The Complete 2003 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. For
the 2003 season it returned to HailToPurple.com,
for anyone to enjoy. Thanks to the gridiron brain trust at the Lowes
Preview and Prediction
By Jersey Cat
Northwestern (0-0) at Kansas (0-0)
Date: Saturday, August 30, 6:00 p.m. CDT
Television: None. www.wgnradio.com for die-hards
that are near a PC.
Well here we
are again, back at it at The Lowes Line. The 2003 campaign
marks the fifth college football season during which we've remembered
through a continuation of what he started in 1996 as a somewhat
and certainly humorous weekly column on the state of Northwestern
Hopefully we schleps that write this season can continue the attempt to
the weekly read as enjoyable as Marcus made it.
absolute horror of a 2002 season, one in which many were calling
for the head of Randy Walker, the 'Cats look to the 2003 season with a
more optimism. Their 3-9 season last year was marred by a run
that had more holes in it than a pincushion at a needle
Significant losses to graduation include solid wideout Jon
as well as the two mainstays of the offensive line for several years,
King and Jeff Roehl (picked up by the NJ Giants!).
season opener at Kansas, NU plays nonconference games at home against
Air Force and Miami (OH), and finishes the pre-Big Ten portion of the
at Duke. The conference schedule gets serious quickly, as the
open the slate at defending national champion Ohio State, who, even
Maurice Clarett, looks like the team to beat in the conference.
2003 season for NU also has Big Ten road games at Indiana, Purdue, and
while they host Minnesota, Wisconsin, Penn State, and Michigan in
For those making the trip in September to Columbus for the game against
Buckeyes, I offer some friendly advice in the form of an analogy, and
on my trip there in 2001: Woody Hayes is to people in Ohio as God
to normal people. The takeaway: When in Columbus, don't
with Woody or his memory and expect to get away unharmed. The
to this, sadly also learned firsthand, is the following: Don't talk
about Ohio State while in line for the Porta-Jon and expect to walk out
some Buckeye Buffoons try to tip the damn thing over. But what
I expect from a mob that requires 104,000 people to collectively spell
On to Week
1. I always find the first game of the year has me brewing
with optimism. Where did it get me last year? A pick 'em
against Air Force ended up in a 52-3 disgrace (and it wasn't that
So what to make of NU's chances against the Jayhawks? Here's a
12 school that has a focus on basketball and not much else. Does
even have a gridiron squad? Rock, chalk, Jayhawk? What's
all about? Could that be the way they play rock, paper, scissors
Lawrence? And an immortal hoops coach named Phog?
by the likes of conference foes Oklahoma, Texas, and Kansas State, the
have not seen much success on the football field, going winless last
in Big 12 play. Kansas is led by senior QB Mark
Who he leads is another story. While the Jayhawks return wide
Derick Mils and Brandon Rideau, their roster is composed of 13 junior
signees. Don't look for them in the Big 12 championship game come
For NU, nine
starters return on defense, hopefully with more experience.
Linebacker Pat Durr is back as well, after missing all but a few
of last season following a knee injury in the opener against Air Force.
the saying goes, the biggest room in the world is the room for
Look no further than the defensive side of the ball to see this one in
The 2002 squad surrendered over 313 yards a game on the ground.
order to be even remotely competitive, NU has to prove they can stop
run. Their pass defense numbers were admirable last year, only
teams didn't bother to throw the ball. Overall there
has to be a
quantum leap of progress from the team that allowed 502 total
yards and 41 points a game last season. Youth and injuries only
so far as excuses. This defense needs to step it up.
sophomore QB Brett Basanez and senior RB Jason Wright, both of
whom led a high-scoring offense last year, are back.
led all freshmen in the country last year in passing yardage, even
missing two games with a broken fibula. Wright is an exciting
with All-America potential. He ranked fourth nationally in
yardage last year with over 2,000 yards. While his time as a kick
will be small this year, his impact will be big. Senior wideout
Patrick is back this year as well. Patrick has a 34 game
streak and will be the main target for Basanez. Joining Patrick
Ashton Aikens, a junior speedster that has the ability to be a
Up front is an offensive line that averages over 6-5 and 315 pounds,
will have to be as effective as last season if the 'Cats are to
their high scoring average of 22+ points a game like last year.
This team has
the ability to put points on the board, and is exciting to
watch when on offense. The question is whether the shootouts
sure to engage in will result in victories. While I think the
will be much more competitive than last year, certainly on defense, I'm
convinced that the record will be appreciably better. As for a
outlook, I think 3-9 on the low side and 5-7 on the high side is what
can expect. You'll see better than that only if Randy Walker
from the locker room one Saturday with Lazarus.
will be one of the W's, however. The Kansas defense doesn't
impress anyone, and NU is actually a more talented team, if you can
it. There won't be many of these opportunities this season, 'Cats
so take 'em where you can.
NU 31, Kansas 21. Take the 'Cats and lay the points.
Force Preview and Prediction
United States Air Force Academy Falcons (1-0) at Northwestern Wildcats
Date: Saturday, September 6, at noon CDT.
Television: Nope. Maybe next week...
There is no
joy in rehashing the debacle that was last season's opener in
Colorado Springs. The score (a 52-3 whipping) was not indicative
the game itself--most witnesses believe the Zoomies could have scored
points against the 'Cats. Before kickoff that day, however,
would have predicted such a disaster, either for the game (Vegas sent
'Cats into the game at even odds) or for the season.
for Northwestern, the loss set the tone for the rest of the 2002
NU lost Pat Durr six plays into the game, and the Wildcat defense never
giving up Manifest Destiny-scale chunks of real estate for the rest of
season. Making matters worse was the Wildcats' uncertainty
offense, as they had not yet settled on Brett Basanez at QB. The
sputtered badly in the thin air of the Rocky Mountain foothills (a
12 first downs on barely 200 yards total offense, and only 37 yards
Saturday's win in Kansas, it is very tempting to ignore the past.
After all, what a difference a year makes, right? Northwestern's
looked a heckuva lot better than it did last season, allowing only one
in Lawrence, and that on a busted play. In this case, NU's
defense was a good offense, as it dominated time of possession in wet
that ranged from a refreshing drizzle to a downpour that saw the
cheerleaders pairing off to board an ark. Kansas managed to stay
the game thanks to an interception return off a bad bounce and a return
a bobbled snap on a punt. Jason Wright carried the ball 41
for 196 yards (144 in the first half) and notched 4 TDs, earning his
career Big Ten Player of the Week honor. Basanez had an efficient
in the rain, passing for 219 yards. Kunle Patrick also picked up
he left off in 2002, hauling in 7 receptions. But the story
the defense, which forced 5 turnovers and gave up a single score in
conditions. Most impressive is that NU only surrendered 106 yards
in the game, which is about 700 yards better that their per-game
of a year ago.
Like I said,
it's tempting to ignore the past, despite the admonition of
George Santayana. But the reality is that Kansas isn't exactly
class of the Big 12--NU should be able to beat teams like the Jayhawks
look good doing it. I hate to knock over the bandwagon, but NU
be a 3-9 team and still be competitive with the likes of Kansas or Duke
Indiana for that matter). The question of the week is
NU can be competitive with Air Force, a bowl team in 2002. Seeing
the Falcons did to Division I-AA Wofford (a 49-0 whitewashing) doesn't
me feel any better. Wofford is Air Force head coach Fisher
alma mater, and he might have shown a little mercy on his way to career
number 150. Air Force is a scary team. While the
aren't much of a threat to throw the ball, they can run on anybody
averaged 307 ypg on the ground in 2002, an average that was probably
by the 19,000 yards rushing they pinned on NU). They return four
on the offensive line, as well as senior QB Chance
Frankly, the 2003 Falcons are a much more experienced team on offense
they were last season, which is bad news for Northwestern.
defensive side of the ball, the Falcons return starters at most of
the key positions, the major exception being the loss of LB Anthony
who transferred to Ohio State. The Falcons field a very
defense that employs a flexible 3-3-5 scheme, with 2 defensive backs
the role of LB/DB "Falcons" who on any given play will either drop back
coverage, blitz the quarterback, or help out on the run (NU will also
some 3-3-5 during this game). Last year, the Air Force
made NU look real, real bad. The "Falcon" scheme reacted to NU's
spread offense faster than the Wildcats' own offensive players--in
during post-game interviews several Air Force players were quoted as
that in practice their scout team ran the Wildcat offense better and
than NU could, and during the game the Falcons defense often reacted to
called play before Stauss/Basanez even took the snap.
Northwestern's offense should have better luck against the Zoomies
this time around. As we saw in the Kansas game, an effective
will take pressure off the defense. The Wildcats are a more
more athletic, and more confident team than the one that was humiliated
Colorado Springs last season, and thank goodness for that.
violent drubbing would probably be too traumatic for all the youngsters
to be in attendance at Ryan Field on "Take A Kid To The Game Day" this
Unfortunately, this game will be another good recruiting tool for Air
Don't count on NU winning with offense, as they did against Navy last
because Air Force actually has a tough defense that should keep Jason
from claiming another Player of the Week honor. And don't count
NU's defense to suddenly be able to stop the best multiple option
attack in the country. This won't be an embarrassment, but
also won't be a win.
Air Force 35, NU 24. Take the Zoomies and lay the points.
1-0 (1-0 ATS)
Preview and Prediction
Miami University RedHawks (0-1) at Northwestern Wildcats (1-1)
Date: Saturday, September 13, at 11:00 am CDT
Television: ESPN Plus (Regional)
what can you say about this past week's game. I'm driving to
MI for a wedding and convince my wife to let me listen for some college
scores on the radio, and I come across the 'Cats leading 21-7 on
I listen for the final 30 minutes of the car ride and head into the
to check in with the 'Cats still leading, but only by 8. Next
I know the ticker says Air Force 22-21 Final Score. How did this
Well, some bad turnovers occurred and as Carl would say, "and that's
she wrote." On the bright side, Northwestern seems to have
a defense. The vaunted Air Force Triple Option only scored two
(a significant improvement over last year's debacle), and Marvin Ward
named a DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK in the Big 10. Alongside
Mr. Ohio Jeff Backes, NU boasts the strongest secondary I can remember
a player who shall remain nameless was caught toking it up before a
game. On the negative side, Jason Wright sat out much of the 3rd
with a "tight" hammy but per report should be ready to go. Let's
so as he still is the best option on offense, especially if Basanez
On to the
Redhawks. Miami and NU are linked
over the years. Parseghian and Walker are coaches who left the
confines of Oxford, Ohio to head to the shores of Lake Michigan and
University. Who can forget 1995 when the fumbled punt
led Miami to a winning score as time expired for NU's only loss before
Rose Bowl appearance. Again in 1999, the 'Hawks came a calling in
during Walker's inaugural season and pounded the 'Cats 28-3. This
Miami is the preseason favorite to win the East Division of the MAC
are starting to believe it is no longer a second rate conference, just
Purdue about Bowling Green). They are led by Heisman candidate
Roethlisberger (hate to be the announcers for his games) who became
career passing leader 2 weeks ago against Iowa despite a rough week.
RedHawks rushing attack comes from the duo of seniors Luke Clemens and
Murray, who combined for 1,262 yards last year. Despite losing
the game was significantly more competitive than the final score.
miscues in the redzone halted 3 drives for the Redhawks without a
Their rushing defense did seem a little porous as Iowa ran over them
232 yards as Fred Russell hit them for 161 of those yards. With
bye week, Coach Hoeppner will have the Redhawks prepared for NU.
would college football be without a little controversy. Place
kicker Jared Parseghian (great grandnephew of the aforementioned Ara
was suspended from the football team Friday for stealing artwork and
from the city park. I'm saying this comes back to haunt the
as the ghost of Ara comes down* and punishes them for suspending his
Wright and Basanez explode and Roethlisberger's Heisman hopes go up in
as Durr and the new 'Cats defense holds Miami to 17 points.
NU 27, Miami 17. Take the 'Cats and the points.
date: 2-0 (1-1 ATS)
* [Ed. note: yes, MO'Cats is being figurative.
There is no cause for alarm: Ara is still quite alive.]
State Preview and Prediction
By Charlie Simon
Matchup: Northwestern Wildcats (2-2) at
The Ohio State Buckeyes (4-0)
Date: Saturday, September 27, at 11:00 am CDT
Line: N/A some places, others OSU -21
Wildcats open their 2003 Big Ten season with a trip to the Horseshoe in
to play the defending national champion Ohio State Buckeyes. The
are coming off of a solid 28-10 road victory over the Duke Blue
The Buckeyes advanced to 4-0 by holding off a late rally by the Bowling
Fighting Falcons. NU's defense has done relatively well this year
the run, not so against the pass as evidenced by their defeat at the
of the Miami Redhawks. Ohio State continues to do just enough to
out a victory each week.
a difficult time with the big boys of the Big Ten just due to the sheer
of talented guys they can throw at us. Even if the starting
is even, the reserves from OSU, UM and PSU usually are far superior to
NU's best shot comes when they have an experienced team, especially at
O-line and def. secondary. Unfortunately the O-line has yet to
our QB is still green and the secondary is young and beat up. OSU
be using a back-up QB this weekend, so it should not be a blow out
on wood). The weather will be a factor as the field will be
In all likelihood the game will be close in the first half, but the
will wear us down in the second and pull away. Our hope relies on
bounces (and many of them) finally going against OSU. They have
on the edge now for over a year. They are due. That being
I still would not bet against them.
Take the Buckeyes but by 10. The 'Cats should be able to hang
date: 2-1 (1-2 ATS).
Minnesota Preview and
Wildcats (2-3) vs. Minnesota Golden Gophers (5-0)
Date: Saturday, October
4, 11 a.m. CDT
Television: ESPN Plus
Line: Minnesota -11.5
The Good (relatively any way):
The NU defense is decent.
They held OSU in check many times. They can stop
the run but are suspect against the pass. A good passing team
out the 'Cats.
The offense was not
impressive. The scheme once again is to run and make
short throws out of the spread formation. The main problem as I
see it is
that NU does not use the middle of the field or try to go down field
their passes. I saw exactly 2 passes thrown to a receiver between
marks, and not a one thrown down field. Both were to the tight
end and both
were terrible. Without using the center and deep down field it
very easy on the defense to clamp down on the run. Opponents can
put 8 guys
in the box the stop the run and then have the DB's play 7 yards off the
ball. Since EVERY pattern NU runs is a 3 yard curl or 4 yard out,
have plenty of time to close on a ball that is thrown 25 yards
a 5 yard gain at best.
The offense put together two
drives by running for 3 yards each on 1st and
2nd and throwing for 4 yards on third but there is not room for error
that approach. One sack, penalty, stop for no gain and NU is
The special teams play was
embarrassing for a Div. 1 school. I really have
seen a better job by several high school teams from the Buckeye
missed field goals where the snap bounced back to the holder. One
return that was received a yard deep in the end zone, bobbled and
the one, then picked up and downed back in the end zone. How that
is not a
safety against the 'Cats I still do not know. Another kick off
out of bounds inside the 5. Instead of letting it go out of
bounds or into
the end zone, Jason Wright catches it at the 3 with one foot out of
It reminds me of my days at NU
in the early 90's. The only hope for beating
even a middle level team is that EVERYTHING has to go NU's way to
is not as catchy a slogan as Expect Victory.
I am trying to keep the faith
but it could but a rough year. Is Minnesota
really a top 20 team? No one knows yet. They are a top 50
team though and
NU is not.
As much as I hate to say it, Take Minnesota, minus 11.5.
Record (4-1 straight-up, 2-3
against the spread)
Preview and Prediction
Matchup: Northwestern Wildcats (2-4;
0-2) at Indiana (1-5; 0-2)
Date: Saturday, October 11 at 11:00 am CDT
Television: ESPN Plus
minutes, the Northwestern defense held Minnesota (the highest
scoring offense in the Big 10) without a first down. Suddenly,
game turned sour quickly. It seemed as if the 'Cats gave up and
answer (let alone stop) the Minnesota offense, while the 'Cat offense
moving the ball at all. Mercifully to all of those in attendance
watching on TV, the game ended with a final score of 42-17. What
heck happened. This was supposed to be the 'Cats' best defense in
years. The offense was supposed to be able to move on anyone (at
anyone not wearing scarlet and gray). The defense allowed the BIG
Gophers (I can't believe I just wrote that) 241 yards on the ground and
additional 331 in the air (two
accounted for 178 yards).
The 'Cat offense amassed 10 first downs in the first quarter alone but
was held to FIVE first downs for the rest of the game ("That's all we
was five *&! first downs. You can't post *&!. Who
no one is reading anyway."). Walker states, "We got it rolling in
first half, then had a couple of setbacks ... then the air come out of
balloon." Isn't it his job to see what the bleep is going on and
the hole before all the air escapes? He has veteran leaders on
team and they just gave up. Come on, the coaching staff has to do
Anyway, on to
the Hoosiers with Norman Dale and Jimmy Chitwood starring.
This team is terrible and would need Jimmy Chitwood to run the
Fence to score. IU will probably be NU's last chance for a
this season. The Spartans smoked (literally with Jeff Smoker)
last week 31-3 giving up almost 400 yards passing and over 100 in
If I was the coach last week for the Hoosiers, I would have run Shooter
there carrying his flask and handing it to Smoker to see what happened
those two partied.
only victory this season came at the hands of their fierce (I'm
trying not to laugh at that last proclamation) state rivals, the
State Sycamores, who they beat 33-3. They have not had another
where their defense has not given up over 30 points, while their
has managed 17 points twice-- losing to Michigan St., Michigan,
and those powerhouses of college football, Kentucky and Connecticut.
are led by Junior QB Matt LoVecchio and 2 young TB's, sophomore Chris
and freshman BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who average nearly 4 yards per rush
the two of them.
should be able to put up some offense against this porous defense.
Wright needs to have a breakout game to take some pressure off of
who is going through a sophomore slump. Look for the 'Cats to
the run early, getting an early lead and Basanez to finally start
some poise in the pocket (he lost something at the end of that Air
game). If the special teams do not kill the 'Cats, they should
this game. If they don't win this game look for Walker's head on
platter at the end of the season and NationalChampionSomeday's
plans on heading to Pasadena (or even a bowl game) again before he
turns 40 go up in smoke.
'Cats 33 IU 24 Take the 'Cats and give the points
date: 5-1 (straight up) 3-3 (ATS)
Preview and Prediction
Matchup: Northwestern Wildcats (3-4;
1-2) at Bye Week Nobodies (7-0; 0-7)
October 18, 11:05 am CDT
Site: Erehwon Memorial Stadium,
Television: None. Rumor has it that
"Iowa" will be enjoying the
benefits of 20th Century technology within the next decade, but until
there ain't no dang teevee.
Line: None. (You thought I'd go for the cheap laugh,
the bye week by 3.5, didn't you? Didn't you? Well, for your
the game is off the board due to the questionable status of Bye's
QB, to say nothing of the questionable status of NU's entire offense.)
Northwestern won a Big Ten road game! Never mind that it
was Indiana, just revel in the Wildcats' first conference victory away
Ryan Field since "Victory Right" in 2000. Especially sweet was
fact that Indiana had targeted Northwestern as its Homecoming patsy,
to squeeze out a win for the Hoosier alums. (Chitwood takes the pass at
top of the key! He waits, watching the clock wind down, he
some more, building dramatic tension, he drives! He shoots!
He misses! D'oh! Hoosier Daddy!) Frankly, it's hard
read much into last weekend's victory. Indiana is a bad team, but
actually feature some talent, including former Notre Dame (and Franklin
NJ product) Matt LoVecchio, not to mention one of Division I-A's
coaches in Gerry "Face Like a Pan of Worms, Bless His Pea-Pickin'
DiNardo. On a completely unrelated note, when the ESPN+
focused in on a Hoosier cheerleader before going to commercial late in
third quarter, I couldn't help but wonder aloud whether she had
to IU from Northwestern. What I mean is, she, uh, looked
From previous broadcasts. Or something.
despite LoVecchio and DiNardo and the lovable Hoosier cheerleaders,
Indiana still isn't any good. In the plus column, NU's offense
signs of life. Brett Basanez managed to shake off the effects of
sophomore slump for one afternoon, showing flashes of the efficient,
QB we remember from last season. Jason Wright also had a
game (141 yards rushing, 4 TDs). For the second week in a row,
looked good in the first quarter, but then they coughed up a 17-point
not once, but twice. While overtime was great, watching the
half on pay-per-view was excruciating; the only saving grace was that
was on Jersey Cat's nickel. Just think of it: in exchange
sliced chicken sandwich, I swindled Jersey Cat out of a Coors Light and
Wildcat overtime win on ESPN Gameplan. Combine that with the fact
he didn't make me help remodel his bathroom, toss in a big Cubs win,
I'd say I had a pretty good Saturday. Of course, my day
as good as the one enjoyed by my puppy, who on game days I refer to as
and who on Saturday pooped three times (all outdoors!), ate a bug,
for 6 hours, and made sweet, sweet love to my sofa. Good boy,
cannot be said of NU's next opponent, the mercurial Bye Week.
Bye Week got its ass kicked last week by Washington State, who moved up
the polls from #12 to #6 thanks to their matchup with the Empty
Bye Week doesn't really have any offensive or defensive stars to speak
and new coach Lou Saban (no, really, he's coaching Nobody!) hasn't had
to talk about in his first year at Erewhon Memorial
While the Bye Week alumni are justifiably restless, there are rumors
the Big East is seriously considering inviting the Bye Week to join the
as a full member. Maybe as two full members, so they can have a
thing. It will come as no surprise that, following a popular
trend in the Big Ten, the Bye Week has scheduled Northwestern as its
opponent. Opportunistic bastards.
Believe it or
not, NU actually has a losing record in recent years against
the Bye Week. Under Randy Walker, NU is 2-2 when they have an
week to prepare (in fact, the Victory Right win over Minnesota in 2000
the week after NU faced the Empty Slate). Against the Bye
however, Walker and the 'Cats have had tough luck, going 0-1-3.
lone loss came in 2001, when NU's Zak Kustok rolled up 532 yards of
his ownself, only to see the 'Cats lose 42-43 on a successful two point
by Bowling Green. For the record, that game took place
NU's scheduled Bye Week, when NU filled the gap on their schedule left
the canceled Navy matchup.
predict the outcome of this week's contest is nearly as difficult
as trying to predict how NU's offense will play. Seriously, what
hell is up with the Wildcat offense this season? Yeah, they put
some points against Indiana (yawn), but on the whole the offense has
the fireworks we all thought we'd be seeing this season.
should be improving on his great play of last year, and Jason Wright
be one of the most dangerous tailbacks in the conference. It's
that the offense stinks, but I was hoping we'd steal a game or two by
a shootout. Instead, NU has actually relied on their defense in
three of their wins, and even in two of their losses. I
what the hell is wrong with this picture? Combine last year's
with this year's defense, and this team is 4-3, with winnable games
Penn State and Illinois (and thus potential Bowl eligibility) still to
OK, that last sentence made me laugh a little bit.
real transition whatsoever, here is a song parody that came to
mind while driving home from work last week (it was a long day, a late
and I had just polished off a Forrest Gump--that's 14 Dr. Peppers to
you rookies out there):
Randy Walker Way
by GallopingGrapes, with apologies to J.Walsh
Spent the last year
Randy Walker Way
Could the scores get higher
After Air Force
Think it's safe to say
NU ain't on fire
And we don't need the LadyCats
Crying 'cuz the D's so bad
'Cuz the Randy Walker Way
Is better than the Peay we had
[wah-wah guitar solo by Asst. Head Coach Jerry
Well he's callin' a blitz
And we're all screamin' "Pass!"
Changes it every play
So what the hell's the matter
Offense was loaded and Basanez's at bat
Playin' it play by play
Our record should be better
And we don't need the LadyCats
Crying 'cuz the D's so bad, uh huh
'Cuz the Randy Walker Way
Is better than the Peay we had
Hey, hey, hey, hey
exhausted the meager material of the Bye Week? Really?
About four paragraphs and one song parody ago? Are you absolutely
you don't want a dissertation on the brilliance of Ian Paice's drum
on the "Made In Japan" album? You might not think it has
to do with Northwestern football, but you'd be wrong. Just listen
"The Mule" while you read this column backwards. (That's "Mule"
Northwestern 2, Bye Week 0. In a mind-bending display of
irony, nobody shuts down the Wildcat offense, which goes
NU wins by forfeit.
date: 6-1 straight up, 4-3 against the spread)
GallopingGrapes. Go Cubs!!
Preview and Prediction
By Jersey Cat
Matchup: # 17 Wisconsin Badgers (6-2,
3-1 Big Ten) at Northwestern Wildcats (3-4, 1-2)
Date: Saturday, October 25, 2003,
11:00 am CDT
– ooh, will we get to hear the eloquent voice of Chris Spielman
Please? Chris, we know you were a stud at Ohio State. And
know he had a cheesy mustache while there. Enough already.
call the damn game.
Line: NU plus 11.5
is Homecoming at Northwestern, and the 'Cats take on their Big Ten
rivals to the north, Wisconsin. Brie on the Badgers! The
are coming off a win at Indiana, and with an extra week to prepare for
Badgers, plus a homecoming crowd cheering behind them, this game
as gouda chance as any to get a second conference win.
coach Barry "Mascarpone" Alvarez leads a 5-2 Wisconsin team that
had delusions of muenster at the outset of the season. The
had been feta'd with preseason accolades, such a Top 25 ranking, but
a September non-conference loss to the Runnin' Rebels of UNLV, the
faithful could be heard uttering a collective groan of "Jarlsberg!" in
the same way Seinfeld used to show disdain for his mail carrier.
play like that will give a coach a lot of gruyere, but Alvarez is
pretty much bald, so the effect has been minimal.
have battled back from the Vegas defeat to stop Ohio State's
19-game winning streak, before bowing to Wilford Brimley look-alike Joe
and Purdue last weekend, 26-23.
defense has improved significantly this season, but there was only
one way to go after last year. Although only 95th in the country
the run this year, NU's average of 185 yards per game is quite a step
the right direction from the 300+ they surrendered per game on the
last year. Appropriately, look for none other than Colby Clark to
up and make a few big plays Saturday. After sitting out the
game while on academic probation, Clark boldly commented before the
game on his role within the Wildcat defensive unit, "Asiago, so go the
take advantage of an overrated Wisconsin secondary. When
asked for his thoughts on the Badger cornerbacks, NU quarterback Brett
said, "We expect to throw the ball effectively on them. Not to
too confident, but we expect to edam for lunch." Ooh.
board material. Basanez will be taking the snaps this
out fromunda 'Cat freshman center Trevor Rees, who is part of an
line without a senior in the starting lineup.
The Cats have
had to regroup from some truly unspectacular play against
NU held an early 14-0 lead against the Gophers, before being strung out
mozzarella, and falling 42-17. After that contest, Randy Walker
nothing more than to escape by himself to his little-known retreat in
Utah. His wife intervened, "Don’t go to Provolone. Take me with
Although Walker wanted some solitude, he decided against the trip to
Beehive State and went back to campus to study film for the upcoming
versus Indiana, a contest the Wildcats won 37-31 in overtime.
In that game
two weeks back at Bloomington, senior tailback Jason Wright
was spicier than a slice of habañero pepper jack, scoring four
including the overtime game-winner, while rushing for 141 yards.
Philmore got his gorgonzola up against the Hoosiers too, returning a
quarter punt sixty yards to the Hoosier six yard line that set up the
score. Wideout Kunle Patrick also extended his NCAA-leading
of consecutive games with at least one reception to forty-one with a
defense, shredded earlier this year by Miami (OH) and Minnesota like
cheddar atop a taco, didn't exactly rebound against the Hoosiers,
on an equally unimpressive display against former Golden Dome QB Matt
But they managed to make a play when it counted, with Bryan Heinz
off Lovecchio in overtime before getting the win.
How to attack
the Badgers? Their run defense is strong, and the offensive
line will have their hands full in creating space for Wright and
Basanez needs to throw early and often, short passes on first down to
up second and third downs with short yardage situations.
everyone involved on offense. Where has the team been that used
score almost at will last year? This Badger squad can be thrown
Purdue ran up 411 passing yards on Wisconsin last week.
QB Kyle Orton was both effective and efficient, completing 38 of 55
against the UW defense. Is NU's offense as smooth as
Hardly. Yet Basanez & Co. should be able to have a
good time against the Wisconsin defense.
stopping Badger tailback Anthony Davis is the key. The
other keys, which I've asked Curtis to throw down, are applying
to the quarterback and simply showing up for the second half. The
tendency to lose a lead cost them against both Air Force and Minnesota,
nearly did against Indiana.
Can NU pull
the upset? If so, the students will charge the field, headed
for the goalposts, and we’ll see the likes of DPS attempt to restore
clad, of course, in the brown polyester that engorges many reading this.
Smile, 'Cats fans, but don’t say cheese: NU covers, Badgers win.
Northwestern 20. Take the 'Cats and the points.
date: 6-1 straight up, 4-3 against the spread.
Preview and Prediction
By Joel Kanvik
Matchup: Northwestern Wildcats (4-4,
2-2) at Purdue (6-2, 3-1; #18 AP Poll)
Date: Saturday, November 1, 2003. Kickoff 11:00 am CST
Television: ESPN. Coverage begins at
11:00 am, with Mark Jones and Bob Davie
covering (and, having listened to Bob Davie on color commentary, I
fully why his tenure at South Bend State was so short). Radio on
720 in the Chicago area, or on the web.
Line: NU plus 18.5
Line contributor is at a loss as to how to follow up the previous
Line's recital of the cheese family. Unfortunately,
does not lend itself to much in the way of humor, except the entirely
curiosity of exactly why a university chose to nickname itself after
manufacturers. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that such
tend to wield sledgehammers and are thereby intimidating. But
is not for small minds to ponder.
enter this Big 10 tilt on the heels of a surprising victory
over the Badgers of Wisconsin, then ranked 17th in the country.
brings its 2 game Big 10 win streak (first time since 2000) into
Stadium to face Purdue, which was routed by Michigan 31-3 on a
televised game on ABC. Embarrassing. That does not bode
victory over the Badgers came from a very unusual occurrence:
NU's defense shut down the Badgers running game. The NU offense
its Wisconsin counterpart 245 to 135. In fact, Wisconsin's
rusher was Brett Schabert, the quarterback, and he rushed for only 57
Schabert also threw for less than 200 yards and tossed one pick.
in all, an impressive defensive performance by the 'Cats. NU's
led by Pat Durr, never let the Badgers get into any sort of offensive
and the defensive line consistently penetrated the line of scrimmage
prevented running plays from getting started. Surprisingly, NU's
leads the Big 10 in red zone defense.
On offense, NU
seems to have found a new weapon against Wisconsin.
NU's leading rusher was not Jason Wright, though he did end up with 97
on 18 carries despite being hampered by an ankle sprain. Noah
stepped up and took up the slack, gaining 104 yards on only 11 carries,
20 yards on a fake field goal that moved NU down to the 3 yard line and
up a touchdown to put NU ahead 16-7. Basanez was not as
going 10-22 with 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions. Basanez's
pass covered 53 yards to Jason Wright, though Wright did most of the
However, it was a very well thrown ball. Kunle Patrick kept his
alive, catching 1 pass and extending his streak of consecutive games
at least one reception to 42.
The only down
side of the UW game, other than Wright's injury, was the placekicking
game. NU's #1 kicker was out with a hip injury and is still
so his backup managed to tag his offensive line in the back twice with
once on an extra point and once on a field goal. These kicks did
even come close to clearing the line. He was later replaced by
Brian Huffman, who successfully converted a field goal to put NU up
victory over the Badgers, true. However, before you get too
enthusiastic about NU's prospects this week against Purdue, it bears
that Wisconsin was without its starting quarterback (Jim Sorgi, knee
and its scary good starting running back, Anthony Davis, who was
limited by a high ankle sprain and carried the ball only 5 times
almost 40 yards).
Fact: this season, 3 of NU's 4 victories have come on the
embarrassed last week by Michigan. The Boilers managed only
a measly field goal in getting drubbed 31-3. And it was never
that close. Two weeks ago, Purdue went to Wisconsin and beat the
26-23 to spoil Wisconsin's homecoming, and looked like the Boilers of
Brees in passing over 50 times and picking apart Wisconsin's mediocre
The Wolverines held Orton to 18 of 37 passing for only 184 yards and 2
which is remarkable given that Purdue has a talented receiver corps led
Standeford and Stubblefield. Michigan shifted defenses frequently
seemed to confuse the Boilermakers. Also, Michigan held Purdue to
defense took the brunt of the Wolves' attack. Prior to Michigan,
Purdue had the 8th ranked defense in the country, surrendering only
points per game. The defense did hold Michigan's standout back
Perry to less than 100 yards (28 for 95). Going into the game
NU, Purdue boasts the 6th ranked defense in terms of yards surrendered
game, and a particularly stout run defense.
somewhat suspect secondary, expect Purdue to pass like a Chicago
voter: early and often. Purdue coach Joe Tiller has already
a tendency to put the ball in the air (see the Wisconsin game), and
NU's success against the vaunted running attack of Wisconsin, that
spur him to air it out. The Wildcats will likely wilt under the
and Purdue will be able to run and pass later in the game. Look
wideouts Standeford and Stubblefield to have big games, and for Orton's
percentage to be far better than the results against Michigan.
On the other
side of the ball, Jason Wright & company might have trouble
gaining yards against the Purdue defense, one that knows how to stop
NU spread (last year's 42-13 thrashing as Exhibit A). In
this team is much better than last year's debacle. However, I
think they have what it will take to go into West Lafayette and upset
Boilermakers, who are looking to get back in the race for the Big Ten
While there is a mild chance that Purdue will be thinking about their
opponent, Iowa, I don't think it will be enough to allow NU to sneak in
steal a win.
Boilermakers 40, Wildcats 23. Take the Cats and the points.
date: Straight up 6-2, Against the spread 5-3
State Preview and Prediction
By Joel W. Kanvik
Matchup: Penn State
Nittany Lions (2-7, 0-5 Big 10) at Northwestern Wildcats (4-5, 2-3)
Date: November 8,
2003. Kickoff at 11:05 a.m. CST
Television: ESPN 2
Line: Northwestern plus
The cliche is that the only
statistic that ultimately matters is the one
reflected on the scoreboard. Last Saturday, that statistic showed
losing 34-14 to Purdue. A review of almost all the other
bears out this cliche:
Total yards: Purdue 390,
Total Plays: Purdue 74, NU
Rush yards: Purdue 178, NU
Pass yards: Purdue 212, NU
Completions: Purdue 14 for
24, NU 14 for 24
Punts: Purdue 4, NU 3
Time of Possession: Purdue
28:30, NU 31:30
A fairly even game from those
statistics. The one statistic that isn't
listed above is that apparently the Northwestern offense came down with
case of tuberculosis reminiscent of the 19th century. NU coughed
the ball 5 times, losing the ball 4 times. Somebody give them one
those TB tests!
The postgame interview with the
NU offense must have gone something like this:
Reporter: "So your 4
fumbles didn't have any effect on the outcome of the game?"
NU: "Not if one of those
other guys jumped on the ball. I can't do everything."
Reporter: "There's no 'I'
NU: "There ain't no 'we'
For their encore, the members of
the NU offense will run around and scream, "Whazzzzup!!" after every
Brett Basanez was the Typhoid
Mary of the offense, putting the ball on the
ground 3 times. He finished up 12-20 and was sacked 4
Alexander Webb mopped up in the 4th and went 2 for 4. He did not
the ball on the ground. Hopefully he is learning by negative
how to play quarterback for NU. Terrell Jordan led the NU rushing
carrying 16 times for 87 yards. He, too, put the ball on the
However, this time the ball bounded NU's way into the arms of Noah
(or, as Purdue coach Joe Tiller said, "Herring"), who braved the strong
and scored a touchdown after recovering the fumble. Jason Wright
severely limited on a bad ankle, and carried only 7 times for 28 yards,
fumbling once and ending a streak of 383 consecutive touches without a
Kunle Patrick caught 3 balls, extending his consecutive streak to 43
On the defensive side of the
ball, the NU defense did not play poorly, despite
the lopsided score. Orton was held to only 212 yards passing, and
wide receiver John Standeford caught only 4 balls. NU's run
was similarly stout, denying the Boilermakers a 100 yard rusher.
to where the defense was a year ago, NU has improved exponentially.
Fun NU fact: this weekend
happens to be Family Day (probably the successor
to Parents Day). So all the parents get to come to town and see
how bad the football team at their son's or daughter's university is.
Penn State is a program in
trouble. Questions are being raised about
Joe Paterno's continued ability to coach in the 21st Century, and
charges have experienced more losing seasons in the last few years than
his career. The Nittany Lions lost a heartbreaker to the Buckeyes
week, 21-20. Penn State led until OSU scored the go-ahead
with 1:35 remaining. A last ditch 60-yard field goal attempt
just short. In the game, Penn State rushed for only 33 yards, a
cry from the glory days of Lion football in which they bowled over
with the running attack. Zack Mills led PSU with 27 of 42 passing
253 yards, one TD and one pick. The loss to OSU guaranteed JoPa
Defensively, PSU played well,
holding the Buckeyes to 300 net yards.
What most thought going in was a rout by OSU turned into a
OSU's quarterback Krenzel did leave in the 2nd following a hard hit.
NU coach was heard to say that
his NU Wildcats is a better team than they
showed Saturday. Apparently he's the only person that thinks
as odds makers have installed Penn State, the visiting team and winless
the Big 10 in 2003, as a 5 point favorite. Look for NU to run the
somewhat effectively against Penn State. Jason Wright will heal
this week and be more effective, recapturing the Noah Herron - Jason
1-2 punch. With less pressure, Basanez will be more effective
the air. And NU will hold onto the ball better. I think
Penn State will move the ball some, but NU will likely be able to be
in stopping PSU more than PSU will stop NU. Last week NU showed
could limit the pass, and all Penn State seems to have is a moderate
Pick: Wildcats 24, Penn
Season to date: Straight
up 7-2. Against the spread: 5-4
Preview and Prediction
By Eric Cockerill
Matchup: Michigan Wolverines (8-2, 5-1; #5 AP Poll) at
Northwestern Wildcats (5-5, 3-3)
Date: November 15, 2003. Kickoff at 2:30 p.m. CST
Television: ESPN (yeah, the main one, not
the sickly cousin ESPN2)
Line: Northwestern plus 19 (from USA Today as of Monday, November
matchup that pits my two alma maters against one another
and I have to choose between them. Nostalgia fills the air as I
tailgating at Dyche Stadium (back when it was fun to say the name) and
locking colleagues in the Blazer so they could sleep it off while we
actually went into the game. More often than not, we just stayed
the tailgate and wandered to the south end of the parking lot to look
the scoreboard. Ahhh… college.
At any rate, I
digress… I find myself rooting for the Wildcats on every occasion,
which shows where my true heart is. Luckily, when I actually
the games, NU is 2-1, including an outstanding game at U of M my last
in grad school (1995 if you couldn't guess).
Michigan is a
great team, though a little one dimensional on offense.
It took two losses before Carr realized that his team could run on
and that opens up the long passes to really break the opponent's
The defense is definitely strong, though better against the pass than
Carr seemed to
believe Tom Brady was still at U of M instead of
John Navarre and tried to air it out early and thus almost ended
BCS hopes (currently number 8 and needing a win against OSU in the last
Since then, he plays traditional Michigan football: run, run run,
run, score, run run, pass, score. In their two losses, they
too much early, got behind and Navarre couldn't shoulder the
In those losses, running plays to passing plays were 41-104 (or 28%
plays). In the rest of their games that same statistic is 331-263
56% running plays). The game plan is run it down their throats
the QB making errors until we get ahead, then pass to put the game out
reach. Let's just call it the Griese Strategy.
NU on the
other hand has been performing erratically lately, but this year
it's because of the offense instead of the defense. The defense
88th out of 117 Division I-A schools, definite improvement, and has
keeping the team in most games.
Basenez on the
other hand has 4 TD
passes and 10 interceptions. However, Basanez is not getting
A recent article in the Trib quoted the NU offensive coordinator saying
the O-line’s strength is run blocking and the play calling has been
that in recent weeks (hence the lack of no huddle). The
is “We can't pass block for s***”.
Anyway, on to
the matchup. NU needs one more win to be bowl eligible and I
don’t think anyone is looking at this as the one win with Illinois on
the way for the last game. This is one for the loss
column. However…19 is a lot of points, particularly with Michigan
looking ahead to their number one matchup of the year... the last
regular season game against OSU. In all likelihood, Michigan's
BCS bowl appearance depends on beating OSU and that spells
“conservative offense” for this game to me. This
isn't the Purdue game when they had something to prove…Michigan can
in this game. Watch for Carr to run the clock out and avoid
last minute heroics.
Wolverines 28, Wildcats 14. Take the Wildcats and the points.
date: Straight up 8-2. Against the spread: 6-4
Matchup: Northwestern Wildcats (5-6;
3-4) at Illinois Fighting Illini (1-10; 0-7)
Date: November 22, 2003. Kickoff at 11:10 a.m. CST
Television: ESPN+ (WBBM-TV in Chicago; MSG
Line: NU (-3.5)
Lowes Line is late. Real late. But that's because
I felt obligated to research and preview the USC/UCLA match-up for the
of an adorable second-year med student at USC who doesn't want to hear
our pathetic little NU football program. Say, how about that
Johnson fellow? Couldn't happen to a nicer guy. Anyway, USC
favored by about 23 points over a bad UCLA team (How bad? Well,
almost lost to Illinois. That's pretty bad.) Frankly, I
give a tinker's damn about USC/UCLA--I hope they end in a scoreless
to totally screw up the BCS.
As long as
we're talking about other lines, a word to the gamblers out there:
think long and hard about Rutgers getting 26.5 from Miami. Then
walk away, man.
having a hard time finding anything good to say after the whipping
NU took last weekend against a Michigan team that is clearly on another
Remember the movie "Jeremiah Johnson" with Robert Redford as the
Colorado trapper? (Don't fret, kids, this is tangentially relevant to
football) Well, in the flick, Jeremiah Johnson makes the mistake
leading some palefaces through a Crow burial ground, causing the
tribe to send brave after brave to try to kill Johnson. Of
since Robert Redford was a complete badass in the 1970s, he killed
like 30 Crow warriors that made the mistake of tangling with him.
point is this--imagine that instead, every single Crow warrior (i.e.,
managed to kill and scalp Johnson/Redford (NU) over and over and over
That's what watching the Michigan game last week was like. The
pisser is that I'm pretty sure Michigan was, indeed, looking ahead to
State, and they still made NU their bitch. No wonder the Maize
Blue are favored by 7 over the Buckeyes. Poor Jim Tressel could
this week's General Custer.
OK, so I've
now probably offended about 20% of my audience. Hard to
believe you had to wait a week for this, isn't it? Also, not a
image considering NU faces the spawn of Chief Illiniwek this week, and
battling over a dimestore tomahawk named Sweet Sioux. Bad karma,
poop on NU's bowl eligibility. Win, and the 'Cats are technically
eligible for the Motor City Bowl, and nothing else. That's
while NU can finish in a 3-way tie for 6th in the conference, they will
have only the 8th best overall record. The Motor City Bowl has a
for the Big Ten's seventh place team, and the NCAA won't allow a 6-6
to go bowling unless there is a conference tie-in. By the way, no
Ten team has yet played in the Motor City Bowl, and even if the BCS
both Michigan (if they beat Ohio State) and the Buckeyes (as an
(thanks TCU, by the way, for laying that egg last night), the
in Detroit aren't obligated to take an eligible Northwestern team that
with the 8th best overall record.
words, let me recount the following exchange between me and Jersey Cat
about NU's bowl chances:
Jersey Cat, are you picking me up at four a.m. the day after Christmas
for the drive to Detroit?
Hell, yeah, but I figure it will take a Wildcat win, a Buckeye
loss, an at-large BCS berth for the Bucks, and some people on crack in
to get us into the Motor City Bowl. I believe all those things
likely, but I wouldn't bet the ranch.
Actually, the one thing I'm most sure about is that there are lots
of people in Detroit on crack. Don't know if any of them are on
Motor City Bowl selection committee, though.
think I just offended another 10% of my audience.
guess those of you who have stuck around this long deserve at least a
token game analysis.
stinks on ice. The Illini haven't beaten a Division I-A opponent
all season, and they even lost to Indiana, for goodness sake.
being said, this is exactly the kind of game NU would normally
Illinois is starting their backup QB, Dustin Ward, for the fifth
and he actually has looked decent. Plus, Illinois had the Bye
week (which they tied, of course), so they've got that extra week of
and preparation. Normally, I would pick against our beloved
predicting a brutal, soul-sucking choke job against our traditional
But I'm not
gonna do it. At the beginning of the season, I didn't think
NU had a snowball's chance in heck of winning five, much less six,
I also didn't know Joe Pa would get caught by the Little League police
a birth certificate showing he's really a 110-year-old Dominican
or that NU's defense would bail on the witness protection program and
up in Evanston (and in Lawrence, and Durham, and even (a little bit) in
Loren Howard is everything he promised he'd be, and after the Penn
game he was the third Wildcat this season to be named Big Ten Defensive
of the Week. And despite the problems NU has had on offense,
O-Line hasn't been that bad at all, and NU has been able to gradually
itself from the gadget no-huddle in favor of a slightly more
approach. Despite seeing Lloyd Carr in full dominatrix mode,
Randy Walker with a leather strap last week (oops, there goes another
of the audience), I'm still basically happy with NU's season. NU
beaten the teams they should have beaten, and they've lost tough games
a couple blowouts) to teams that are clearly superior. I'm
to give Randy Walker another year to build on what has really been some
improvement over a horrible 2002.
Northwestern 32, Illinois 17. Take the 'Cats and lay the points.
date: Straight up: 9-2. Against the spread: 6-5)
BONUS NORTHWESTERN HOOPS PREVIEW!!!
Now in its
third year, my gratuitous NU basketball preview, this year with
exciting salsa flavoring!
I must warn
all of you NU hoops fans--this is going to be a frustrating year.
NU is an improving, young team, but it won't show in the
Senior G Jitim Young is a rock, having started all 88 games in his
for the 'Cats, and last year he paced the squad in scoring, rebounding
steals. Young is a stud, and he's got a great sideman in
PG T.J. Parker. After last season's NBA Finals, everybody knows
Parker's big brother, Tony, and the Big Ten now knows that baby bro'
the family talent. Parker spent the summer playing for the French
team (no jokes, please... ok, one joke: "Going to war without France is
going deer hunting without your accordion." Norman Schwartzkopf.)
goes another 15% of my audience--and good riddance, says I.)
At any rate,
NU has speed, athleticism, and excellent coaching (oh, if only
Bill Carmody could coach football, too!). Unfortunately, NU has
size and paltry depth. The tallest player on the team is freshman
Vince Scott, who stands in at 6'10, and only three other players break
6'5 barrier. In short (rim shot!), rebounds will be hard to come
(For what it's worth, Vince Scott has looked pretty damn good in the
first two exhibition games.) Last season, NU finished dead last
the Big Ten in rebounding, and the outlook frankly isn't good on that
in 2003, a deadly weakness in a big, bruising conference, particularly
a team that will rely on points generated on the break.
NU was decimated by injuries, the most damaging being the loss
of F Vedran Vukusic before the Wildcats' first game last season.
is back and healthy (so far), and NU will be relying heavily on him not
returning to his 2001 form, but improving on it. Also sidelined
of last season was F Ivan Tolic, who will likely be asked to carry the
at center (the key position in Carmody's passing-oriented Princeton
until Scott is ready to take over. Davor Duvancic will man the
starting forward spot, and will also spell Tolic in the middle.
didn't set the conference on fire last season, but he should be
and might be this year's Jason Burke (i.e., a scrappy, underappreciated
at forward). NU bench is wafer-thin, led by speedy Mohamed
a nice sub for Parker. Sophomore G Evan Seacat will also see some
Senior G Patrick Towne fills out the bench, and will provide some
needed depth, but don't expect miracles from the former practice squad
Wait a tick, I think I said the same thing last year…and I was right,
In 2002-03, NU
ripped though a cupcake non-conference schedule, then got
pancaked in the Big Ten, finishing 10th with a 3-13 record in the
(12-17 overall). Frankly, the loss of Vukusic, combined with a
slip in defense and an inability to rebound, killed the 'Cats.
year, I predicted that NU would improve (it did, sorta), and might
for its first-ever NCAA bid this season. Unfortunately, I'm not
tonight, so I can't follow-up on that bold prediction. NU still
match up with the big rebounding monsters in the Big Ten, and if the
suffer major injuries like they did last year, it's over. If they
healthy, though, they will nevertheless be competitive, although their
frankly won't show it. Carmody and the 'Cats are taking long-term
to improve NU's competitiveness by toughening up the non-conference
They don't get to fatten up on Elon and Maryland-Eastern Shore this
Instead, they play 3 of their 4 city rivals (Chicago State, DePaul,
and major-conference foes like Florida State, Arizona State, Rutgers
Colorado, against whom the Wildcats kick-off their 2003-04 season in
an hour from now.
NU's record may not improve, and in fact may be worse
last season's, but they are still a steadily improving team. If
watch them through the season, you'll see a fast, disciplined, athletic
that is just some size and depth away from sneaking into the NCAA
City Bowl Preview and Prediction
By Jersey Cat
Matchup: Motor City Bowl, Detroit --
Northwestern Wildcats (6-6, 4-4 Big Ten) vs. Bowling Green Falcons
(10-3, 7-2 MAC)
Date: December 26, 2003. 5:00 pm EST
Line: Northwestern plus 7.5
out with an oldie but goodie: What’s the difference between
Cheerios and Northwestern? Cheerios at least belong in a
Cue rim shot.
For the fourth
time in the last nine years, Northwestern will play in a bowl
game. The trend has been to play in a less prestigious game each
and to get beaten by a greater margin each time. If the trend is
continue, this trip to the Motor City Bowl will result in NU getting
by fifty points or more. Let’s hope that’s not the case in
Detroit. What a fine place to play a game. Thought by many
to be the armpit of America, and a very screwed up place.
from how many places in our great land is the shortest route to our
to the North” in Canada actually south? Some would think a
to Detroit in the winter is what you should get if you finish last in
takes on the Bowling Green Falcons of the Mid-American
Conference (MAC) in the Motor City Bowl. The MAC is considered to
a second tier conference, and does not have a tie-in to the BCS.
if there were ever any doubt regarding the quality of the football
by the MAC, this season would surely have put it to rest.
(OH), Northern Illinois, and Bowling Green were among the Top 25 for
of the season, and beat some quality opponents. Bowling Green
Purdue, damn near beat Ohio State, and lost twice to Miami (OH),
# 14 in the country.
The line on
this game is NU minus seven and a half. Again Northwestern
is an underdog in a bowl game, and again it’s more than
Speaking of gambling, it’s a blessing if you’re planning on attending
game and have the problems likened to those of the 1-800-GAMBLER
The way I see it, you may as well go to Windsor, Ontario to hit the
since when you drop $100 at the craps table over there, you can at
take solace in the fact that it’s really only about $76, given the
Although a 6-6
record is not usually thought of as being postseason
worthy, to Northwestern’s credit, five of their six losses came against
that are currently ranked in the Top 20 in the country, indicating
for the most part, they have beaten the teams they should beat.
‘Cats played a reasonably tough schedule, and beat two teams (Kansas
Wisconsin) that will be playing in a bowl game. Eight of their
opponents finished at .500 or better.
is led by quarterback Josh Harris, a dangerous player
who can hurt you by both running and passing the ball. He ran for
touchdowns and passed for another 24 in a season that had him in the
for the Heisman at points throughout the year. Stopping a mobile
has not exactly been NU’s forte. Containment will be the key, not
up the back-breaking running play that demoralizes a defense.
favorite target when opting to throw has been Cole Magner,
who had over 1,000 yards receiving for a Falcon team that finished the
ranked eighth in Division 1-A with over 290 yards a game passing.
and Northwestern last met during the 2001 season, when
the Falcons were added to the schedule to make up for the game NU had
with Navy. Bowling Green scored on a late two-point conversion to
perspective, the game plan is clear. They need to get
a quick start from the offensive line in order for Jason Wright and
Herron to run the ball effectively. Preventing turnovers is
They proved against Purdue they could move the ball against a strong
but gave it away with fumbles. For NU to win, they can’t turn the
over. Basanez doesn’t need to be a hero, just solid.
short passes for 6-8 yards at a time on first and second down will keep
Bowling Green defense honest. On defense, NU can’t give up the
play, which has a tendency to take the wind out of their sails.
is the order of the day, containing Harris in the pocket and not
him run into space.
Torri Stuckey will not play against Bowling Green, after
being suspended for the game by Randy Walker for violating “team
allegedly forcing the cashier at the Burger King in Evanston to bag his
cheeseburger, a scenario we all know is a no-no.
One way the
‘Cats can make a game of it is to pull a page out of Lawrence
Taylor’s book, and send some ladies of the evening to the hotel rooms
the Bowling Green players. No doubt they’d come from across the
in Windsor from establishments such as the one (reportedly) having a
that reads,”150 Beautiful Women…and 2 Ugly Ones.” Love that
In order to
all but ensure defeat for the ‘Cats, fellow Lowes Line
contributor Galloping Grapes and I will be making the road trip from
to Detroit, leaving God’s country well before dawn on game day. I
only hope that the journey doesn’t include a nine-hour rendition of
Henry the Eighth, I Am”.
Will Santa bring NU a bowl victory for the first time since
the 1949 Rose Bowl? No dice. The 'Cats get coal in
stockings, and the bowl woes continue. Bowling Green 31,
date: Straight up: 10-2. Against the spread: 7-5