Northwestern, Illini football 2014 season prospectus


Lots of rapid fire and hot seat type of stuff as we enter week one for both the Illinois Fighting Illini and the Northwestern Wildcats. You have questions, I have answers. You can catch me talking Illini and NU every Tuesday morning at 10:40 AM CST.

Here’s my segment from this morning on KOZN 1620 The Zone, NBC Sports Radio Omaha. 

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Cal Golden Bears vs NU Wildcats: brutally honest preview


Yes, we have real football again! FINALLY. College football begins in four days. Northwestern football is back! The Cal Golden Bears are back! The Big Ten is back! The Pac 12 is back!

And NU (remember it’s NU, STOP saying NW) vs Cal is one of the better games of this college football weekend. The spread is between 5 and 6 points, depending on who you talk to. Or don’t talk to. This is a family show here! The point is, most Big Ten and Pac 12 teams are loading up on cupcakes in week one, while Northwestern  and Cal Golden Bears are playing each other squad.

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New Northwestern football landscape evaluated by ESPN pundits

jim phillips-northwestern-football

So where does Northwestern football go now? For the receivers, your big playmakers need to be Mike McHugh and Cameron Dickerson. I know, right? Totally underwhelming. Actually, it will be Tony Jones and Kyle Prater. And as you know it’s been all hype and little production from Prater. Replacing Mark will Justin Jackson (Pat Fitzgerald hates burning a kid’s shirt, but he has to) backing up the feature back Trayvon Green.

Here’s ESPN’s Jesse Palmer and David Pollack discussing how NU football moves on from this latest saga. I joined them on media conference call yesterday to get an overall outlook on where the season could be headed.

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Venric Mark, Josh Freeman, Jameis Winston and the curse of jersey #5


Venric Mark is just the latest example of how every star football player who wears #5 will inevitably get into some major off-the-field drama. At least, he’s a local example, Jameis Winston is obviously the perfect national example.

I know this because #5 was my number when I played high school football, and I still use it in all my internet handle/email things paulbo05 etc.

Details of the curse of #5 articulated here.

Examples include: Everett Golson, Manti Te’o, Josh Freeman, Reggie Bush, Rashard Mendenhall, Kerry Collins, Paul Hornung, Mikel Leshoure, Donovan McNabb Jameis Winston, and Chris Kluwe.

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Can Pat Fitzgerald be The Great Catsby at Northwestern?


For Pat Fitzgerald and Northwestern football “action is character.”

Like all football coaches, you hear the we-where-one-play-away-from-winning rhetoric incessantly, but you simply are what your record states it is. And the Wildcats look to make a bowl again after missing out last year for the first time since 2007. They’ll attempt to do it without their best player, Venric Mark who is suspended for the first two games.

Mark was selected as just one of four players to represent the NU offense at Media Day on Thursday, and then just 28 or 29 hours later, the school releases a statement that he’s suspended for an undisclosed reason. The announcement comes just one hour before Chicago is captivated by the first Bears game of the preseason. And of course, “bad news” or the real news comes out on a Friday night, right after everyone has left work.

Like F. Scott Fitzgerald famously said, no one wants to read about business, unless it’s crooked business.

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Northwestern suspends Venric Mark for two games


Northwestern suspended their star tailback Venric Mark for the first two games of the season. No actual reason was given, only the college football standard boilerplate “violation of team rules.”

Venric Mark will sit out the Aug. 30 opener against California at Ryan Field and the matchup with Northern Illinois on Sept. 6 in Evanston.

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Northwestern football player “pissed off” they didn’t go to a bowl game


Northwestern DT Sean McEvilly said the team “was pissed off” that NU didn’t go to a bowl game last year during today’s Northwestern football media day. 

Now I know that kind of language may seem coarse, crude or unprofessional to my older and more socially conservative readers, but I welcomed it.

It was an actual expression of humanity and true emotion. Something you just almost never get at a college football media day anymore. All you usually get is PR friendly coachspeak and players robotically spouting worthless cliches that are programmed into their hard drive.

“It started in the winter, we were all pissed off that we didn’t go to a bowl game,” was the full quote from McEvilly.

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VIDEO: This guy is very high on Trevor Siemian, Northwestern


Before he suffered his “lower body injury,” Northwestern QB Trevor Siemian was one of the best pure passers in the Big Ten. Then in midseason, his production slipped, and his ankle/foot etc slowed him down. His accuracy and efficiency declined. Siemian made a couple critical mistakes of staring down his primary receiver when near his own South end zone. And that was critical versus close home losses to Minnesota and Ohio State.

Trevor got right versus Illinois, but then again who doesn’t? The Illini Corners were very young and showed zero progress as the season went on. Trevor Siemian put up 4 bills + on one of the worst secondaries in college football, and one statistically, the worst defense in Illini football history.

Still, throwing for 400 yards was a great way for Trevor Siemian to end this season on a positive note, and to be optimistic for this year.

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Chris Collins will be an assistant with Team USA basketball

chris collins northwestern

Chris Collins will be coaching the USA Select Team which is a group of upcoming NBA stars who are practicing against the National Team in preparation for 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain Aug. 30-Sept. 14.

The Select Team roster includes for Big Ten standouts Trey Burke (Utah Jazz/Michigan), Draymond Green (Golden State Warriors/Michigan State), Tim Hardaway Jr. (New York Knicks/Michigan), Victor Oladipo (Orlando Magic/Indiana) and Cody Zeller (Charlotte Hornets/Indiana).

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Ohio State once again Big Ten favorite, MSU not far behind


Big Ten Media Days start tomorrow, as the season is now a month and change away.  The league actually does it much later than the other power conferences, so if you think this is too early, than you must really think the other leagues are insanely early. Over the weekend, the Big Ten released its preseason poll, and the usual favorite in Columbus, is once again expected to win it all. However, Michigan State is right up there as well. 

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AUDIO: Previewing NU football, ripping preseason award watch lists


Time to talk NU football. Yes, it’s not too early. Would you rather someone talk more Chicago Cubs storylines that have been BEATEN TO DEATH?  Yeah, the current Cubs are in last place, but they have best farm system in baseball…yeah, got it. We’ve heard that enough. Since Chicago sports talk radio pretty much never talks college football, or at least they never discuss Northwestern or the Illini…well, I talked some NU football on 1620 The Zone this morning.

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Will Northwestern football get back to a bowl game?


It’s time to stop to talking about Northwestern football being good by Northwestern standards. You know, standard cliches about what Pat Fitzgerald has done, despite the limitations. This discussion needs to end. No need for qualifying statements anymore. No more “given the…”

It’s now just Big 10 standards; now plain and simple. This past year should have taught you that Northwestern football has arrived to the point where you can hold them to the same standards as the rest of the teams in the conference. I know that sounds bizarre given that they finished 5-7, missing a bowl game for the first time since 2007, but it’s true. They have hosted ESPN College Gameday not once but twice in the past four seasons.

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