By Paul M. Banks
If you follow college football, you know by now that Illinois was pretty much the biggest disappointment coming out of the gate in week one. Of course, that’s another story for another post, but they did get some redemption tonight when they throttled Illinois State 45-17. And they did that pretty much entirely without their star combo of Juice Williams and Arrelious Benn.
More concerning for the Big Ten conference could be the unexpectedly impressive showing by “Directional Michigan,” who gave the conference numerous problems on Saturday. 15 point underdog Central Michigan upset Michigan State 29-27. (Usually, MSU screws up mid-to late season, and dominates in September. Guess they got started early this season)
Eastern Michigan, a 20 point dog to our hometown Northwestern Wildcats, took NU down to the final seconds before junior place-kicker Stefan Demos nailed a 49 yard field goal with 6 ticks left. And Western Michigan lost to Indiana by just four. Maybe it’s a good thing Northern Michigan is a D-II school in the GLIAC conference. And yes, I did have to look that up. And I’m not sure Southern Michigan University exists, but if they did, they’d likely be a thorn in the side of the Big Ten as well. Although other local favorites, Ohio State and Michigan, have looked impressive at times in this young season.
There’s an old football saying claiming, “you improve the most as a team from week one to week two.” If true, it could be a long year for the Big Ten, and maybe a very productive year for the MAC (Mid-American Conference).
“To win a game they way that we did is worrisome across the board. We need to execute better in all aspects. It’s easy when you see the ball run the way it was today, to point the finger at the defensive line. But I’m not prepared to do that yet. I need to watch some video. It is disappointing. We should be better than that,” Northwestern Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald said after the game. To their credit however, they were missing their top DB (CB Sherrick McMannis) and best DT (Adam Hahn). And their best overall player (DE Corey Wootton) may not even be 100% yet.
Another positive to take away is the fact that Northwestern posted its seventh straight victory versus a Mid-American Conference foe, and they avoided their traditional early season slip-up at the hands of a vastly less talented team. Beating EMU by 3 in ’09 is a lot better than losing at home to D-1 laughingstock Duke in ’07 or to D-1AA opponent New Hampshire in ’06. So, the program has shown some growth, at least in the month of September.