Part two of my Saturday double-dip is under the lights. The primetime
game at Ryan Field is just the 12th night game in NU's home stadium
history. Interestingly, the night contest will be played almost 75 years
to the day of the first-ever night game in Big Ten history. That game also involved Northwestern and Purdue, on Oct. 5, 1935 in Evanston. What a coincidence.
And I may seem some history Saturday night, as Northwestern has not started 6-0 since 1962, the last time Northwestern was ranked No. 1 in the nation. Yes, that's right, the Wildcats were once ranked #1 at some point in program history.
It's safe to say they won't be ranked #1 at any point in 2010, even
though they may just go undefeated this season. No seriously, as we discussed here,
look at their schedule and 12-0 is doable. Ok, that actually has a very
small chance of happening- but still they're a very good team.
Special thanks and credit to Spread Far the Fame for the graphic above. They have the best NU blog of all. Be sure to check them out.
Throughout the season, I'll be bringing you these informative yet
blunt game previews of every contest I cover (and a second game that
week that interests me); with a heavy focus on my three "home teams" Northwestern, Illinois, Notre Dame, and the Big Ten in general.
Pat Fitzgerald's teams have a tendency to get better as the season goes
along. He's 13-8 in September, 9-4 in November for his career. And
obviously, his competition in November is much stiffer than the
preconference cupcakes they traditionally feast on. The Cats went 8-4
last season with absolutely no running game at all, so the fact that
they're lately showing some life in the running game means...10-2??
For the second consecutive week, Mike Trumpy sparked the Wildcats'
rushing attack with a team high 53 rushing yards on 13 carries (4.1
ypc). Trumpy's efforts helped the Wildcats outgain Minnesota on the
ground--the fourth straight game NU has totaled more rushing yards than
its opponent. And I'm not thinking Arby Fields anymore as the main
workhorse back. His numbers and his workload as of late, well do we
really want to look at those numbers? His lack of production makes it
look like he's using football season to focus on baseball season.
Junior QB Dan Persa
continues to lead all Division I (FBS and FCS) quarterbacks in
completion percentage after notching another game with a completion rate
of 75 percent or better this season. He now owns a season completion
percentage of 79.4 percent (108-of-136).
Persa is also third among FBS quarterbacks in pass efficiency with a
rating of 184.6. Utah's Terrance Cain leads the nation with a mark of
192.5. Persa ranks sixth nationally in total offense (325.8 ypg).
His emergence is surprising, but indicative of NU's amazingly unexpected surge this year.
On paper, this was a rebuilding, 6-6 or at best 7-5 year. Yet here
they are: one likely win away from 6-0 and an unprecedented (in school
history) fourth straight season of bowl eligibility. 2010 shows you how
much NU has arrived as a program. Piling up wins in years when you're
supposed to be down...you're eating at the big boy table now Wildcats!
Most preseason basketball publications rank the Boilers 2nd or 3rd in
the nation. Oh wait, we're talking about Boilermaker football? Well
then, I'm fresh out of euphemisms. This team is 2-2, but their games
have been much worse than the record indicates. But can you blame them?
They're college football's version of the old Bible story of Job.
Starting tailback Ralph Bolden- gone for the season before the season even started. Big Ten's leading receiver Keith Smart- gone for the year in week 2. Highly recruited transfer QB Robert Marve- out for the season in week three. Yikes!
What exactly can you do with that? Especially when your offensive
line is putrid, even when it's healthy. And the offense was supposed to
be the strength of the team. And it's a bummer because they were 5-7
last year with an impressive win over Ohio State. 2010 is looking like a
Guys you'll see Saturday eventually playing on Sundays:
On the Wildcats, LB Quentin Davie and superback (tight end/fullback hybrid) Drake Dunsmore although if Persa continues
on his current pace, he'll win the O'Brien, Unitas and Heisman
trophies, and become the 2012 Sam Bradford. And maybe the Big Ten's
current leading sacker, Vince Browne comes into the conversation later?
How about another D Lineman Corbin Bryant? Or possibly OL Patrick Ward in a couple years.
For the Boilers, DT supreme Ryan Kerrigan is a first round talent and performer.
Prediction to be taken with a grain of salt (actually make that a whole truckload of salt)
NU 34, PU 21 (Banks' season picks record 8-2)
For whatever reason, the Cardiac Cats can't blow anyone out, even
against MUCH weaker competition (see Minnesota last week). But the
Cardiac Cats do "just win, baby" as Al Davis says. And they win the
close ones. Under Fitz, they're 17-3 in games decided by seven points or
less, and should be in every contest the rest of the way.
Given how horrid Purdue's offensive line is, and how strong the Cats defensive front is, this one's a no-brainer.
Paul M. Banks is President and CEO of The Sports Bank.net , a Midwest focused webzine. He is also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, the Chicago Tribune's blog network, Walter Football.com, the Washington Times Communities, Yardbarker Network, and Fox Sports.com
He also does a regular guest spot each week for Chicagoland Sports Radio.com
You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbank