Indy ‘not the destination’ for Northwestern; Illinois does the unthinkable
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It’s over. It’s done. Northwestern has won the Big Ten West and will face Michigan or Ohio State in the conference championship game in Indianapolis. Whereupon pigs shall fly, the moon will turn blue and coach Pat Fitzgerald even might forget to say, ‘‘Go, Cats!’’
OK, so those other things aren’t happening. But get a load of the Wildcats, would you? Their 14-10 upset victory at Iowa was merely the latest reminder than it’s idiotic to doubt them. Fitzgerald’s teams have churned out 10 consecutive victories in the division and 12 in the last 13 Big Ten games overall. Most weeks, only a fool would pick against them.
Believe me, I would know. I do it all the time.
I’ll probably do it again when the Big Ten title game rolls around the first Saturday of December. Really, now, who isn’t going to expect the Wolverines or Buckeyes to win that game?
Well, you know who isn’t.
‘‘This is not the destination,’’ Fitzgerald said of winning the West after the Wildcats moved to 6-1 in league play, eliminating Wisconsin, Purdue and the Hawkeyes in one fell swoop. ‘‘This is [just] one of our goals.’’
If he doesn’t believe that down deep in his gut, who will?
On to the rest of the ‘‘Big 10’’ (where 10 actually means 10):
2. Skow good: Take a bow, Bennett Skowronek. His diving 32-yard touchdown reception from Clayton Thorson in the fourth quarter lifted NU to victory. It was the catch of the year in the conference and one of the great plays in school history.
3. TFL? LOL: Notre Dame didn’t just dominate once-proud Florida State 42-13. The Irish offense had 75 snaps without losing a single yard. It is thought to be the first time since 1964 that an Irish team went an entire game without a negative play and was extra-impressive, considering starting quarterback Ian Book missed the game with an injury.
It also reveals what sad sacks the Seminoles have become, but now I’ve put ‘‘sacks’’ and ‘‘Seminoles’’ in the same sentence.
4. Just sayin’: You can have any running back you want. I’ll take Notre Dame’s Dexter Williams. He could be the story of the rest of the season for the playoff-or-bust Irish.
5. Hurri-can’t season: Miami — the most disappointing team in the country — is 5-5 after a loss to Georgia Tech. Remember when Miami joined the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2004 and was put in a division opposite Florida State, setting the table for a long run of league title-game clashes between two unbreakable superpowers?
Still hasn’t happened.
6. Nebraska 54, Illinois 35: It seems almost impossible that a team could rush for nearly 400 yards and lose — the very same game, people — by 19. Yet that’s what the Illini pulled off at Nebraska. Just when you think maybe Lovie Smith’s program is turning the corner . . . nope.
7. Minnesota 41, Purdue 10: Just when the Big Ten starts to make sense, you remember it has 14 teams.
8. Tua late? The die seems to have been cast for months: Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa will run away with the Heisman Trophy voting.
One thing to consider: The Crimson Tide would be unbeaten — easily — without him. Completely different story with, to name three other quarterbacks, West Virginia’s Will Grier, Washington State’s Gardner Minshew and Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray.
Make of that what you will.
9. Don’t do it: You’ve got to love the Citadel, do you not? The Bulldogs emerge from some unknown location and some unknown lower division of football every season to play a game that makes fans nationwide go, ‘‘Oh, yeah, the Citadel.’’
Next up: Saturday at Alabama.
Maybe just take next year off, fellas.
10. Greatest quote ever: ‘‘I’m the only guy that matters on that. I don’t give a [expletive] what they think.’’
That was Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy, when asked if his players were good with his (totally awesome) decision to attempt a two-point conversation late in a 48-47 game at Oklahoma. The Cowboys failed to convert, missing a chance at a giant upset against their ‘‘Bedlam’’ rival.