Sweet Jesus, the internet is amazing.
First, some background -- on Friday (the day before the B1G slate fully kicked off), I boarded an Air France flight with my fiance. The destination: a weekend in Switzerland with her brother (a huge Michigan fan), his wife, and their daughter, followed by two weeks travelling thru Italy.
How did I get talked into travelling abroad during college football season? Well, 1) I'd never been to Italy before, 2) we found some great deals on flights, 3) the weather is generally good this time of year, 4) the Labor Day weekend meant we could take an extra day without losing vacation time, and 5)....well, my fiance is very convincing.
Obviously, though, we scheduled generally well -- I stood to miss two Northwestern road games (at Boston College and at Army), and only one home game (and that against FCS Eastern Illinois). I can live with this, I told myself....I'll still have all of the conference slate to watch live in person or on TV when I get home.
But as the hours ticked away until our flight, I realized -- I'm going to be a wreck if I can't watch this game.
So, thank God for the Internet:
I mentioned my future brother in law is a huge Michigan fan, right? Well, by the time we did a little sightseeing, ate some lunch, and settled in at his place, it was right around 6 pm Switzerland time....kickoff for NU-BC. My brother-in-law found ESPN's ESPNPlayer with College Pass -- essentially, for a fee (I think he bought the month pass for something like $40), you get access to live streaming of each ABC/ESPN game (basically just like BTN2GO, or so I'm told). The quality was AMAZING -- a step below HD, but above standard definition, no commercials (the broadcast just goes to a blank ESPN screen during breaks), a halftime where they just showed other games without a halftime show....honestly, I could have been in my living room and not have noticed too much of a difference in terms of picture and sound quality. Even following along online with comment sections over at Sippin' On Purple, I think I was getting the game in basically real-time.
Which meant I spent an evening in Switzerland, cheering on the Cats....so humor me with a few impressions:
- Watch out, because the Northwestern run game is revitalized -- 227 yards rushing against last season's #1 rush defense? YES PLEASE. Mike Trumpy and Adonis Smith both look like the real deal, and Kain Colter was masterful on his feet.
- Speaking of Colter, let the record reflect he passed 197 yards, 1 INT (a bad pass behind Jeremy Ebert into Kuechly's hands, in what appeared to be clear miscommunication), and...a 70% completion rate. Frankly, Persa-esque (minus the INT, and plus a TD or so). He was efficient and deadly on the pair of 80 yard TD drives that ended the first half and started the 2nd half.
- The Wildcats defensive line looked vastly improved, and put pressure on Chase Rettig all game -- 3 sacks (should have been more, but for a couple missed intentional grounding calls) and numerous hurries. Going in, there was a huge question whether NU's D-line could get pressure against a big, physical, and experienced BC offensive line. It appears that the Cats' defense is improved....
- And not just in terms of getting pressure on the QB. If you take away BC's first play of the game (a 69 yard run to the Wildcats' 3 yard line -- the defense proceeded to stonewall BC and hold them to a FG), the Cats only gave up 35 yards rushing. Insane improvement. All week we heard how BC's running game was going to be a huge test, even without all conference back Montell Harris....the NU defense showed that it's improved in stopping the run.
- Other pluses: kicking/punting (bunch of touchbacks, no missed FGs, and a 45 yard per punt average with no returns), blocking by NU wide receivers (Ebert absolutely crushed TWO BC defenders on one block; Demetrius Fields later had a great block too, I think), and coaching/playcalling (I'm kinda mad we didn't kick a FG in the first half when we were deep in BC territory and faced with a 4th and 1 -- never take away points early in a tied game -- but I appreciate our coaches being a bit more aggressive at times.)
- Minuses: Jeravin Matthews got lit up by BC wide receiver Ifeanyi Momah for 157 yards (not a great performance, but as a mitigating factor it should be noted he wasn't getting a lot of help, as NU was focusing on stopping the run), short yardage (twice NU got stopped on 4th and short), and Dan Persa (because....DAMN would he have had a great game if healthy...luckily, he can now basically rest up until Illinois, since the team has shown it has the talent/leadership/offense/defense/special teams to beat Army/Eastern Illinois with Colter at the helm)
I also caught a lot of the Michigan game (brother in law a huge fan), although I definitely crashed and went to bed before the game got called. My early impressions:
- Denard is still awesome, even in the pro-set (though it appeared at least to me that Hoke has left some zone-read plays in there to highlight his strengths -- a brilliant move)
- The defense is still not great (Western Michigan had a few really strong drives), but they're LIGHT YEARS ahead of last year on defense, and on the right track.
- I think Michigan overall is slightly better than I thought before the season, but still in that 7-9 win range....not much room for injuries (particularly to Denard), and the defense still a bit of a question mark, despite the 2 defensive TDs.
- That weather was freaky -- field temp going from 130 degrees to 80 degrees during the game? Insane.
So, for those of you who live far away from the B1G television footprint (or are forced, like me, to watch a game in a foreign country), how did you watch? Did you enjoy it as much as I did? What was the quality like? And what's your "from a distance" view of your favorite team?