The preseason media hype for Northwestern was tremendous. And it kept growing well into this month.
Just 14 days ago, the local and national football media pundits were buying Northwestern stock in bunches. They weren’t just buying, it was "back up the truck and let's get this bandwagon filled."
Yet today it looks like a lost season for Northwestern.
Two weeks ago, Northwestern was #16 in the nation and undefeated. Today, they’re 4-3 overall, 0-3 in the Big Ten and likely to be underdogs in four of their last five games. On October 5th, Northwestern led unbeaten Ohio State, who currently possess the nation’s longest winning streak, by ten points with just a few minutes remaining. And 7.4 million people were watching that game on television.
Back then, in that far away time and space, Northwestern bowl hopes were New Year’s Day at minimum with very realistic BCS potential. Chris Dufresne of the Los Angeles Times had the Wildcats going to the Orange Bowl in the preseason. The Big Ten Network’s website had the purple in Pasadena, even AFTER the loss to the Buckeyes.
If Ohio State versus Northwestern on October 5th was a prelude to the Big Ten Championship game and the Rose Bowl, then Northwestern versus Wisconsin the following week was a “Citrus Bowl play-in game” I presumed. Both teams were now in the Ohio State losers bracket. You saw what happened. The Badgers dominated Northwestern from the very start, and in all facets. The low point of that demoralizing loss was the back-to-back sacks on plays with back-to-back holding penalties.
The Northwestern OL has now given up 10 sacks in the last two games.
Then came yesterday’s 20-17 home to loss to Minnesota, which was even more devastating than the Sconnie and OSU losses. This one I billed pregame as a “Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl play-in game.” And it was, on paper anyway, the “easiest” remaining game Northwestern had. The Wildcats were 12-point favorites against a Gophers team that had looked horrendous in its two conference games. Yet Minny emerged victorious in Evanston yesterday. So Rose Bowl projections gave way to second-tier bowl dreams which have now been relegated to “hopefully they’ll make a bowl, any bowl.”
That’s three losses in a row for 4-3 NU, which still must play Michigan State, Michigan, Iowa and Nebraska. They’ll likely beat the one-dimensional Illini on November 30th (anybody in college football can score at will on the hapless Illinois defense). However, bowl eligibility requires a sixth win, and although I do believe that’s going to happen, I can’t say for certain where that’s going to come from. It’s tough to pick Northwestern to win any game in which they’re without Kain Colter and Venric Mark.
And as yesterday proved…take it away Twitter account of Chicago Tribune writer Teddy Greenstein:
BTW, is this proof that hiding/disguising injury info doesn't do squat?
— Teddy Greenstein (@TeddyGreenstein) October 19, 2013
That said, let’s look at where the bowl projections have Northwestern going:
SB Nation: Heart of Dallas vs Utah
Sporting News: Buffalo Wild Wings vs. Texas
Scout (owned by MSN/Fox): Texas vs. TCU
There will be more updates during the week from other sites, and I will add to this post accordingly; as they come in.
Hear my Northwestern football segments every Tuesday on KOZN 1620 The Zone Omaha.
Paul M. Banks is the owner of The Sports Bank.net, an affiliate of Fox Sports. He’s also a regular analyst on news talk radio stations across the world; with weekly segments on NBC and Fox Sports Radio. Follow him on Twitter (@paulmbanks) and RSS
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