadium. The Badgers fell, 51-3, yet
the end of the game, the student section cheered proudly, "We scored
(They had.) I suppose, in a similarly optimistic fashion, we can look
it as "We scored last!" and hope the momentum carries into this week's
As you may
recall, TCU handed NU a big loss in 2000.
LaDanian Tomlinson of the Frogs led TCU to a 41-19 victory. NU's
couldn't stop him, and couldn't even hope to contain him. If the
hadn't run out on the game, he'd probably still be running. This will
the theme this week as well. The names will all be different, but the
should be the same.
question mark entering every Wildcat
season is the defense. As the Lowes Line pointed out last week, the
lost several starters from a squad that underwhelmed in 2001. Adding to
is Durr's likely absence from the TCU game due to aforementioned knee
and Raheem Covington's loss due to a concussion, also suffered in the
quarter. Air Force ran up (quite literally) 523 yards of total offense,
of which came on the ground. The Falcons scored on their first 5
and led 38-0 by halftime. One of their first half scores resulted from
blocked NU punt.
It's hard to
believe the score was that low. Watching
the game revealed that NU was more outplayed than the score
As with last year's squad, tackling apparently isn't taught at NU.
Air Force play resulted in at least two missed tackles. The Air Force
might as well have cheered "Ole'!" in the stands.
side of the ball, it was just that - offensive. Stauss finished 5
10 for 22 yards. Basanez, a freshman, replaced Stauss in the first
and finished 14 of 26 for 158 yards. Northwestern managed only 12 first
and 37 yards rushing (on 27 attempts, no less). On the one drive
did score, kicker David Wasielewski had to boot a career-long 51 yarder
the 'Cats offense could get him no closer.
TCU comes to
stinging from a 4th quarter swoon in which it lost a 12 point lead to
and lost 36-29. TCU led most of the game and looked like Cincinnati
for the kill stroke. It never came. Instead, Cincinnati scored
touchdowns (and one 2 point conversion) in the last 6 minutes of the
quarter to pull even, and scored the lone touchdown in overtime to
the comeback. TCU's secondary was very erratic throughout the game,
brilliant at times (4 interceptions) and ineffective at others (opening
was a 75-yard touchdown pass). TCU's defense surrendered almost
yards through the air, and another 122 on the ground. They just could
stop the Bearcats from coming back.
offensive side, the Frogs
showed that they could drive the ball against a capable defense. Sean
stepped in to lead the offense and did an admirable job. While not as
has his predecessor, he proved to be an accurate passer (20-31-2-253).
gained only 97 yards on the ground and the failure of the ground game
in large part, to blame for the Frogs' inability to keep Cincinnati
coming back. One bright spot for TCU was its special teams play,
kicks for a total of 120 yards, while surrendering only 64 yards.
When they get
together this Saturday at Ryan Field, look for the Frogs to
be hopping mad at losing the week prior. The Frogs' offense will run
and pass over the Wildcats' defense. The 'Cats demonstrated that they
utterly lost without their leading run stopper (Durr) and pass defender
The offense should have more success this week than last, not because
Frogs have an inferior defense, but because it simply can't get much
Pick: TCU 28, 'Cats 17. Take the Frogs and give the points.
to-date: 0-1 straight up, 0-1 against the spread)
Preview and Prediction
By Charlie Simon
Duke University Blue Devils (1-1) vs. Northwestern University
Line: 'Cats minus 6.
It is difficult to find the motivation to complete this
Lowes Line. The Wildcats are 0-2 and they are, they are... they
are not good. On Saturday two very young teams will
compete to see who
is "less bad". From all accounts NU has slipped back to the glory
of the late 80's. The offense is non existent and the tackling
worse. Fortunately, Duke is not any better. Earlier this
the Blue Devils won their first game in 2 (or 3?) years. Last week they
were soundly beaten by Louisville 40-3.
Since both NU's offense and defense stink and Duke's offense and
stink, it is going to come down to special teams, turnovers and
NU: 0 Duke: -1
NU gave up a safety on a high snap, Duke a touchdown, and NU
had a kick return for a TD.
NU: -7 Duke: -2
NU had 6 fumbles and an INT last week; hard to win if you
keep giving away the ball...
NU: 5 Duke: 1
Home field Advantage
NU: +3 Duke: 0
NU: +1 Duke: -1
Lowes Line Pick: The 'Cats should win (unless the New
Trier HS team shows up and whips up
on both NU and Duke) but not by much, say 25-23. Take the Blue
plus 6, but NU straight up.
Hopefully we will all be able to celebrate an NU win this
If not the 'Cats only have one more chance to avoid going 0-12 for the
Lowes Line record (1-1, 1-1)
Preview and Prediction
(1-2) at Navy (1-1), Saturday, 9/21/02, 12:05 pm EDT
Television: None, unless you have a High
Definition TV and a DirecTV
dish, in which case you should check out channel 199 (try your local
bar, or even the nearest Circuit City/The Wiz/Tweeters--those stores
show the weekly college game on their HDTV demos, but they may not let
hang out for 3 hours with a six-pack and a giant bag of Cheesy
The game will also be broadcast on tape delay on Comcast Channel 8 (for
Maryland locals), date & time TBA.
Line: Navy by 3.
The fact that
Navy is favored in this game speaks volumes.
After getting smoked by the Zoomies in their season opener, the
probably shouldn't expect to be favored against another military
triple option attack. The key, however, is that Navy is nowhere
as good as Air Force. Because Vegas typically gives three
to the home team (more on that later), the odds makers are guessing
and Navy are equally poor football teams at this early stage of the
Will the 'Cats prove them wrong?
has some momentum going into this game. The 'Cats showed
some stones on Saturday in Evanston, coming from behind to post a
ugly win over Duke. NU's offense, which showed signs of life
TCU, began putting things together against the Blue Devils.
Brett Basanez had 245 yards passing and two rushing touchdowns.
Kunle Patrick and Jon Schweighardt also had big days, led by
104 yards receiving. Both Patrick and Schweighardt now have 100+
receptions (102 each, to be exact), and are tied for 9th on the NU
list. Patrick made the highlight reel with his leaping
of a Basanez pass, jumping over three Duke defenders to make the grab
a 22-yard gain on the way to NU's second TD of the day. NU's
game also showed a spark, as Jason Wright led the team with 107 yards
(his first 100 yard day as a Wildcat). After trailing by 11
the offense put the 'Cats in front on one of their most impressive
in recent years-- a 97-yard march that ended with Basanez diving for a
TD, his second of the day. That drive was the longest scoring
by the Wildcats in nearly 4 years (since 11/7/98, the 56-21 drubbing
by Purdue at Ryan Field-- let us never speak of it again).
the lead with nearly 11 minutes remaining in the contest, NU
turned the game over to its defense, which has been a shaky proposition
late. Not on Saturday, though. NU forced three turnovers in
final 20 minutes of the game and the Blue Devils never really
from the mid-point of the third quarter forward. Defensive
for the 'Cats were LB Doug Szymul, who tallied 15 tackles, a fumble
and an interception in only his second collegiate start, and Torri
the tailback-turned-safety, who notched his first interception on
A special shout-out to LB John Pickens, a prep teammate of Chris Simms
Ramapo H.S. in Franklin Lakes, NJ, the cross-town rivals of my lovely
alma mater. The sophomore led the 'Cats with 19 tackles on
Finally, all-world freshman recruit Loren Howard continues to make an
recording 14 tackles against Duke, including 3 tackles for loss.
Saturday's victory can't hide all of the ugliness that is NU football
in 2002. The defense, while stout when it counted, gave up 134
rushing to Duke's Alex Wade. Of greater concern were the
of them (tying the record set against Indiana in 2000), for a total of
yards, a new team record-- yay. NU saw more than it's fair
of yellow flags from the ACC officiating crew, with 8 of them thrown in
first quarter alone. Were many of those flags unfair?
But the fact is that NU's young team has shown a propensity to draw
and their execution and discipline must improve if they hope to even
season record with a win in Annapolis this week. And in the
of kicking a team when it's down, it looks like LB Pat Durr is lost for
season--after going in for arthroscopic surgery on Friday the 13th (why
fate like that?), he learned that he has a partial tear to the ACL in
right knee. Hopefully Durr will apply for (and receive) a
redshirt and return to lead the defense in 2003.
Navy. This game was originally scheduled as the back-end of a
home and home series between these two programs, but last year's tilt
canceled in the wake of the September 11 attacks. NU and Navy
played twice before, in the 1950s, with NU holding a 2-0 series
lead. Let's cut to the chase--after Saturday, that record
should stand at 3-0. Navy stinks. I mean, they are a really
bad football team. They opened the season with a fairly easy win
over a pathetic SMU squad, but got hammered 62-19 the following week by
N.C.State, a top-25 team. Navy had an off week last week,
and will have had an extra week to prepare for the Wildcats.
Candeto, who is the key to Navy's triple option attack, leads the
Midshipmen. If the 'Cats get to Candeto, he'll pitch it to one of
pretty good runners: FB Kyle Eckel, SB Eric Roberts, or SB Tony
Eckel is a load, but he can be stopped short. The 'Cats
see Navy's senior team captain, SB Donnie Fricks, who is out with a
clavicle, but Roberts and Lane can still break off those long runs
of a successful option offense. NU's defensive backs had better
ready to play in the box--the Middies don't throw the ball
Navy is 114th out of 117 Division 1-A teams in passing offense,
less than 70 yards per game (Candeto only had 33 yards passing, on 2
against the Wolfpack two weeks ago, and is 6-of-15 for 139 yards total
2 games this season). Navy is 7th in the nation in rushing
268 yards per game (note: almost 100 ypg fewer than the Zoomies, who
the nation at least in part on the strength of the whipping they put on
3 weeks ago).
the Mids are hapless. They are allowing 412.5 yards per
game (granted, that stat is skewed a bit by the brilliant play by
QB Philip Rivers 2 weeks ago). Given the improvement by NU's
after the debacle in Colorado Springs, the Wildcats should be able to
the ball. The key will be keeping the Navy running game in
and giving the offense a chance to control the game. NU's young
playmakers can't afford to relive the nightmare against Air Force, and
offense needs to build on the confidence it gained against Duke and
ram it over, through and past the undersized Midshipmen
Look for the Wildcats to gain some momentum by forcing 2 or 3 big
even go out on a limb and predict a defensive touchdown for the 'Cats
home field advantage: forget it. The Mids haven't
enjoyed a home field advantage in years. Navy has lost 10
at home, and 15 of the last 16. The last home win for the Middies
in November 1999, when they beat Tulane. The home field
be further diluted this weekend, when yours truly and Mr. & Mrs.
Cat (happy anniversary, kids!) infiltrate Navy-Marine Corps Memorial
I know what
you're asking: if the Mids are so lousy, why are they favored?
Well, honestly, you can't really blame the Vegas bookmakers. NU
historically struggled when facing a triple option offense. Navy
had an extra week to prepare. Worse, NU has so far this
been prone to penalties and turnovers. The Wildcats are young,
whatever latent talent rests within these freshmen and sophomores,
is still a real question whether Randy Walker is the coach that can
it out of them (for the record, I think he is). This is
the kind of game a struggling NU team could lose. While the 'Cats
coming off a good win against Duke, let's remember that the Blue Devils
themselves a pretty bad football team that had an 11-point lead at Ryan
until Basanez put NU ahead in the third quarter. In the
days of Northwestern football, this game would have been a walk in the
But in 2002, NU still must prove it is the better team. It says
that the Wildcats are getting better, and that NU will even its record
a solid road win.
Northwestern 37, Navy 20. Take the 'Cats and the points.
date: 2-1 straight up, 2-1 against the spread-- good call last week,
Preview and Prediction
By Brian Ullery
(2-2) at Michigan State (2-2), Saturday, Sept. 28, 1:05 pm EDT
Line: Michigan State by a whopping 23.5 points.
is an underdog by over three touchdowns-- holy cow. Only six
games in all of Div. 1-A have a higher point spread (one other Big 10
OSU 24.5 over IU). Northwestern has taken the last two in this
with last year's shocking game with MSU returning a punt to go ahead
with 4:42 left. NU, not to be outdone, drove down and scored with
seconds left to regain the lead 24-20. Amazingly to all of us
the game on the little score update at the bottom of ABC's screen, MSU
the ensuing kickoff for a TD to lead 26-20. A clutch blocked PAT
Napoleon Harris left NU with a chance to win. They called the now
"Victory Right" and moved into field goal range. As David
kicked the game winner with no time left, NU fans thought the season
going to be another magical one. Oh, we were so mistaken.
NU has won
two straight, posting a 49-40 win over the Midshipmen last week.
But come on, 40 points by Navy (their largest output in way too
years)! NU's offense posted 545 total yards and was led by RB
Wright with 186 yards and 3 TD's. NU may have found a QB in Brett
who went 20-26 for 260 yards and a touchdown. Kunle Patrick and
Schweighardt posted solid numbers last week and need to keep getting
for NU's offense to succeed. The defense gave up the stunning 40
to Navy but even worse a total of 678 yards. Sure you can look on
bright side and say "they forced 5 turnovers," but either way you have
admit that this defense is terrible.
State is coming off a heart-breaking loss to Notre Dame, where two
of their defenders fell over each other and ND scored the winning
They are lead by Jeff Smoker and Charles Rogers. Smoker is
in the conference with 233 yards passing per game and 1st with 10
Rogers is the best WR in the country and made one of the best catches I
ever seen last weekend against the Irish. On average, he catches
receptions/game for 158.3 yards. He currently has tied a NCAA
with 12 straight games with a TD along with Marshall's Randy Moss,
Desmond Howard and Pacific's Aaron Turner. The last time he did
catch a TD was against the Wildcats last year. He'll break the
think NU is improving, and maybe they are. But this week,
MSU is going to lay the smack down. Can NU score enough to beat
spread? Tough call because MSU is going to have the 2nd team in
the 3rd quarter.
MSU 52 Northwestern 24. Take the Spartans and give the points.
date: 3-1 straight up, 3-1 against the spread)
Preview and Prediction
By Eric Cockerill
Ohio State University (5-0) at Northwestern (2-3), Saturday, 10/5, 6:00
Television: ESPN2 (it'll be like watching a
Line: OSU by 24 (and rising) over NU.
OSU is currently ranked #5 in the AP and Coaches Poll. They
don't deserve to be quite that high, based on their inconsistent
and lack of a real passing threat. Their defense almost allowed
back in the game two weeks ago and their passing attack is mostly short
to keep the opposing defense honest. Their real strength is their
blocking and Maurice Clarett, who is averaging 6.9 yd/carry and has 9
in four games. The question will be whether their defense and
attack will hold up against the other national offensive forces when
get to a bowl game.
on the other hand
is not ranked (big surprise, I know). They have actually showed
sparks of things to come last week against MSU. The O-line is
much better than at the beginning of the season and Jason Wright is
for a surprising 134 yds/game. Basanez is still terribly
particularly under pressure, so its doubtful that he can pull a miracle
on Saturday. As for the defense...let's just quote the rushing
allowed per game (308) and leave it at that.
the conventional wisdom is that OSU is going to run all over
the Wildcat defense that is allowing 40 points per game and NU is going
have trouble scoring early against an OSU defense only allowing 16
per game. Late points by NU are likely as the OSU defense loosens
after they have a big lead.
How might NU
beat the spread (I'm not even considering actually winning)...Basanez
needs to relax and hit his open receivers, particularly early in the
when the pressure is on and NU is still in the game. Also, the NU
needs to take away the short passing game (since they're not going to
Clarett down) and get OSU in some 3rd and 4 or greater
Then, maybe OSU will make some mistakes by trying to take too
Sad when you're hoping the other team is over-confident.
OSU 49, Northwestern 20. Pick OSU and give the points.
Preview and Prediction
By Joel Kanvik
Wildcats (2-4, 0-2) at Minnesota Golden Gophers (5-1, 1-1), Thursday,
October 10, 7:00 p.m. CDT.
Line: Minnesota favored by 16.5.
provides interesting questions. Is Minnesota as good as its 5-1
might indicate? Would beating NU prove that? Is NU on the
after a good showing against Ohio State, or was last week just blind
The 'Cats come
into this game after a particularly strong showing against Ohio
Yes, they lost 27-16, but who among us thought it would be even as
as the 24-point spread? Indeed, we at the Lowes Line
Buckeyes would more than cover the spread. Quarterback
Basanez, after a slow start of two for nine, finished the game against
24 for 45 for 283 yards. Jason Wright continues to be NU's main
with 199 all purpose yards. NU had numerous chances to build
that were snuffed out by both misfortune (two missed field goals and
more field goals after driving inside the 10) and a bad call (an NU
catch was ruled incomplete by officials). Review by Big Ten
supervisors demonstrated the catch had indeed been made. On the
side of the ball, NU's normally porous defense did not play too poorly,
OSU to "only" 27 points (after all, this unit gave up 40 to Navy) and
superfreshman Maurice Clarett to 140 yards on the ground. Since
is the type of back that normally runs right though NU's defense, this
particularly encouraging. It should be noted, however, that thus
this year, OSU has not shown itself to be a strong road team, so that
be taken into account in evaluating Saturday's game.
Basanez has established himself something of an offensive leader,
as his 111.2 rating would attest. Yes, that's not a typo.
has completed 54% of his passes for almost 1200 yards, throwing 3
against 3 interceptions. Jason Wright is a threat to go over
yards, sitting at 575 on 112 carries, for a respectable 5.1 yards per
average (keep in mind that NU plays 12 games this year). Wright
rumbled for 4 touchdowns. Jon Schweighardt, who desperately needs
couple more vowels for his last name, and Kunle Patrick have split NU's
duties, each snaring 26 passes and each taking it to the house once.
think this is a rosy picture of NU's fortunes, remember that these
are just offensive statistics. The defense, while playing
against OSU, is still questionable at best. If allowing Navy 40
is not sufficient to prove this point, the NU defense has surrendered
AVERAGE of 39 points per game. Most times NU defenders look like
trying to tackle the wind.
There was a
time during the last decade when teams in the Big Ten might think
twice about scheduling NU as their Homecoming game. Not so any
As you may have guessed, it's Minnesota's Homecoming this
The game is being played Thursday night due to some scheduling quirks
might have had the Twins play on Saturday in the ALCS. Although
are not (they have home field and will be in Anaheim), the game is
scheduled for Thursday night. It will not, however, be the ESPN
of the week.
earlier, the Gilded Hamsters enter this game with an impressive
looking 5-1 record. Are they that good? Well, let's
They beat Southwest Texas State, Louisiana-Lafayette, Toledo, and
during their non-conference schedule. Toledo among them has shown
prowess whatsoever in the past few years, though it's only from a
conference. Once the Big Ten season started, Minnesota promptly
to Purdue 26-15, showing that the Gophers do not hold up to even decent
Minnesota's Big Ten victory was against Illinois, which has a
chance of being the first school to go from worst to first to worst in
Big Ten. Ever. The Lowes Line thinks that proves
gaudy record is misleading.
led by a very mobile (and hence dangerous to NU) quarterback,
Abdul-Kaliq. His quarterback rating is 136.8 and he has thrown
12 touchdowns against only 3 interceptions. He has also rushed
233 yards and three more touchdowns, including a 47 yard scamper.
the third leading rusher on the Gopher roster. Minnesota uses a
approach to its ground game, with Terry Jackson II running for 554
and a 5.9 yards per carry average, and Thomas Tapeh tallying 401 yards
a 4.9 yards per carry average. Of the two, Tapeh at 6'1" and 223
is more likely to give NU defenders fits. Three Gopher receivers,
senior tight end Ben Utecht, have 15 catches or more. It's hard
predict just how good the Gopher defense is, since they've been playing
school teams for much of the non-conference season. In Big Ten
they lost to Purdue (a middle-of-the-pack team at best) and held
to 10 points. Given Illinois' season, that's not all that
enter this game with a three game winning streak at the Hubert
H. Humphrey Metrodome (subtitle: the worst place to watch a
event in North America) and have won five of the last six games between
two, including last year's 23-17 victory at NU. NU is a popular
for Minnesota's Homecoming (you asked for a guaranteed victory, and I
you Northwestern), and the Gophers are 8-5-2 against NU on Homecoming.
What does all
this mean? Both offenses should click and move up and
down the field. NU's defense, despite its outing last week
the Buckeyes, has not proven itself capable of stopping a strong
attack like the one NU will face tomorrow night. Any questions
that can be answered by revisiting the Air Force box score. Of
concern is the fact that, like the Falcons, Minnesota sports a very
quarterback in Abdul-Kaliq. Minnesota should be able to move the
something like voting in Chicago...early and often. On the same
NU should also be able to move the ball against Minnesota's defense,
is by and large unproven ("Ya know, we sure pitched a shutout against
pesky Bobcats of Southwest Texas State, eh?"...if not said with the
accent, you won't get the full flavor). I would look for a
with Minnesota coming out on top, but not by as big a margin as the
predict. NU will score its points, but in the end the Golden
will prove just too strong. Its defense will make the one stop
Minnesota 38, Northwestern 31. Take the 'Cats and the points.
date: 5-1 straight up, 3-3 against the spread.
State Preview and Prediction
By Jersey Cat
# 84 (Sagarin
rating) Northwestern Wildcats (2-5, 0-3) at # 21 Penn State Nittany
Lions (4-2, 1-2). Saturday, October 19, 2002,
12:00 noon EDT
Television: ESPN2 National
State favored by 23 [ed.
note: line had jumped to NU plus 25 by Wednesday]
Scene: Randy Walker Press Conference dialogue with a Tribune reporter
before the Penn State game. (Apologies to Jack Nicholson)
You want analysis?
--I think I'm entitled to some.
You want analysis?
--I want the truth.
YOU CAN'T HANDLE THE TRUTH! Son,
we live in a world that needs run defense, none of which exists on my
in Evanston. Who's gonna stop Penn State? You? You,
Trib reporter? I have a greater responsibility than you can
fathom. You weep for NU fans and curse the coaching staff.
have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know:
NU run defense is a misnomer. And our entire defense's very
while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, is a misnomer. You
want the truth because deep down, in places you don't talk about at
you want the Rose Bowl glory days of 1995. You NEED the Rose Bowl
days of 1995! We use words like appalling, repulsive, odious...we
these words as the backbone of our description of the rushing
You use 'em as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the
to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of
very quotes I provide, then questions the manner in which I provide
I'd rather you just covered the Fighting Illini and went on your
Otherwise I suggest you pick up a headset and see what you could
with these buffoons on D. Either way, I don't give a damn what
think you're entitled to!
And so it goes for NU in 2002. On to Week 8.
The 'Cats go into Happy Valley this week following a terrible loss at
How did they drop that one to the Gophers? After all, those fuzzy
rodents are the lowest members of the food chain, and they'll probably
replaced by the rat, or at least so says Bushwood Country Club
greenskeeper Carl Spackler.
Northwestern has never won at (Nice) Beaver (Thank You, I Just Had It
Stadium, dropping contests there in 1994, 1996, and 1998. Having
eyewitness to those three defeats, I'm trying a different approach,
to switching the order in a golf game of better-ball: rather than make
seven-plus hour round trip, I decided to put my four tickets up for
on eBay, and watch the contest from home. I figure maybe by not
I'll at least give the 'Cats a chance.
This week the 'Cats are the -- shocker -- Homecoming opponent of the
Lions. The way NU has been playing as of late, their designation
the "Classmates.com Official Homecoming Opponent of Big Ten Football"
As for last Thursday's contest in the Metrodome, what a mess. It
started with my wonderful wife asking me, "So let me get this straight.
going to actually listen to an entire football game on the PC?"
went downhill from there. Sure, NU football on wgnradio.com ain't
Must See TV, but hell, I gotta get my 'Cats any way I can. As it
out, ER was just ending as the game concluded, which was appropriate,
I thought I heard Randy Walker on the post-game report scream, "Get me
friggin' run defense, STAT!" You could use the term "porous" to
describe the NU rushing defense. Minnesota shredded the 'Cats on
ground, rushing on 70 out of 79 offensive plays. You could also
the phrase "poor us" to very aptly describe those sorry bastards such
myself who sat in front of their computer listening to the game for
hours as this train wreck unfolded.
Minnesota opened the game with an on-sides kick, recovered it, and
after 1:16 to take the early lead. NU answered, and actually had
21-14 lead late in the second quarter. Then the wheels fell
In a span of one minute and eleven seconds, the Gophers scored a
and blocked an NU punt leading to another score, and went into halftime
a 28-21 lead. It continued after intermission, as Minnesota
another two TDs and added a field goal, giving them a 45-21 edge early
the 4th quarter. How bad was the rushing defense? Gopher
Terry Jackson II and Thomas Tapeh combined for 415 yards rushing.
right, 415. As in the area code for San Francisco.
NU did make a game of it, scoring three touchdowns in the 4th quarter
cover the spread and get us excited near the end. But like the captain
the high school cheerleading squad on Prom night, they teased us and
close the deal, leaving us, well, blue, so to speak.
NU back Jason Wright had another fine game running the football, going
148 yards on 21 carries. 'Cat QB Brett Basanez looks like he
be a solid QB after another high-quality outing, throwing for 216 yards
on 21 of 35 attempts. However, just off the wire is news that his
is anything but solid, having fractured it on a successful two-point
against the VarmintCong, leaving Tony Stauss to handle the signal
Penn State dropped a close game at Michigan last weekend, falling in
27-24. Both of the Nittany Lions' losses have come in the extra
as they came up short at home against Iowa three weeks
PSU is led by sophomore quarterback Zack Mills, who leads the Big Ten
passing yards per game, having thrown for 264 yards and 2 TDs against
Penn State's biggest weapons are their Johnsons. Of course,
would be tailback Larry Johnson and wideout Bryant Johnson. Both
big games against Michigan, and odds point to a Johnson rising to the
this weekend for the Lions in what I expect to be a very tough game for
Question: Why does Joe Pa never seem to show any emotion on the field,
or bad? Clearly it's due to those damn Coke bottle glasses!
things don't help, and the old man can't see a bloody thing. The
here would be for Randy Walker to get hold of that prescription and don
pair of Joe Pa specials, at least when the NU defense takes the
From the "Yeah, that and a quarter will get you a Busch Light in the
file: NU's press release this week states that Northwestern is 13-1
a Randy Walker-led squad has taken a lead into the 4th quarter.
deal. With what we NU fans have been treated to most of this
the more meaningful stat is this: NU is 0-24 under Walker when they
after four quarters. How 'bout a W in Big Ten play?
Sorry folks, not this week. All told, this game looks like a
for disaster. A Finlandia Swiss defense. A starting QB out
a broken leg. Homecoming in State College, PA. A Top 25
at home in front
of 107,000 looking for blood after a tough overtime loss.
thoroughly and bake at game time temperature for sixty minutes.
appetit, 'Cats fans. And don't forget the antacid.
Pick: Penn State 42, Northwestern 17.
Take Penn State and lay the points.
Season to date: Straight up, 6-1; against the spread, 4-3
Preview and Prediction
By Charlie Simon
Wildcats (2-6, 0-4) vs. Purdue Boilermakers (3-5, 1-3)
Television: ESPN Plus
is late October, and that means it is homecoming time. Time to
to campus and the carefree, glory days of our youth. Time to
the home team crush the perennial weakling. As you would expect
has scheduled Northwestern to be their sacrificial lamb. The
What? NU's Homecoming?!? Oh, I am sorry Ladies
Gentlemen. It appears that this is Northwestern's
Oh my. That changes things...
Unfortunately the Lowes Line was eerily accurate predicting the Nittany
would run all over our beloved 'Cats. Larry Johnson had 257 yards
(a new PSU single game record) before most of the PSU fans had gotten
from the hot dog line at halftime. As Kev put it earlier this
in a telephone conversation, "Penn State actually started throwing the
more trying NOT to run up the score." It was that bad.
Northwestern WOULD appear to stop Penn State (early in the game) they
be flagged for pass interference and the PSU drive would
After PSU's first score NU had a chance to answer back. They
executed a reverse on the kickoff and returned the ball into PSU
They moved into field goal range where the drive stalled.
kicked a 34 yarder to bring it to 7-3. Unfortunately there was a
penalty on the 'Cats and they had to try again. Was there anyone
there who did not see the miss coming? Even the camera angle was
set-up for a wide right kick. The 'Cats did not score, PSU got
ball back, 14-0. Since they had such good luck on the reverse
the first touchdown, "why not try it again?" Why!
because you don't fool Joe Pa twice on the same play within five
The 'Cats returned the ball to the 5, their own 5. From there it
to go down hill. I don't remember any more details (I started
the newspaper, cleaning the kitchen, anything to get away from the
except for one: NU's defense seemed to be at the right place at
right time, they just could not tackle. It looked like the PSU
were greased mackerel slipping through the arms of the NU defenders
after time after stinkin' time.
Enough about last week. This week Purdue is in town along with
thousand Alumni (though not enough to cause a sellout...). The
are an OK team. Nothing fancy but generally sound. All of
losses this year have been by 8 points or less. They lost by 2 to
very average Michigan team. On paper Purdue should probably win
7-10 (though surprisingly as of Tuesday night there is no line on the
Is Las Vegas afraid of the 'Cats? Or does no one really care?), but
game will be decided upon the grass of Dyche, I mean Ryan Field.
is homecoming so the stands should be relatively full. NU has
fairly well at home (I am so glad the game is not at West Lafayette, I
so sick of seeing the damn world's largest drum. Who gives a
But I digress...) and Stauss did a fine job subbing at quarterback last
weekend. I just keep going back to all the missed tackles.
NU had made two out every three they missed last week, it would have
a game. I think (hope) Randy Walker and staff emphasize wrapping
this week and the Wildcats execute on Saturday. If so, I think NU
make a game of it. And, with a little luck (they are due for
they just might pull out the Victory.
Pick: Wildcats 26, Purdue 24
What the heck, you got to have some hope, don't you?
Season to date: Straight up,
7-1; against the spread, 5-3
Preview and Prediction
By Brian Ullery
Wildcats (2-7, 0-5) vs. Indiana Hoosiers (3-5,1-3)
Location: Ryan Field, Evanston, IL
Television: ESPN Plus
to find a line, but Vegas has IU giving three
my colleague last week must have been delusional picking a Wildcat
He was obviously hoping for a homecoming victory to go along with the
of the Marcus Lowes Scholarship to make his weekend a joyful one.
Purdue obviously did their scouting, throwing only 10 passes all game
rushing the ball 69 (yes you read that correctly) times for 407
The Boilermakers crushed the 'Cats on homecoming 42-13, with the only
spot being Jason Wright as he tallied another 100 yard rushing game
yards on 15 carries). Stauss struggled again and the only
'Cat fans hope for is an early return of freshman QB Brett
Basanez is listed as questionable this week as he has missed the last
games due to a fractured fibula (come on Brett, it's a non-weight
bone, Jack Youngblood played with a broken tibia in the NFL). But
digress, the offense has shown promise under his direction and a Big 10
is not out of reach if he returns. Does Northwestern even have a
line to absorb the hits of the opponent's offensive line and blocking
Every game I have seen, the other team's offensive lineman are running
rampant downfield blocking LB's and DB's. Where is the D-Line?
yeah, now I remember, on the griddle about ready to be served at the
IHOP (or train if you are in Summit, NJ). No team in the nation
is going to throw the ball the rest of the
season against the 'Cats. But on with the analysis.
Last season, IU with Antwaan Randle-El devastated the 'Cats scoring 42
unanswered first half points cruising to an unbelievable (at the time)
56-21 victory. The game was ugly and one hopes it had more to do
with Randle-El than anything else. The WHO'S YOUR DADDIES are
lead this season by first year coach Gerry DiNardo who directs a west
coast style offense for the visiting team. IU has an impressive
victory over the Badgers at home this season but otherwise has not been
impressive with their two other victories coming at home against
Central Michigan and William & Mary. IU averages 397 yards
but 280 of those yards are through the air led by 5th year Senior QB
Hamdan who leads the conference in passing yardage per game.
Lewis and Yamar Washington share the running duties avg. 76.3 and 59.6
per game respectively. IU is coming off a big loss against at
45-14 who exposed their rushing defense led Antoineo Harris (for 'Cat
insert Jason Wright's name here) who rushed 28 times for 176 yards
Look for Walker to rush Wright all day and the 'Cats offense to put up
some points keeping the defense off the field.
Can the 'Cats win a Big 10 game this season?? Maybe. IU has
won a game on the road since November of 2001. If Basanez plays,
42 Hoosiers 38. Take the 'Cats and the points.
date: Straight up, 7-2; against the spread, 5-4.
Preview and Prediction
Wildcats (3-7, 1-5) at # 6 Iowa Hawkeyes (9-1, 6-0)
Location: Iowa City, Iowa
Television: ESPN2 National
Line: NU plus 28
It's always fun to write the Lowes Line after a win; it's
not to be optimistic. Never mind that deep pool of cold reality
in wait in Iowa City. Don't look at it! Focus on the
For example, even if Northwestern gets smoked this weekend (as
the NCAA football deities have given us a final chance at redemption,
long putt for birdie after a terrible round, another bite at the apple,
chance to go out with a win and the Sweet Sioux Tomahawk trophy--a
game! Of course, first NU must play that pesky eleventh game out
the western wilds of Iowa. It's far too late for NU to expect to
its football fortunes around this season; I suggest they follow the
imparted by John Madden to his team before every game:
"Don't worry about the horse being blind. Just load up the wagon."
(By the way, Madden admits that he had no idea what those words of
actually meant. For some reason, they just seem appropriate for
Last week, Northwestern notched its first conference win of the season,
a pretty terrible Indiana Hoosiers squad. The Wildcat offense
to impress (mostly). I say mostly because the 'Cats lost two
fumbles in the fourth quarter to give the lead back to Indiana with
over 3 minutes remaining in the game. Jason Wright rushed for a
196 yards on Saturday; the original stats, which had Wright rushing for
yards, incorrectly credited Wright with a 23-yard rush that was
a pass from Basanez--it's still a career-high, and it leaves Wright as
eighth Wildcat to rush for 1000 yards in a season. Wright also
a school record with 4 rushing touchdowns. He finished with 308
yards, only 16 yards shy of Bob Christian's school record, and was
the Big-10 Offensive Player of the Week (with Penn State's Larry
for the third time this season. QB Brett Basanez returned after a
game layoff to rest his broken left fibula (as Doc Ullery points out,
a non-weight bearing bone), and played well (18-27 for 233 yards and 1
Basanez played in a soft cast covering his entire lower left leg, which
his scrambling ability, but with Wright and a steady receiving corps,
did the job. Again. On the down side, it was Basanez who
2 fumbles in the 4th quarter, which led to back-to-back IU touchdowns
the lead (the first fumble was returned 9 yards for a TD--you've gotta
onto the pill inside your own 20, Brett!). To be fair, Basanez
protected the ball fairly well this season, and has the fewest INTs (3)
any starting QB in the Big Ten (Iowa QB Brad Banks is second, with 4
on the year). 'Cats fans are glad to have Baz back. [Side note:
Walker has indicated that the QB position will be up for grabs again
spring, as NU has several young signal-callers with great
The bet here is that NU will look to Baz again in 2003. Look for
studious Tony Stauss to transfer to a program better suited to his
style, where he will probably blossom.]
Amazingly, NU's defense did some good things against the
Sure, they gave up 100 yards rushing in the first quarter, but they
slowed the IU attack after that, holding the Hoosiers to only 123 yards
over the last 3 quarters. IU only scored 15 points in the first
The defense's finest moment of the season came after NU missed what
have been a game-tying 22-yard field goal late in the game.
that another Hoosiers score would mean curtains for the 'Cats, the
held Indiana to 4 yards and a shanked punt, giving the offense a short
for the winning score. Kudos to the defense (I never thought I'd
that this season) for making a stand in the clutch.
As I said, it's easy to get excited about the team after a win.
the Indiana game was a game NU was supposed to win. This week's
with Iowa is going to be rough. Last year, Iowa completely
Northwestern in Evanston, rolling up over 600 yards of offense in a
whipping. NU's nightmare actually began before the game with the
of Damien Anderson to injury, and only got worse when Anderson's
Kevin Lawrence, went down in the third quarter with a knee
It was a low point for NU, but despite the problems this year's squad
had, we don't expect them to fold up quite as badly in this year's
This will be the last matchup between NU and Iowa before the rivalry
on a 2-year hiatus.
Nobody really expected much out of Iowa this season. Despite
victory over Texas Tech in the Alamo Bowl, it looked like the Hawkeyes
have too many holes to fill on offense, especially at wide
Well, so much for the pundits. For the first time in school
Iowa has started 6-0 in the conference. Give credit for Iowa's
ranking (#6 in both the AP and Coaches/ESPN polls, and #8 in the BCS)
coach Kirk Ferentz and QB Brad Banks. Banks has turned a suspect
of receivers into viable threats, and he is the top ranked QB in
efficiency in the nation. Banks has 20 TD passes in 2002, and
finish the season behind only the legendary Chuck Long (27 TDs in 1985)
most TDs in a season by a Hawkeyes QB. Unfortunately for NU, the
to Iowa's success has been its rushing attack. Iowa has a very, very
offensive line, which has allowed junior tailback Fred Russell to rank
in the Big 10 in rushing, despite missing 2 games (including most of
week's win over Wisconsin with an injured hand). If Russell can't
on Saturday, the Hawkeyes will turn to Jermelle Lewis, who led the team
81 yards against Wisconsin last weekend. Frankly, Iowa's running
aren't great, but the Hawkeyes still have outrushed their opponents by
huge margin (2055 yards to 639 yards on the season). Given NU's
rushing defense (still dead last in the country, by a lot), we can
yet another long day on the ground.
By the way, don't expect Iowa to forget about the passing attack.
Hawkeyes are committed to a balanced offense, and Banks is making a
Heisman push. NU's passing defense is ranked #12, but that is
misleading. NU's opponents have only attempted 16.8 passes per
and NU is giving up 8.8 yards per attempt, by far the most yards/pass
the top 50 or so passing defenses. Iowa is a good
The Hawkeyes have one of the lowest ranked passing defenses in the
(#112 out of 117), but that can be attributed to the fact that teams
run against the Iowa defense, which is the nation's best,
giving up only 63.9 ypg and a measly 2.1 yards/carry. So, while
opponents rarely take to the air, Iowa has faced an average of over 43
attempts per game--and they still have a significantly better
average (6.6) than NU. Bottom line: look for Iowa to pin
over 400 yards of offense on the 'Cats, with more than 200 yards both
the ground and through the air. NU's offense may make a game of
early, but expect the frustration on defense to continue.
Pick: Iowa 45, Northwestern 14
Take the Hawkeyes and lay the points. James Tiberius Kirk will be
an insufferable bastard for another three years.
Season to date: Straight up, 8-2; against the spread, 6-4
BONUS NORTHWESTERN BASKETBALL PREVIEW!
football 'Cats are away, the hoops squad will play. Saturday
night marks the debut of the 2002-2003 Northwestern basketball
in an exhibition game against the EA Sports All-Stars. My
nephew tells me that the EA Sports All-Star team is pretty awesome--he
them to 7 consecutive undefeated seasons, winning each game by an
margin of nearly 40 points. Personally, I'm unconvinced--my
won't be on the sidelines for Saturday's game, so the 'Cats should have
Hold on a
second. I just ran a Google search and it turns out that
NU is playing a real team, made up of real former college players, not
virtual juggernaut captained by my nephew on his Playstation.
goodness. The real All-Stars lost by 20 to Kansas last weekend,
other than former Jayhawk Adonis Jordan, I didn't recognize a single
on the roster.
I do, however,
recognize a few names on the Wildcat roster, and I'm excited.
NU returns 3 starters from last season's surprise squad: F Winston
G Jitim Young and C Aaron Jennings. Young and Blake are good,
players who have thrived in coach Bill Carmody's ball control, backdoor
Blake was an honorable mention All-Big Ten pick in 2001-02, and he's
of NU's all-time best three-point shooters. I was excited about
Young going into last season, and he didn't disappoint. Young is
ferocious defender, and going into his junior season he's already ninth
NU's all-time steals list. Aaron Jennings started 20 games at
last season, but he really hasn't blossomed into the inside presence
Wildcats need if they want to compete on the boards.
The 'Cats will
miss their graduated starters, Tavaras Hardy and Collier Drayton.
Hardy is an especially heavy loss, and the 'Cats will rely heavily upon
sophomore F Verdun Vukusic to fill his shoes. Vukusic can shoot
lights out--if he is over the shoulder woes he battled last season, he
be able to make up the scoring that left with Hardy. He'll be the
player on the court for the Wildcats (most of the time), so he will
to step up his rebounding. Collier Drayton was steady at the
over the last two years, but his main strength was on defense.
successor is the real reason to be excited about this team. NU
be handing the reins over to a true freshman, TJ Parker, the younger
of the San Antonio Spurs Tony Parker. Like his big bro, TJ is
and he can score. If he can play defense, the 'Cats won't miss
The pieces are in place for an exciting, fast-break offense, but only
NU can improve its rebounding. I'll say it again--rebounding,
rebounding. No boards = no fast break = TJ Parker trapped in a
halfcourt offense. NU already boasts the Big Ten's best defense
really!), and if they can just tune up that offense a bit, this could
a fun team to watch.
In addition to
TJ Parker, Bill Carmody landed a few freshmen who should be
important role players now and in the future. F Jimmy Maley was
in Illinois as a schoolboy, and G Mohamed Hachad was voted Mr. Quebec
basketball, I presume) in 2002. Freshman G Evan Seacat also shows
Coach Carmody likes to play his freshmen, so these guys will be an
part of the bench. The leader off the bench will again be
F Jason Burke, who finished 4th on the team last year in assists.
seemed to have big game after big game last year, and was a valuable
man. C Thomas Soltau and F Davor Duvancic will also be important
off the bench. Last year, depth was a major concern for the
This season, depth may be a strength.
This will come
as no surprise, but Bill Carmody is one hell of a good coach.
After surprising many observers two years ago by taking an extremely
team to an 11-19 record, Carmody surprised everybody again last season
posting a 16-13 record, including 7 conference victories, over 7
Big Ten teams. During Carmody's first season at NU, the team
a 32-game conference losing streak; since then, NU has gone 10-12 in
play. NU has set new marks in three-pointers each of Carmody's
two seasons, and a healthy Vukusic could help break that mark yet
A few years ago, Sports Illustrated called Carmody the best offensive
in college basketball, and he is widely considered one of the top
coaches in the country. But Carmody has really made his mark in
with his team's defense. Last year, Northwestern was first in the
Ten (and fifth nationally) in scoring defense. Although Drayton
Hardy were key defenders, this year's squad has the potential to be
as good, if not better, on defense and will keep the 'Cats in nearly
Last year, NU
became the first Big Ten team ever to post a winning record
and not get a post-season tournament bid. NU's RPI was terrible,
it's no surprise the NCAA passed, but the NIT had no business snubbing
'Cats. Unfortunately, this season's non-conference schedule might
even softer than last year. NU only plays two power conference
(both on the road): Kansas State (which probably doesn't qualify as a
game considering how bad those other Wildcats are) and NC State (in the
Ten Challenge). The NC State game will be part of the nationally
grudge match between the ACC and Big Ten, and a Wildcats upset in
would give NU a huge boost (in momentum and RPI) going into conference
Ok, so cut to
the chase! Is Northwestern a tournament team? Probably
not this year. The 'Cats will miss Hardy at first, but once
play begins (with a home game against Iowa on January 8) they will have
the adjustment to playing without him, and the freshmen will hopefully
up and give the Wildcats a deep, fast team that can score. If the
can get the offense going, if TJ Parker can handle the pressures of
a still-young team in a tough conference, and if Carmody can get his
to play 8 or 9 men deep, then the Wildcats might be surprise for the
season in a row and could sneak into the NIT. Personally, I don't
NU will match its 7 conference wins from a year ago, and that (plus a
RPI) will make it very tough to get a postseason bid. BUT, I do
this is only a minor transition year, and the foundation is there for
first NCAA tournament bid. It won't be this year, but I think NU
no more than a year or two away from that long-awaited dance card.
In other Big
Ten news today, Michigan announced a self-imposed 1-year ban
on post-season tournament play, as atonement for several years of
violations. Frankly, this is merely a shallow recognition of the
recruiting class brought in by Tommy Amaker. The Wolverines will
better this year, and they might be great next year, so the school
to sweep this nasty business under the rug ASAP. Michigan's
(if accepted by the NCAA) could open the door to a team like NU if they
post a winning record.
8th place, but nobody will want to play NU in the Big Ten tournament.
Preview and Prediction
By Eric Cockerill
Illini (4-7, 3-4) at Northwestern Wildcats (3-8, 1-6)
Date: Saturday, November 23, 2002, 11:05 a.m. CST
Television: ESPN Plus
Line: NU plus 14 (Over/Under 58.5)
Ahhhhhhh...the Sweet Sioux Tomahawk...what alumnus doesn't look back
at this tradition of instate competition. (Cue the alma
The hard fought battles, the glorious victories, the bitter defeats, a
that ranks among the most infamous in college...
Ok, so my co-worker said it all when he asked "Who was Sweet Sue and
did she have an ax?" Actually, this rivalry does garner some
from the local papers as an instate battle for bragging rights.
about ten years ago, it was Illinois's chance to pound on poor NU as
for not admitting their cousins, neighbors, etc. Lately, though,
has been holding its own (winning 2 of the last 5). Personally, I
NU wins so I don't have to hear it from the folks in my office who
me approximately 20-1.2 (there's an intern from NU that comes in once a
For the teams, there's not much beyond the rivalry to play
has had a disappointing season that is ending with calls for Walker's
(though curiously, this is mostly from alumni...the local papers have
pretty easy on him considering their general similarity to piranhas...I
to the media types on the list, but as for the local sports media,
not much empathy here) Illinois has had a mediocre season and was
from post-season play last week.
Illinois comes into the game with pretty much mediocre
Their junior QB, Jon Buetjer, is filling Kurt Kitner's shoes fairly
(280 passing yards per game for first in the Big Ten), but the running
and wide receivers are nothing particularly special. On defense
also mediocre, but compare their 28 points allowed per game to NU's 42
allowed per game, and we begin to see a familiar story unfolding.
key indicator here is their play versus previous opponents. They
Indiana, beat Purdue and Wisconsin, and played tough against OSU.
barely beat Indiana, was crushed by Purdue, DNP Wisconsin and played
against OSU (on a tangent, I stand by my previous opinion that OSU is
really as good as their record, though that doesn't matter. But I
Michigan beats them this weekend).
NU, on the other hand, continues to improve on offense. Wright
Basanez have given fans reason to be hopeful for next season. On
that's another story. A typical NU tackle usually involves either
down in front of the opposing runner or grabbing onto a shoelace as
being knocked over by an offensive lineman four yards downfield.
have a suggested diet for the NU D-line for the offseason. It's
(no lite ) and beef grown with steroids. Lots and lots of
Also, any defensive player in engineering must transfer into something
so they can spend more time in the weight room.
The real story here will be the weather, which will be like an extra
player. The extended forecast is cold and rainy (much like the
two weeks here). That makes things a little more interesting.
Illinois' long passing game is ineffective, and NU's short passing and
running game become a lot more effective. The score should stay
low as well (well, low for an NU game anyway) and won't hit 58.5.
say Illinois will win by following the standard game plan against NU
the passing, keep running) as demonstrated by Purdue, but not by
Pick: Illinois 24, Northwestern 17. Take
the Cats and the points, unless the weather forecast changes
Season to date: Straight up, 9-2; against the spread, 7-4