Remember sunday, when I said I'd post every single day until football season? I meant it, but I probably should've put a caveat saying "except days when I inexplicably don't have internet access." Anyway, crisis resolved, there'll be two today and one every day from here on out.
So I was on a Jetblue plane today, watching a mixture of a four month old Barca-Madrid game that I already knew the final outcome to and Animal Planet. (What happened to the Big Ten Network! I DEMAND TO WATCH INDIANA WOMEN'S VOLLEYBALL DURING MY FLIGHTS) There was a horrible, horrible point during the flight where both these events managed to be on commercial, and I had to watch SportsCenter, where I saw that Greg Paulus will be Syracuse's starter this season. Which got me thinking about how winnable the Syracuse game is. Which got me realizing that of our four out-of-conference games this year, quite possibly our most difficult one could be against a team we handily beat last season with a new head coach, a quarterback who met his receivers three months ago for the first time and is more used to running away from dunkers than running an offense.
Last year, NU won swept its out-of-conference schedule for the first time since 1962, and this year, we face four opponents who we should beat handily. None had winning records last season, and all four have brand new head coaches who have never been D-I head coaches before. For the first time in a long time, even dropping a single out-of-conference game will be a major disappointment for the Wildcats.
This isn't necessarily the best way this year's schedule could've turned out. First of all, there's the fact that no matter how well we do this year, people will point to our 4-0 out-of-conference schedule and say that we didn't beat any real competition. Next, there's the fact that this year, we don't really need the cupcakes - we have a plus defensive unit with players with NFL talent and a lightning-rod quarterback who can make legit D-I teams look silly. Next year, our squad might be a drop-off from this year, and we'll have to play an SEC troublemaker in Vanderbilt and an improving Rice squad. Without a clear heir to Kafka's job and with guys like Wooton, McManis, Phillips, and Smith leaving Evanston, we might need four out-of-conference wins to be bowl eligible, and we might not be able to get them.
This year, our bowl eligibility shouldn't be an issue. We should get four wins out of Towson at home, EMU at home, 'Cuse on the road, and Miami (OH) at home, leaving us to only need two (realistically three) to go someplace warm for the winter. And to be honest, if we don't get four wins out of those four games, we probably don't deserve the vacation.