Will Northwestern football get back to a bowl game?

northwestern-football

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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That means they’re a big boy program now, and not a bunch of cute, cuddly little kitties to be treated with kid gloves by the local and national media. (as the media often do).

They have and have had for awhile now, as good a collection of skill players as you’ll find anywhere in the Big Ten. Being a big boy program means you get treated with the exact same standards and scrutiny as the other established college football programs.

They’re not lovable little kittens.

They’re fierce man-eating lions. RAR RAR RAR. Expect to see for this sound effect to be integrated into my writing a lot this season:

So why did Northwestern football finish last season 1-7? Well they were 71st in the FBS in passing yards with 227.2 per game and 84th in points for with 26.2. After sharing time for the last three seasons with Kain Colter at quarterback, senior Trevor Siemian will assume the role as full-time starter. Siemian can throw it but isn’t much of a runner. Colter could run like hell, but he wasn’t entrusted to throw the ball down the field at all.

The old adage when you have two quarterbacks, you actually have none didn’t seem to apply to NU during 2012 and the first few games of 2013. But then…it did.
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Venric Mark was granted a hardship season by the NCAA cartel as his LOWER BODY INJURY limited him to just three games and 97 yards on the ground for the season. In 2012, Mark had 1,366 rushing yards for six yards per carry and tallied 13 total touchdowns. Even though Marknado is healthy and not injured right now, he’s still been classified as “day to day with a lower body injury.”

Yes, even before Media Day, even before practice, Mark has been designated “day to day with a lower body injury.”

You do know I’m joking right? Sarcasm is often lost in digital media translation, so I want to make absolutely clear that I’m just joking around that day to day with a lower body injury thing.

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Mark will split time with Treyvon Green, who led the Northwestern football team in rushing in ’13. The top two receivers from last year return, so the offense should have balance. However, the OL isn’t all that great. They didn’t pass protect very well last season, but the best overall player on the team is Center Brandon Vitable, so that has to count for something!

 Northwestern football finished 69th in nationally in points against with 29.4 per game and Defensive end Dean Lowry and defensive tackle Sean McEvilly will have to improve if the team is to return to a bowl game. Chi Chi Ariguzo (106 tackles in 2013) is probably the unit’s best player; and his name would fit in well in the Key and Peele “East/West College Bowl comedy sketches to boot! Safety Ibraheim Campbell will need to be healthy, as he will be a very key player.

Either redshirt freshman Hunter Niswander or junior Arthur Omilian will replace Jeff Budzien as the primary place kicker, who was the team’s best player last year.

The recruiting is perhaps the finest yet turned in by Pat Fitzgerald. Although you know he doesn’t like to play freshmen unless he absolutely has to. Parker Westphal , Clayton Thorson and other prospects such as Garrett Dickerson and Justin Jackson should all be studs; but not right away. 

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I understand where the extremely soft media coverage of Northwestern football comes from; I’ve learned my history now of what went on at Ryan Field (or Dyche Stadium as it was known then) in the ’70s and ’80s. However, now is the time to bury that history forever and move on.

I was born in 1978; so that national record losing streak began long before I was even born. I’m too young to remember the abyss of the Dennis Green, Rick Venturi, Francis Peay eras.

The only Northwestern football I’m old enough to know/remember is Gary Barnett and everything since. Therefore, Northwestern football being good is not a novelty to me. It’s expected. The older generations of fans and media need to accept the same truth.

It’s not a story anymore that Northwestern football competes with Ohio State, Michigan, Nebraska etc.

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No need to deify Pat Fitzgerald for making Northwestern football nationally relevant. They went to five straight bowl games, they’ll probably go 6-6 or 7-5 this year and get back to one. Northwestern football is good. Have you not been paying attention?

I know this.

I grew up with this. I’m used to it.

Hear my Northwestern football analysis every Tuesday at 10:40 CDT on KOZN 1620 The Zone Omaha.

Paul M. Banks owns The Sports Bank.net, an affiliate of Fox Sports and Yahoo! He’s been a guest on news talk shows all across the world. Banks has been featured in numerous media outlets including NFL.com, Forbes, Bleacher Report, Deadspin, ESPNNBC, CBS, the History Channel and more. Follow him on Twitter (@paulmbanks)

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