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After non-conference play, Big Ten bloggers seem to think the Northwestern Wildcats are one of the better teams in a conference having a down year.
We already linked around, but let's take a peek at the new homes our fellow B1G blogs have around SB Nation. Having looked through all the logos, I like the Big Ten's the best. I'm pushing for the little rose in Bucky's 5th Quarters' Badger's jaw to be traded around the conference depending on who wins.
Before we look at some other stuff, Patrick Vint over at BHGP has a really fun - for Northwestern fans - breakdown of Iowa's woes as a program after a loss to Central Michigan contract to Kirk Ferentz, which he considers the worst in college football. Oh, and there's a Ross Lane shoutout in a brief description of Northwestern's 2005 win over Iowa, 20 one-possession losses ago.
Anyway, I wanted to take a trip around the conference and see how Northwestern is perceived around the Big Ten. It's fun, because normally the answer to that is "not well". But with our conference crumbling like so many Drake's Coffee Cakes around us, there's mainly nice things to say about the Wildcats.
Over at Off-Tackle Empire, which has been veering along at must-read pace for some time, our very own commenter MNWildcat graded the conference's performance in non-con play, team by team. He's biased, but still:
There's no need to rehash Northwestern's schedule. What is impressive is the fact that Northwestern's coaching staff appears to have corrected some of the defensive woes from the Syracuse game. Much-maligned in the past for not noticeably correcting mistakes on both sides of the ball, Pat Fitzgerald has been openly critical of his team's play and thinks the Wildcats show room for improvement. Disappointing red zone offense against Boston College and offensive struggles against Vanderbilt hold the 'Cats back from top marks. A-
OTE also projects Northwestern will play TCU in a bowl game, which is currently sponsored by Buffalo Wild Wings, but would likely end up getting sponsored by Dimetapp, Fanta, or beloved childhood educator and freak of paleontological nature Barney.
Crimson Quarry, the blog for NU's next opponent, also looked at the Big Ten heading into conference play:
4-0 with wins over Boston College, Vanderbilt, Syracuse, and South Dakota. As always, the Wildcats have excelled in close games and are the only Big Ten team with multiple wins over major conference opponents, and the Wildcats are favored by 14.5 when they host IU Saturday. After a rare blowout loss to NU last year, can IU revive the trend of close games in this series?
Solid breakdown. Here are some of the facts stated.
a) Northwestern is noted for excelling in close games.
b) Northwestern is favored to win by a large margin against Indiana.
c) Indiana fans hope the game with Northwestern will be close.
d) Northwestern is noted for excelling close games.
However, a worrisome trend develops in some posts. You realize you're being complimented, then you realize it's not a compliment because you are being compared to Purdue. From Maize N Brew's power rankings, where Northwestern sits third:
When Northwestern and Purdue are seriously discussed as favorites to make it to the championship game, it's going to be crazy.
Yay! Favorites to make the... wait a tic.
And from The Daily Gopher's breakdown of the upcoming schedule:
Northwestern and Purdue - Two other teams who are looking better this year than they did last and we get them at home. Both of these teams are good and my guess is they will be favored to win even with it being at TCF.
Overall, the outlook is positive. Northwestern has established itself as one of the better teams in the conference in the early going, which shocks everybody, including other bloggers. But the point is, anything you say about Northwestern that's disappointing, everybody else in the conference exceeds that disappointing. Northwestern's schedule has been shoddy? Most other teams scheduled worse and still underperformed. None of NU's wins against FBS opponents have been comfortable? Well, they've all been wins.
The Big Ten is shaping up poorly, and everybody realizes that. Everybody also realizes that that gives a Wildcats team many thought would be mediocre - and might still be mediocre - a chance to be the class of a downtrodden conference. Now they just have to go out and keep winning games.