Illinois-Northwestern at Wrigley Field: Bowl Game Atmosphere

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A bowl game in Chicago?

Well, it certainly will be a bowl game type environment when the Northwestern Wildcats host the Illinois Fighting Illini, their bitter instate rival, in the Allstate Wrigleyville Classic at Wrigley Field. The Friendly Confines, home of Major League Baseball's Chicago Cubs,
last hosted a football game on Dec. 13, 1970. Kickoff is set for 2:35
p.m. CT this Saturday with ESPNU televising to a national cable
audience.

In order to feature the world famous Wrigley marquee in the set's
backdrop, ESPN's College GameDay will be originating its Saturday
broadcast from the corner of Clark and Addison. Meaning yes, Erin Andrews, Queen of all Sports Media
will indeed be here in Chicago. GameDay usually selects one "novelty
game" a season, and this year it's right here in Chicago's Lakeview East
neighborhood.

"This is a big game for us. We have an opportunity to play in a
historic arena against our rival, you couldn't ask for a better
opportunity. Now, all we can do is prepare for it consistently and that
will be our focus this week. These games have been phenomenal the last
few years and back when I was a player as well," Northwestern Head
Coach Pat Fitzgerald said.

"You can throw the records out. When I was playing, my first two
years, they were having success and the games were dogfights. Then the
two years we won the back-to-back championships they were dogfights
as well. It has been that way ever since. It should be a great game
and a great atmosphere," Fitz continued.

ESPNU will provide GameDay coverage from 8 to 9 a.m. CT, and then ESPN will broadcast from 9 to 11 a.m. In addition, the Big Ten Network's Kickoff Show will be coming live (9 to 9:30 a.m.) from Wrigley as well.

The atmosphere will be further enhanced when NU moves it's usual, traditional "Wildcat Alley" set of gameday activities down to Wrigleyville.
Coach Fitz and his players will ride down together on the EL from
Evanston and enter Wrigley after strolling through Wildcat Alley.

Additionally, the Wrigley Field marquee will be painted purple. The
marquee, created by the Federated Sign Company, was a blue-green color
when installed for the 1934 season. It remained that color until it was
painted red in the mid-1960s. The bottom panel was added to the marquee
in the early 1980s and originally featured Budweiser advertising.

"This is the first college football
game at Wrigley Field since 1938, and with the atmosphere inside and
around the ballpark, the Allstate Wrigleyville Classic will be a truly
special event," said Chicago Cubs Board Member Laura Ricketts. "Working
with Northwestern University to paint the marquee 'Wildcat Purple'
is one of many ways we have teamed up with the school to make the
Friendly Confines a fun, festive venue for the game."

Since Illinois suffered an absolutely catastrophic home loss to lowly Minnesota last week,
the WC has basically become a football version of a NCAA Tournament
play-in game for them. Because they need a sixth win to save their bowl
game lives. And they'll only have one more opportunity (Dec. 4th at
Fresno St.) to do it after this Saturday.

"We know it's a big game on both sides. When we look at our opponent,
especially this week as we watch them on tape, they're playing very
sound football playing with great emotion. You see the new coordinators
with their footprint on everything," Coach Fitz said today.

For NU, a win could make the difference between the Texas Bowl and
the Insight Bowl, and possibly an outside chance at the Gator Bowl, if a
few things fall their way.

"We're a team that's working out tails off to improve and I believe
that since our bye week we have. We're still not playing a clean
football for 60 minutes, so we have a lot of improvement this week,"
Fitzgerald said.

For potential NU bowl projection go here

For potential Illini projection go here

Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net , a Midwest webzine. He's also a regular contributor to the Tribune's Chicago Now network, Walter Football.com, Yardbarker Network, and Fox Sports.com

You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbank

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