#25 Northwestern Football vs Minnesota Golden Gophers Game Preview


When Northwestern football Senior Day 2017 transpires this weekend, the main storyline will concern the two HIGH ENERGY head coaches on the sidelines. Both hail from Chicagoland, have a reputation for Midwestern wholesomeness, and possess a very strong work ethic.

There’s also a master vs. apprentice angle at work here. A decade ago, Minnesota Head Coach P.J. Fleck, then an assistant at Northern Illinois, called up a bunch of college football coaches and invited them to lunch so that he could pick their brains and talk shop. Northwestern football coach Pat Fitzgerald was the only one who accepted his offer.

pat fitzgerald northwestern football

It’s meeting we’ve covered in detail on this site twice previously. Fitzgerald made a huge impression on Fleck, who said he models himself and his coaching style after Fitz. You can see some of Fitz’s mannerisms, especially so from the earlier part of his career, in Fleck; but of course these traits are redefined in a Philipp John Fleck manner.

We also got an in-depth recap of this power lunch from both men (read that here).

#25 Northwestern Football Preview:

The Wildcats lost to Fleck’s Western Michigan Broncos in week one last season at home, so there will no doubt be a revenge angle at work here. The Cats come in to the 11 am kick off favored by a touchdown.


If the Wildcats reach 10 wins this year it would mark the second time in three seasons and third in six that they hit double digits/the program high point. Yet they’re still not coming close to selling out the stadium. Ryan Field holds 47,130 and here are your attendance figures for the season: Nevada 33,018, Bowling Green 33,706, #4 Penn State 41,061, Iowa 40,036, #16 Michigan State 39,369. 

The actual number of real people legitimately in the stadium on all of those dates was of course far fewer than that, as is always the case with this metric. That’s across the board with every team in every sport.

when you consider that Northwestern football holds a very realistic chance of tying the program single season wins record (1995, 2012, 2015). the Wildcats truly deserve a lot better than this!

pat fitzgerald

And the stadium isn’t the only place supporters of the Cats are MIA.

They also aren’t showing up online (where weather isn’t a factor) to read about their team. In 2017, this issue first appeared after the shock blowout loss to Duke.

The team has recovered but the page views never did, and this isn’t a problem for only this publication. We’ve spoken with sources inside the biggest local, mainstream news outlets and they can assure us that Northwestern football content is not moving the needle in manner that’s just to the talent and accomplishments of the team.

pat fitzgerald

As we wrote immediately after the Duke loss, NU does this almost every year- inexplicably loses a September game that they shouldn’t, only to rally and come correct in November.This narrative is unfolding yet again in 2017.

This Northwestern football team deserves so much better than the poor fan support it receives, and the base itself doesn’t deserve the consistent and stellar team that it has.

Here’s what I would say- show up for Senior Day, and at Illinois again next week. Read up on your Northwestern football, and when you’re done reading an article that you enjoyed, forward that on to your Northwestern people (preferably from this site- wink, wink). Send that story on to non-NU people, and even non-sports fans too. 

Minnesota Golden Gophers Preview:

pj fleck

At both Illinois and Minnesota, you’re seeing a lot of pre-emptive excuses being made for failure. Corporate America loves to use this football inspired metaphor- “move the goalposts,” and that’s exactly what’s happening in both Champaign and the Twin Cities.

Fleck inherited a 9-4 team which he has guided to a 5-5 record (2-5 in league play, with that second win coming a few hours ago). What’s more disappointing than the drop-off in winning percentage is his “this is year zero” routine. 

No, it’s year one, because you can’t “turn back time” as much as Cher sung about pining to do so.

Well, you can turn back time, but just one hour, and only once a year: daylight savings, like we all did last week. As the Spice Girls sang, “is the night, when 2 become 1.” 

Also, Fleck was deservedly mocked on social media for his goofy charts and graphs antics. Notice how in the end result of his chart the arrow is still at relatively the same level as the starting point? So that means it’s a big roller coaster to just stay at 5-5, is that what’s implied?

Rationalizing a forthcoming let down is never a good sign, and it always conveys a lack of acumen for the task at hand.


Fleck is a very polarizing guy, as his so-called “antics” don’t fly with everyone. We’re actually a huge fan of that stuff, and have written extensively in support of him. However, he really lost me with the “year zero” b.s. In today’s day and age, of  “alternative facts,” a president who is never held accountable for transgressions, even when there is video of evidence of him saying/doing something and he disputes that actual evidence, we all badly need to remember that life involves standards and results.

That is the beautiful apolitical aspect of sports- you get results or you don’t. You win or you lose, and simply, you are your record.

Your job is to win games, and that job begins the minute you sign the contract. That is the first few moments of year one.

Year zero is not a thing.


Fleck inherited a program from Tracy Claeys that went to a bowl game both years that he was in charge, and he was handed the keys over from Jerry Kill, who took the Gophers bowling all three seasons that he was in charge.

If Fleck fails to reach the post season, even if you still accept his premise that this is year zero, it’s still a substantial failure.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net and TheBank.News, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, a former writer for the Washington Times, NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com, currently contributes regularly to WGN CLTV and the Tribune company’s blogging community Chicago Now.

Follow him on TwitterInstagramSound Cloud, LinkedIn and YouTube.

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