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.
By Paul M. Banks
“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
For more photos of Wrigley Field’s transformation for football go here
You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbank