Northwestern Takes Back The Land of Lincoln Trophy

By michaelcronin
David Banks-US PRESSWIRE

That’s how you beat your rival. Total domination. Pat Fitzgerald‘s long been known as a conservative coach who won’t run up the score. At least for one day that playbook was thrown out the window as his Northwestern Wildcats put a “50 burger” on the downtrodden Illinois Fighting Illini in what may be Tim Beckman‘s final game as head coach.

It didn’t start pretty but in the end Northwestern fans were feeling what could have been if they didn’t blow those three 4th quarter leads. Let’s get to the tape…

“The Five”

Venric Mark. What else can be said about “Mach 5”? He was dynamic again today and showed that while he has great quickness, he is also tough as nails. This despite another head injury last week that kept him out for most of that one. Assuming he can get full healthy for the bowl, he’ll be a major factor against the speed SEC defenses can bring.

Kain Colter. This might be the next Heisman hopeful from Evanston. I still don’t think he throws the ball enough but his ability in the open field cannot be denied. He had a sick cutback run today where he probably traversed over 70 yards just to pick up 20 yards of field position.

Nick VanHoose. I was surprised to see him in there against such a poor passing team, given his shoulder injury, but fortunately he didn’t have to do much. If the thinking was for him to shadow Ryan Lankford all game, then I say, mission accomplished.

– Northwestern’s coverage units. This has got to be a major “point of emphasis” for the coaching staff going forward. We’re still seeing guys get out of their lanes and when they run down the field it almost looks like they stall as to hope the opponent runs into them. You have to go bring down the return man. Don’t be the last person at the table, so to speak.

Jeff Budzien. Every time he gets up to kick, I say automatic. I can’t think of a time since perhaps Sam Valenzisi in the Rose Bowl year of 1995 that Northwestern has had as good a kicker. All that Groza finalist talk isn’t just hot air.

“Looking Ahead”

Overall, this season has been a success for the Wildcats. You beat all the teams you should have, plus a Michigan State Spartans team on the road, just one week after a crushing defeat at the “Big House”. The non-conference schedule in retrospect looks pretty good and most of your key players are healthy.

Of course, you’ll have all the naysayers until you get that bowl win but if you do, they won’t call it cheap. It’s going to be against some of the best the SEC has to offer.

Looking at the possibilies, I’d guess the Wildcats head to Tampa to face off against either the LSU Tigers or the South Carolina Gamecocks. If I’m Northwestern, I want South Carolina.

They are a good name team with a crazy head coach (Steve Spurrier). However, they lost star Marcus Lattimore for the year and they don’t throw the ball particularly well down the field. Plus, they aren’t immune to giving up the big play on the ground despite their strength on the d-line.

I’m just speculating of course but we’ll all know next week after the conference championship games are decided. The worst part of it all is the college football regular season is over. What a fun ride it was.

Like my article? Hate it? Let me know on Twitter (@tmichaelcronin). I look forward to your thoughts!

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