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The One Good Thing About the End of Summer is the Beginning of Wildcat Football

First Look at the ’12 Football Season

I like summer. A lot. I didn’t get a lot of a summer this year. And now autumn is upon me. I would have a total sad were it not for another season of Wildcat Football.

Before the beginning of Modern Wildcat Football (AKA the 1995 Season of Magic) I looked forward to Marching Band Season, which happened to coincide with football. Now there’s two winning programs out on the field - Northwestern University Marching Band (NUMB) and Northwestern Wildcat Football.

Two digressions:

* Marching band is competitive. If you don’t want to blow away the other band at halftime, you’re not in a *real* marching band. In high school, I learned all about the intensity of competitive marching band. My HS senior year we had to be able to march our show blindfolded. We won every competition we entered that year. If that sounds over the top, how many of you have played trombone (or any other marching instrument) for a President? I loved being in NUMB - excellence was expected by everyone.
* Dark Ages Northwestern football was fun in a way that did not include a whole lot of winning. It should be noted that NU did produce some All-Conference and even All-American players, but something was lacking. The teams didn’t seem to have chemistry while I was there. And it seemed that the football coaches of the time sort of went through the motions. Gary Barnett and the 1995/1996 Wildcats changed the entire trajectory of football at NU.

Before last year’s edition of the Wildcats, I did the whole The Good/Great, The Probable, and The Bad season prognostication. Here’s a recap:

The Good/The Great: 10 plus wins. Includes a Bowl win.
The Probable: 6 to 9 wins.
The Bad: Anything under 6 wins, which would mean no bowl.

Well, NU went 6-7, which included a bowl loss. And per predicted a number of fans grumbled about the continued slide in the win column and the nth bowl loss since 1949.

Now turning to other’s 2012 predictions, it sounds like the majority of prognosticators are saying as low as 4 wins and an upper limit of 8. A couple of the predictors say that *if* NU goes to a bowl they might win. Maybe.

In other words, not a whole lot is expected of Northwestern this year. No one sees the Wildcats as being as bad as Minnesota, but most expect 3 or more losses in the Ninjas Division...sorry...I mean the Legends Division.

Without further rambling, here are the Official NorthwesternMix Predictions. In all scenarios, the major variable is improvement.

Setting the Scene: Improvement

Last year the offense ran hot and cold. The 2011 defense ran mostly cold despite some great individual players. Getting the 2012 offense up to consistently hot and the defense up to consistently lukewarm would increase the number of wins.

I also believe the pace must be improved - too many times Northwestern let itself down in the last couple of minutes before the half and often was flat in the second half. Both coaching and conditioning must improve so that NU starts out hot and ends hotter. A killer instinct and the ability to carry out the kills must be developed.

The Good (Okay, let’s be honest - The Great):

I’m adjusting expectations somewhat from last year. Good is anything that includes a win in a bowl game. This could mean a record as low as 7-6 (6-6 regular season). I think that 10 wins (including a bowl victory) would get the Wildcats into Great territory.

A 13-0 regular season finish would be regarded as a sure sign that the world will actually end on 21 December 2012 (end of the Mayan Long Count Calendar). I’m predicting that if the Wildcats are 13-0 on 20 December 2012, there will be both a comet and a supernova in the Heavens and panic down on Earth.

The Bad (Really bad…)

Being succinct, five wins or lower is The Bad. In 1980 a 5 win season would assure the Northwestern U. football coach of Big Ten Coach of the Year. In 2012 a 5 win season will assure the Northwestern U. football coach of a lot of pressure and at least one or two assistant coaches would be history. It is that simple.

The Probable

The Wildcats finish between 6-7 to 9-4, gaining a bowl game for the fifth year in a row - another program first. But if there is a bowl loss associated with the season - even a 9 win season - people will grumble.

Here’s a question for both of my readers: which is better - a 6-6 season followed by a bowl win? Or a 9-3 season followed by another bowl loss?

Other Things

I’ll get to the Syracuse opener in the next few days.

Last year I mentioned the “NCAA cesspool (violations) situation”. WTF? How terrible was the last 12 months for the reputation of NCAA Division 1 football? Could anyone in fall 2011 imagine saying “Thank the Heavens it’s only a drunken brawl”? My prayers go out to all the victims of the Penn State sexual abuse scandal and all other victims of abuse and violence.

Go Cats!

BJ Mitchell (Former NUMB Spirit Leader)
Twitter: @nuspiritleader.


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