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One More Look at the Wisconsin Victory and “What If?” - NU versus FSU in Champs Bowl?

One last look at the Cat’s bouncing the Badgers.

Okay, I’ve already written about the victory over the Wisconsin Badgers. The 33-31 victory will be remembered for a while - especially when NU wins the upcoming bowl game. A few things about the victory stood out:

It happened. The Wildcats were underdogs yet again - even after defeating (then) #4 BCS Iowa (away) and a “hot” Illinois (away). I’m not going to claim that any of the three victories showed NU as a “dominant” team. But it did show that NU doesn’t give up and doesn’t crack under pressure. The Wildcats of the last three games of the year are a far better team than the Wildcats of the first three games of the year. Read the papers - there are a number of FBS coaches looking for new jobs because their late season teams weren’t as good as their early season teams.

It was really cool to see the fans rush the field after the victory. Forget the pros and cons of it. Don’t over-analyze the event. It was just cool to see Wildcat fans show some passion. Hopefully that will carry over to the bowl game.

It made the “haters” shut up about NU being “lucky” or the other team being “down.” It was especially gratifying to hear that the Chicago Sun-Times was going to give the NU football beat to someone with some journalistic integrity instead of someone better suited for ranting in the blogosphere.

There’s a big psychological difference between 8-4 versus 7-5. Bigger than the number differential. 9-4 would look even better.

A couple of articles (including at least one from Wisconsin) indicated that part of Northwestern’s victory was due to NU knowing the Wisconsin defensive signals and adjusting the offense on the fly (especially in the first half). There seemed to be some sort of feeling that it wasn’t fair that NU appeared to learn all the defensive signals from the former Wisconsin defensive coordinator (and current ‘Cat coordinator), recognize them in a stressful situation in a matter of seconds, then adapted the offensive play to maximize their yardage. Frankly, I hope it is true that NU did all that. The Wildcats should do that each and every game. Remember that our SATs really are higher. Smart wins games, especially close ones.

Bowl Bound ‘Cats to play Bowden’s Bow?

Just pure fun speculation here, but could the Wildcats face the Florida State Seminoles in Bobby Bowden’s last game coaching? For fun, I’ll ignore the NCAA FBS bowl drawing rules for the moment.

Straightforward logic might indicate an emphatic “No” because the collective wisdom puts NU (Big Ten #4) in the Champs Sports Bowl versus “ACC #4”. The early guesses made ACC #4 either Miami (FL), Clemson or University of North Carolina. Win-wise, the Seminoles are about ACC #7.

But with the BCS system, logic is not always involved.

Bobby Bowden wants to go out with a bang - not a whimper. His retirement means he gets one last shot at that. Some rumors floated on Washington, DC talk radio indicate that there is a move to place FSU in a bowl in the state of Florida. Presumably so the FSU “faithful” could turn out in droves to watch his historic last game.

Yes I’m being sarcastic regarding the “faithful” FSU crowd.

Imagine that the Seminoles wind up bowl-bound in their home state, what are the options? There are:

The St. Petersburg Bowl (St. Petersburg): Big East vs. C-USA

The Champs Sports Bowl (Orlando): Big Ten #4 vs. ACC #4

The Outback Bowl (Tampa): Big Ten #3 vs. SEC #3

The Capital One Bowl (Orlando): Big Ten #2 vs. SEC #2

The Konica Minolta Gator Bowl (Jacksonville): ACC #3 vs. Big East #2

The FedEx Orange (Miami): BCS/ACC champion vs. BCS

The non-ACC associated Florida bowls are likely out. So no St. Petersburg, Outback, or Capital One Bowls.

Looking at FSU’s relative position within the ACC (#7 in rankings - in the ACC, that is), the FedEx Orange is out.

This leaves two possible Florida state bowls for Florida State - the Champs Sports Bowl or the Konica Minolta Gator Bowl.

FSU is unlikely to be cut enough slack to be put against the Big East #2. And frankly, Bowden wouldn’t want to face a Big East #2 - he would figure it would be a losing battle. Remember, he wants to stack the odds of getting one last win.

So given a late draw for an ACC bowl and wanting to play in Florida - I’m betting that Bobby Bowden would want to face the NU Wildcats in the Champs Sports Bowl.

Yes, I know I’m ignoring some of the arcane NCAA FBS bowl picking rules. But I’m betting that if Bowden could name an in-state swan song, he’d want the Wildcats in Orlando. Why? I’m sure *he* would consider it a completely winnable game and it would be a de facto home game for FSU. Also he would rather win or lose against a Big Ten team than to win or lose (especially the lose part) against a conference like C-USA or the MAC. (Although, the GMAC Bowl in Mobile, AL is close enough to Tallahassee, FL to make that a near “home” game for FSU.)

Looking at the situation further, playing the Wildcats in the Champs would give Coach Bowden a perfect situation. If he wins, he can claim that he bested the Big Ten in his last game in the state of Florida. Given that he’ll forever regret not passing Joe Paterno in number of wins, a victory over a Big Ten team might make him feel a little better. If he loses, he’ll claim that he was bested by a tough “up-and-coming” Big Ten team - no shame in that. The reality is that I suspect he, his staff, and his players see NU as “lucky” and “not really an 8-4 team” in a tough conference. I’m willing to bet that he would see the Wildcats as being “easy” to defeat but having enough stature to make it worth his while.

Yes, it is highly speculative and somewhat cynical. It probably would violate NCAA FBS arcana. But to beat the enemy, one should think like the enemy. And FSU/Bowden would make an interesting enemy.

We’ll get the “enemy” question settled within the week.

Go ‘Cats!

BJ Mitchell (Former NUMB Spirit Leader)


PS to Coach Fitzgerald: You’re getting a lot of press regarding “moving up” in the perceived coaching pecking order. You’ve been mentioned as a darkhorse candidate for the Notre Dame spot. I think you’re a real class act and can make NU football great. Focus on your core values and forget potentially larger salaries. Stay where you are appreciated and where you make a huge difference in the lives of the very intelligent young men who come to NU to be students first and athletes second.


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