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Posts Tagged ‘Northwestern Wildcats’

Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank, NBC Chicago Street Team This not quite safe at work video, captured by John Tsarouchas of Palestra.net/ESPN UWIRE is a MUST WATCH! Fitz gets candid in describing the offensive line, which has not been very good at run-blocking or pass-blocking this season. (Other than pass and though, they’ve been just fine!) And they were especially bad again in Saturday’s win over Miami of Ohio. NU is 4-2, but in order for them to finish with a winning record, they’ll need to get their running game going, and the OL to play much better down the stretch against tougher competition. Hearing this Ozzie Guillenesque, not for the kiddies gem makes listening to 1,000 “we’re just focusing on what we do” and “we’re just focusing on our next game, not looking ahead” type cliches worth the while.

Enjoy by clicking here

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See more of Paul M. Banks’ sports-writing at:

-the site he founded The Sports Bank.net

-NBA analysis at Walter Football.com

-“Patrick Kane Chronicles” at Buffalo Sports Daily

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 Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank, NBC Chicago Street Team  If you follow college football, you know by now that Illinois was pretty much the biggest disappointment coming out of the gate in week one. Of course, that’s another story for another post, they’ll get their shot at redemption tonight when they host Illinois State.

More concerning for the Big Ten conference could be the unexpectedly impressive showing by “Directional Michigan,” who gave the conference numerous problems on Saturday. 15 point underdog Central Michigan upset Michigan State 29-27. (Usually, MSU screws up mid-to late season, and dominates in September. Guess they got started early this season)

Eastern Michigan, a 20 point dog to our hometown Northwestern Wildcats, took NU down to the final seconds before junior place-kicker Stefan Demos nailed a 49 yard field goal with 6 ticks left. And Western Michigan lost to Indiana by just four. Maybe it’s a good thing Northern Michigan is a D-II school in the GLIAC conference. And yes, I did have to look that up. And I’m not sure Southern Michigan University exists, but if they did, they’d likely be a thorn in the side of the Big Ten as well. Not that I’m advocating gambling or anything, but who actually ever picks a school that starts with a direction? Other local favorites in this city, Wisconsin and Ohio State, have looked shaky so far too.

There’s an old football saying claiming, “you improve the most as a team from week one to week two.” If true, it could be a long year for the Big Ten, and maybe a very productive year for the MAC (Mid-American Conference).

“To win a game they way that we did is worrisome across the board. We need to execute better in all aspects. It’s easy when you see the ball run the way it was today, to point the finger at the defensive line. But I’m not prepared to do that yet. I need to watch some video. It is disappointing. We should be better than that,” Northwestern Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald said after the game. To their credit however, they were missing their top DB (CB Sherrick McMannis) and best DT (Adam Hahn). And their best overall player (DE Corey Wootton) may not even be 100% yet.

 

Another positive to take away is the fact that Northwestern posted its seventh straight victory versus a Mid-American Conference foe, and they avoided their traditional early season slip-up at the hands of a vastly less talented team. Beating EMU by 3 in ’09 is a lot better than losing at home to D-1 laughingstock Duke in ’07 or to D-1AA opponent New Hampshire in ’06. So, the program has shown some growth, at least in the month of September.

And please join in the conversation by commenting in my live college football blog here

See more of Paul M. Banks’ work at the Washington Times, Walter Football.com and The Sports Bank

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank, NBC Chicago Street Team

Chicago’s hometown Big Ten team, the Northwestern Wildcats, began the season in a manner that most predicted they would. Granted it was against Towson, an FCS (formerly I-AA) opponent, but a 47-14 win is still a 47-14 win.Quarterback Mike Kafka made a lot of plays, starting 7-8 passing and finishing 15-20 for 192 yards. The strength of the team, the secondary had a good day picking off Towson QB Peter Athens twice and holding him to just 140 passing yards. Senior safeties Brad Phillips and Brendan Smith led the way, as their experience helped them make the proper reads and coverage adjustments into what the opposing offense was doing.

The NU air attack was led by senior Andrew Brewer, who caught a 72 yard TD pass from backup QB Dan Persa, and finished with 6 catches for 145 yards. Since NU lost all their starting receivers from last season, the faithful dressed in purple were glad to see somebody step up. “Everyone talks about our no-name receiving corps, but now you guys know Andrew Brewer, so that’s one,” Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald said.

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But it wasn’t just Brewer, as many receivers got in on the act. “It’s always exciting to spread the ball around on offense, I heard 8 different guys caught the ball,” Brewer said.
The spreading the wealth around philosophy also translated to the running back corp, where three of the tailbacks rushed for 30 yards or more, and three of the backs saw at least six carries.

Expect most of the trends from this game to carry over to the rest of the season.

Note: today marks the first installment of The Sports Bank’s new Saturday Live College Football Chat. Check it out here.

Each and every week, we’ll have numerous writers blogging from the press box, at home on the couch, the sidelines, sports bars etc. all around the Big Ten and Midwest. Our comment boards are lighting up with over 60 comments so far, so please join in on the discussion by clicking here.

See more of Paul M. Banks’ work at the Washington Times, Walter Football.com and The Sports Bank

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank, NBC Chicago Street Team

Football season commences in about three weeks, and Chicago is the capital of Big Ten Country, so it’s time to sort the league’s macho men from the weaklings. Of course these rankings are highly subject to change. In-depth previews of Chicago’s two teams (Illinois and Northwestern) coming soon!

1. Ohio State

Once again it’s re-loading, not re-building in Columbus. With Boom Herron filling it for Beanie Wells and a wholILLINIROSEBOWLe slew of new talent filling in at key defensive positions, the scarlet and grey will have a new look this fall. Although the Bucks have looked terrible in January bowls lately, they’re still the class of the league, and look for the “sweater vest” to maintain that.

2. Penn State

Like President Barack Obama said, “it’s not enough to change the players, you have to change the game” and the 82 year old Joe Paterno and his staff have innovated the “Spread HD” enough to make the Nittany Lions consistently win again. QB Darryl Clark, LB Sean Lee and DT Jared Odrick are all ballers, and if this team can find some good replacements at OL and CB, the BCS could come calling.

3. Michigan State

It all depends on how well they replace Javon Ringer. They’ll also be breaking in a new starter at Quarterback, but you can tell the new QB, “Dude, you’re getting a Dell,” WR Mark Dell, one of the best in the league. Throw in an outstanding defense led by Preseason Defensive Player of the Year Greg Jones, and they’ll be solid.

4. Northwestern

Sure, they have to replace everybody at the offensive skill positions, but the new starter at QB, Mike Kafka, is an upgrade. With a QB rushing record already on his resume, he’s more of a dual threat (and less of an interception risk) than C.J. Bacher. Not to mention the heart and soul of this team (the defense) returns mostly in tact from last year- when they set a school record for stopping the run. And the easy schedule (Towson, Eastern Michigan, no Ohio State or Michigan) just screams ten win season.

5. Iowa

They have some big, dominating corn-fed boys on the O line who can go to-to-toe with just about any front seven. But losing some of their defensive playmakers (and trying to replace RB Shonn Greene with Jewel Hampton) will take its toll. If their Jewel is IGI Certified, not a Cubic Zirconia 8-4 or better looks reasonable.

6. Illinois

A program with no consistency. The orange and blue often falter under high expectations and only seem to thrive when people don’t take them seriously. This fall, projections are mixed, so 7-5 and a third-tier bowl sounds about right. With the combination of QB Isaiah “Juice” Williams and WR Arrelious “Rejus” Benn (go to 7-to-9.com), the offense will shine brighter than the diamond in Juice’s right ear. However, defense was lacking last season, and they lost their best playmakers, so mediocrity is imminent.

For the Full Conference Power Rankings click here

See more of Paul M. Banks’ work at the Washington Times, Walter Football.com and The Sports Bank

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank, NBC Chicago Street Team

Being a fan of Chicago sports can sometimes be as character building as walking outside for long distances in January.

With Northwestern’s tournament bubble officially bursting last weekend, baseball getting ready to kick off, and the NHL playoffs commencing the week after, it’s a fine time to revisit the long-suffering dry spells that are Chicago’s very own.

Before reading on, please do remember this George Michael lyric from his Wham! days: “There’s no comfort in the truth, pain is all you’ll find.”

Click here to read the rest of this post on nbcchicago.com.

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank, NBC Chicago Street Team

When the 12th Annual Big Ten men’s basketball tournament tips off Thursday it will feature one of the deepest fields in recent years. If a couple of the bubble teams make a strong showing at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, as many as nine teams could have a case to be in the Big Dance next week.

Michigan State (25-5, 15-3) claimed the No. 1 seed after capturing the Big Ten title for the fifth time under Tom Izzo. Illinois (23-8, 11-7) earned the No. 2 seed, while Purdue (22-9, 11-7) clinched the No. 3 spot. Wisconsin (19-11, 10-8) claimed the No. 4 seed and Ohio State (20-9, 10-8) earned the No. 5 seed.

Click here to read the rest of this post on nbcchicago.com.

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank, NBC Chicago Street Team

If you saw the highlights of Northwestern’s shocking upset at #20 Purdue on the Big Ten Network last night, you might have seen the line reading “17 wins by Northwestern ties school record.” That’s incorrect. Their next victory, which could come Sunday at Ohio St., would be their 18th. That would tie the school record set by the 1982-83 squad led by Jim Stack.Yes, the Jim Stack. His group beat Notre Dame in the NIT first round before losing to DePaul in the 2nd round. Lots of local representation in the 1983 National Invitational tournament. NU’s 1931 Big Ten championship team has the best record in school history (16-1), and if you vividly recall that- congratulations on living a long and healthy life!shurna

Getting back to today, the Cats have won three in a row, partially thanks to Big Ten player of the week, sophomore point guard Michael “Juice” Thompson. “I feel myself and the rest of my teammates are playing their best basketball right now. People say it’s good to be playing your best basketball going into March and tournament time,” Thompson said.

Despite what some pundits are saying a win in Columbus will NOT equal the program’s first NCAA tournament berth. Not with an 81st ranked RPI, 61st strength of schedule and below .500 conference record. In order to avoid saying a Cublike “just wait till next year,” about March Madness, they’ll need to run the Big Ten Conference Tournament table in Indianapolis. If they had effectively closed the deal in at least two of the four games in which they blew double-digit second half leads…they’d likely have a ticket to the Big Dance.

However, the school which hosted the first NCAA tournament yet never played in one (with apologies to Alanis Morrissette, “Isn’t it ironic, don’t you think?”) will obtain a postseason berth of some sort. Northwestern Wildcats does include the letters N-I-T. After last year’s horrid 8-22, 1-17 in conference debacle, any postseason berth is greatly appreciated in Evanston. “I may be their biggest fan. I love what Northwestern does and I’ve always had great respect for the way Bill’s {Carmody} teams execute to precision,” Iowa Coach Todd Lickliter said after his Hawkeyes lost to the Cats last Saturday.

See more of Paul M. Banks’ work at the Washington Times and The Sports Bank

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