First off, Happy New Year to everyone! Congrats to Jim Phillips, Pat Fitzgerald, the 2012-2013 NU football team, and all the fans/alums that support it. I watched the first half from BlackFinnDC where there were at least 75 NU alums cheering their heart out, and watched the second half at home with full commentary. My thoughts below:
1. NU won 10 games in a season. That is a major accomplishment for many BCS programs, let alone NU.
2. NU won a bowl game. This has been a top five goal for Pat Fitzgerald for the past six years, and for him to accomplish this goal is fantastic.
3. NU beat two SEC teams this year. The ONLY team in the country that can boast about beating two teams in the best conference. That is quite an accomplishment.
4. NU won a game when ranked. This has been a major gripe of many fans and especially myself, NU did not win games when the pressure and notoriety was on the game.
5. NU will finish the season in the Top 15. That is a TREMENDOUS accomplishment.
6. NU will begin next season in the Top 25. That is good for off-season hype, recruiting, athletic facility fundraising (which I am a part of as a NU fundraiser), and most importantly, momentum heading into next season.
7. NU removed one major narrative from its dismal program history, winning a bowl game. I know we were all tired of hearing about not winning a bowl game since 1949.
8. NU removed ANOTHER narrative from its recent history, holding a second half and/or fourth quarter lead. There were many tweets from national sportswriters, NU fans, and others about how NU would lose the game. However, the team did not. They won the game with a lead.
9. Pat Fitzgerald's speeches, both pre-game, in-game, and afterwards, I know everyone who was a NU fan was very proud of what he said and the emotion he displayed. There is no doubt about how much he cares about his job, and that is why NU fans love him so much. I LOVED what he said about this being a beginning and a building block to something greater. I love that he has desires and a goal of the B1G championship. Many of this message board and NU fans all around don't have aspirations of B1G titles or don't think it's a reasonable yearly goal for this program, yet, NU has a head coach that reaches for the top. Pat Fitzgerald is a HOF collegiate player and one of the best ever to play, and the reason is, he didn't aim for reasonable goals, he aimed for the top. I look forward to seeing that type of effort and dedication for NU to win B1G titles.
10. If I'm not too far off, I think NU will be the ONLY B1G team that will be ranked. I am very positive in stating that NU will be the highest ranked B1G team. That is incredible.
1. NU failed to win a B1G title in a down year for the B1G. With the B1G going 2-5 in bowl games, coupled with the conference's terrible non-conference performance, I don't think anyone, even you Chad, could argue that the B1G wasn't at an all-time low. For NU not to capitalize on this makes it more frustrating. Given the schedule, it is hard to imagine that NU can beat more than two of the following next year or even the year after, OSU, Mich, Wisconsin, and Nebraska.
2. While NU beat two SEC programs, they were two of the least impressive programs, both in record and strength of schedule and in prestige. This wasn't NU's problem or fault, but let's not act like they beat Alabama and Georgia.
3. NU did not face a SINGLE ranked team this year, not ranked in the Top 5, 10, 15, or 20, but not a single ranked team. Once again, this not NU's problem or fault, but it highlights how easy NU's schedule was compared to teams in the Big XII, Pac-12, and of course, the SEC.
4. With Stanford, Vanderbilt, Notre Dame, and even Duke's success, it is hard to preach academics being a hindrance to athletic success. NU fans often try to say that NU has the best and highest standards of their student athletes, but no one can prove that and to be honest, it's probably not true. Whether it is graduation rates, APR, or US News and World Rankings, these are all strong academic schools with success in athletics. It doesn't make NU more special or any more different, but it makes NU have to compete even harder for a small recruiting pool.
Overall, for NU to win ten games, despite how easy the schedule has been, win a bowl game, finish the season in the Top 15 and the highest ranked team in the B1G is incredible. Congrats once again to everyone involved with the team.