Apologies for eschewing an Illinois edition of ITBUUS. With the folding of SBN's Illini blog Hail To The Orange, and the inability to find another Illini blog to fill the void, I was left with no other choice. Thankfully, there was no such problem when it came to finding a Northwestern volunteer as Rodger Sherman, manager of SBN's Northwestern blog, Sippin' on Purple was kind enough to participate.
Which SNL cast does this year's Wildcat football team compare to? How will Northwestern basketball regroup after missing out on perhaps its best shot at an NCAA Tournament bid? How optimistic is Rodger about Northwestern's chances against PSU this year? These answers and more, if you'll read on...
First things first: Give us a little autobiography on how your Northwestern fandom as we know it today came to be.
Pretty simple: I'm a New Yorker who never paid any attention to college sports until some drowsy intern at the Northwestern admissions office screwed up royally and accidentally sorted my name into the "accept" category instead of the "send this guy a letter letting him know we are laughing at how dumb he is for even applying" category where I was supposed to go. From then on, I've been the biggest NU fan possible. I graduated in June - a decision I regret every day - with a degree in, um... something. I honestly didn't expect to forget that this quickly. My fandom is probably headed steeply downhill now that I no longer make drunk friendships with any of the athletes that I write about at any of the four bars Northwestern students regularly go to. Oh! Journalism. That's what I majored in. Any of y'all run a newspaper?
Dan Persa is gone and Kain Colter appears to be his heir apparent at quarterback. We saw what Colter is capable of doing with his feet last year, but the question everyone is dying to know the answer to is: Has he gained the ability to throw the ball? QB aside, what other units are causes for optimism or concern for the Northwestern fan base?
Colter completed two thirds of his passes last year - even better, 16-of-21 in limited action in Big Ten play - and the team has given him the reins of the offense over Trevor Siemian, who last year was used routinely in settings where Colter was split as a wide receiver. So if the question is whether he can throw well enough to execute a Northwestern offense predicated around short, accurate passes, I think he answered that last year. Whether he can sprinkle in the occasional deep ball that made Persa and Mike Kafka before him special is still unclear.
As for other units, the wide receiver corps is shaping up very nicely. We're adding the former No. 1 WR recruit in the nation, USC transfer Kyle Prater, to an already fast, tall, and talented group of receivers including Rashad Lawrence, Christian Jones, Demetrius Fields, and others. NU won't have any trouble moving the ball through the air if Colter can hit his targets like I think he can. As for units that concern us, OUR ENTIRE DEFENSE HELP HELP HELP HELP HELP SEND CORNERBACKS HELP. [Tim's Note: We feel your pain with regards to that last sentence, Rodger.]
If this year's Northwestern football team were an SNL cast, which era would it resemble?
Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Seth Meyers went to Northwestern, so there's that, but let me think about this. I haven't watched SNL since I was young enough not to have anything interesting to do on Saturday nights, so I'm a bit dated, but my initial thought is probably the period after the period after Will Ferrell left. They kinda scrounged by for a couple of years without him, then dudes like Jimmy Fallon left and the show was basically an hour and a half of Horatio Sanz and whatnot. That's sort of what I'm picturing this year.
When your parents were your age, Northwestern was the historic laughingstock of the Big Ten. In 2012, they are coming off of four consecutive bowl trips under Pat Fitzgerald. Any chance the fan base is starting to get *justalittle* spoiled?
If not wanting to suck is spoiled, yes, Northwestern fans are spoiled. For the most part, I think we're pretty realistic: the era of permacrap is past, and now we're in a state where a conference championship would be a dream year and not making a bowl game would be a very bad season. I think that's where most major conference college football teams are right now, and I don't think we should feel bad about wanting to be there just because Northwestern wins more games per year nowadays than they did from 1972-1989. (Slight exaggeration.)
Time for a little hoops talk: John Shurna and his ugly-but-highly-effective jump shot have graduated, along with several other key players. On the other hand, Bill Carmody and Co. did score a nice coup lately in Jaren Sina. Is there hope of even sniffing an NCAA bid within the next couple of years, or did Northwestern's best chance just slip by?
Bill Carmody's middle name is "Sniffing an NCAA Bid." Seriously, his parents were jerks. I think Northwestern will once again be in the picture: Shurna causes a dropoff, but two things: First off, NU was so friggin' close to the bubble last year - a few baskets here or there and NU makes it - that slight improvements by other players could keep NU close. But more importantly, Northwestern has a buttload of new, highly-touted players coming in. New for the Wildcats are a couple of well-regarded freshmen, Kale Abrahamson and Alex Olah.
Gary Barnett - Expect victory
Darnell Autry - I was five
Evan Eschmeyer - NBA legend
Seth Meyers - Fiji, which confuses me
Stephen Colbert - True American hero who should've been my commencement speaker instead of the class of 2007's (those jerks).
Brent Musberger - Early stages of elderly dementia
Last but not least: The past few PSU-Northwestern clashes have been gut-wrenching to say the very least. It seemed like the Wildcats would either be beating or be hanging right with PSU going into halftime before collapsing in the second half. How much of it would you say is mental as opposed to PSU's talent advantage finally taking command in the second half? How do you see things playing out in the 2012 edition of this matchup?
What's funny is that you think this only happens with y'all Nittany Lions. Northwestern has a habit of doing this with every team they play, Penn State or not - it just so happens that the past three years against Penn State have been studies in excruciation when it comes to the patented Northwestern "score three touchdowns, then collapse massively" method of losing. I've learned never to pick Northwestern for jinxing purposes, so let's say Penn State 38, Northwestern 28.