Welcome to this week's installment of the OTE Potluck. We're cruising right along through Northwestern week and what do you know, we've got a veritable buffet of purple foods. From caviar to plums, Justin Jackson to whoever it is will be handing the ball off to Justin Jackson, and some talk about insane finishes, we have a packed week. Grab a plate, don't be too shy, and indulge in this week's offerings. As always, there are links to the recipes for most of the dishes so if you want to replicate this purple feast, go right ahead.
image via myrecipes
Appetizer - Sour Cream and Caviar Topped Purple Potatoes
Putting it mildly, Northwestern was an inconsistent team last year. On one hand, they beat Penn State, Wisconsin, and Notre Dame. On the other hand they lost to Illinois. It was just one of those seasons. With inconsistent offensive play, sketchy defense - especially in the middle of the season, and a lack of identity for great stretches of the year, it seemed like maybe the team hadn’t bought into what Pat Fitzgerald was putting together. While the big wins felt good, this team missed a bowl and come into 2015 with a lot of question marks along both sides of the ball. Knowing both how good - Notre Dame - and how bad - Illinois - this team was last year, which identity seems more in line with what we should expect this year? Can Fitz do his best coaching job yet and move Northwestern back up the ranks or will we be leading of B1G 2016 with the Wildcats next summer?
Candystripes for Breakfast - I don't think we'll be leading with the Cats next year, but that doesn't necessarily mean they'll be that much better. Of course, I'd be perfectly happy passing over the Crown of Thorns (TM) to LPW if they do lead us off in 2016, so either way, I win.
MNWildcat: The same identity. It will be the same identity, where Pat Fitzgerald and Co. will refuse to decide whether they are a 4-8 team who tries to run the ball down Stanford's throat and fails (just book it--it'll happen) or the 8-4 team that walks into Durham and routs Duke with a high-octane spread attack (just book it--I've been drinking). They will waffle between both, one bounce or slip on wet grass will go better than last year, and I will spend the day after Christmas in Detroit.
LincolnParkWildcat: Hopefully MNW and I will be writing these articles in July or August next year. I think we’ll improve and make a bowl. We don’t have the union distraction clouding up the offseason like last year. I don’t think Fitz will pull off his best coaching job yet, but I’d be happy to be proven wrong.
WhiteSpeedReceiver: First of all, there's no shame in losing to Illinois. Everybody should do it every once in a while to make Illinois feel better about itself. But what if Fitz doing the best job possible leads to nothing better than a trip to the Glen Mason Whogivesashit Bowl? What if Northwestern's just been passed by a few teams that they have to play every year? That's starting to look like the case. Sorry, Cats, but at least you still get to have a pillow fight with Iowa every year and try to beat Illinois.
Thomas Speth: Here's the thing about Northerstern's schedule. There's 2 games that are probable non-conference losses. That means to go bowling they're going to have to win 4 conference games. In my uneducated opinion, Duke and Stanford will tell us how good this team is. The B1G West has the quadrangle of hate, it also has the Crooked Line of Crippling Mediocrity with Iowa, Illinois, NW, and Purdue. Northwestern could very well go 0-3 or 3-0 against those 3. It'll be far easier to tell after they play Duke and Stanford. I could see this team winning anywhere from 3-8 games.
Aaron Yorke: Well the defense was pretty good last year (except when it gave up nearly 300 rushing yards to Illinois with a bowl bid on the line), so Northwestern's fate will depend a lot on the new quarterback and Justin Jackson this season. If those two perform well enough to steal a non-conference game against Stanford or Duke and take down the East Division opponents (Michigan and Penn State again), you could see Northwestern return to a bowl game. On the other hand, there are very few sure wins on the slate, so a couple of bad bounces could spoil the Wildcats' campaign.
Andrew Kraszewski: Ah, but you've already answered your own question, Jesse. That off-the-wall inconsistency is PRECISELY what we should expect from Fitzgerald's Northwestern at this point. I don't see Northwestern falling into the abyss that is an early May B1G 2016 preview. But looking at last year, those two banner wins were over a QB with something that media outlets straight-facedly referred to as "The Yips" and a historically injured Notre Dame team in the middle of a classic Brian Kelly QB Disintegration. Kudos for taking what was offered you. My point is, great as they were for Northwestern, those wins look less genuine when stacked next to getting blown out by Iowa and convincingly beaten by Tim Beckman at home. Trying to reconcile those results is even tougher when you consider that it's not clear exactly what Northwestern even wants to be, let alone what it actually is.
Mike Jones: I expect Northwestern to be about in the same position as they were last season. Either 5-7 or 6-6 with an inexplicable win or loss to make them bowl eligible (or ineligible). I’m sure most people look at a team losing their starting QB as a bad thing but when it comes to Northwestern I’m not so sure that Trevor Siemian was a BAD thing. I think whoever they settle on at QB will be aided immensely by Justin Jackson and whatever plug and play WRs they start. The problem is the schedule. Stanford, @ Duke, @ Michigan, @ Nebraska and @ Wisconsin look like losses. The only sure wins look like EIU and Ball State. Everything else looks like it could go either way.
GoForThree: Pat Fitzgerald is the weird plastic cup from a Yahtzee a game the Wildcats are his dice. Who the hell knows what they'll be from week to week. This is what happens when a position coach for guys in neck rolls gets a head coaching gig based on alumni heartstrings.
image via My New Roots
Salad - Purple Power Salad
Side Dish - Purple Cauliflower with Garlic and Saffron
AK: If that pass rush is going to get better, my money would be on Ifeadi Odenigbo being the guy responsible. Between Fitz's own stubbornness and the unchanged coaching staff, I wouldn't expect any schematic changes. The secondary should be pretty good given the experience returning, and the one thing that can be said about the schedule is it's not exactly chock full of devastating passing attacks, so maybe the lack of a pass rush won't be too damaging, as it generally wasn't last year.
Main Dish - Falafel-Stuffed Eggplant with Tahini Sauce and Tomato Relish
MJ: Fitzgerald is in Ferentz territory. He’s got a deal through 2020 and makes what, two million dollars a year? He’s also a "folk hero" and has taken Northwestern to places they haven’t been in years (around 63ish to be exact). They won’t fire him because even if they’ve got the money they don’t want to pay for it. If they go 5-7 or 6-6 I think he’ll be fine. If they tank I think there will at least be a little bit of pressure on him in 2016.
GF3: See my comment number one. The alumni love for their homegrown boy seems too strong. And let's face it, Northwestern as a school is generally sort of ok with sucking at major sports. It doesn't bring out the pitchfork-toting mobs like it does elsewhere. They're a private school with Ivy delusions and they seem plenty happy to have a dilapidated stadium, a feel-good coach without much more upside, and a big stupid tarp (hey MNWildcat I made a tarp joke again, because you deserve it). If he misses a bowl, he might be shown the door. But I think that would have a lot to do with other schools searching, too. NU likely doesn't want to be in the hunt if it's a big year for new coach hires.
Dessert - Summer Plum Crostata
Seriously, Northwestern has been part of some of the more insane B1G games of the past few years. It’s like they just manage to win/lose under absurd conditions. Sometimes it’s fun - Nebraska fat guy Hail Mary - and other times you want to claw your eyeballs out - m00n. Regardless, it’s a lot of fun. So, that said, give me your favorite insane finish as a sports fan. Could be your school, your rival’s, something you randomly watched. Just make it exciting.
C4B: I've got to give you two insane finishes, one because it's obvious, the other because 8 year old me wouldn't forgive me if I didn't. Obviously, IU 73 - UK 72 was a bit of a big deal (#WatShot). The other insane finish I remember is Reggie Miller nailing a three late over the Bulls in the playoffs on a bad leg, basically right in the face of Michael Jordan. Sure, the series didn't end how we wanted, but for one game, Reggie > Jordan.
insertname: 0.6 seconds was insanity...
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...so were 17 seconds...
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...and Patrick Kane's did-he-or-didn't-he Cup clincher - which was insane because it was all kinds of weird.
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And one last insane finish has to be that Texas HS football game with all of the onside kicks.
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MNW: Notre Dame. So much Notre Dame. Failing that, the Brendan Smith interception of Minnesota in 2008 or even the Outback Bowl finish against Auburn. That was just such a good game it's hard not to include it. But yeah. Notre Dame. Suck it, Irish.
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LPW: Insane sports finishes? Let’s see: ND last year, NU defeating OSU in 2004, Auburn’s Kick Six against ‘Bama and NU vs Michigan in 2000.
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WSR: I think it goes without saying that 0.6 is right at the top (Enjoy your new coach, Flyers fans. He's shit.), but since this is probably supposed to be about football, I'm going to have to go with Duane Bennett's deflection catch against Sparty on Halloween 2009. The stadium was loud, alcohol-fueled, and not yet convinced that Tim Brewster was a used car salesman. Sparty and the refs tried their best, but good overcame evil and the TD that sealed it caused one of the loudest eruptions I've ever heard at a Gopher football game to date.
TS: 2011 B1G Championship Game. DUCKWORTH! WHAT A CATCH AHHHHHHHHH. Gus Johnson is awesome. Also Ben Brust's half court buzzer beater to force OT against Michigan in 2013 was just insane.
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AY: Cal's "band on the field" play against Stanford should be number one on any fan's list. Unfortunately, I wasn't alive to see that one. Some of the best at Penn State would be Tamba Hail's crushing sack on Troy Smith to help the Lions defeat Ohio State in 2005, Kevin Kelly's winning FG in triple overtime of the Orange Bowl that same year, and the Illinois last-second missed FG off the upright to give JoePa his 409th win in 2011. For pro football, the DeSean Jackson punt return TD against the Giants in 2010 still makes me mad. Finally, there was a CFL game where the two teams punted the ball back and forth at the end because the one-point rouge would have made the difference. That was the craziest football play I've ever seen.
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AK: Heh. Well, since it's Northwestern week, I present basically the only high point of the entire season when I was a freshman at MSU: [text to link]
But for a higher-stakes finish involving my own team, you need look no further than the Cotton Bowl. 20-point 4th quarter deficit, blocked field goal, yada yada yada. Wouldn't want to be accused of dominating the discussion with my own positive stories.
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MJ: 7 got 6. That is all.
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GF3: Best insane B1G finish for me came in the miserable 2011 season. Braxton Miller heaved a TD pass to Devin Smith with 20 seconds left to down the accursed 15th-ranked Badgers. It was a rare bright spot.
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