I’ll be honest with you: I’m not terribly excited to write this one.
What: San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl
Where: SDCCU Stadium, San Diego, CA
When: December 31, 6pm GTZ
Line: Utah -7 (O/U 46)
|Big Ten||Holiday Bowl||Pac-12|
|#22 Northwestern Wildcats||Who?||#17 Utah Utes|
|8-5 (8-1)||Record||9-4 (6-3)|
|Pat Fitzgerald||Coach||Kyle Whittingham|
|24.3 (103rd)||Off. S&P+||31.5 (43rd)|
|23.4 (32nd)||Def. S&P+||19.5 (22nd)|
|14-10 at Iowa, I guess?||Best Win||40-21 at Stanford|
|39-34 vs. Akron Zips||Worst Loss||38-20 at Arizona State|
|LB Nate Hall (shoulder, "out"); DT Jordan Thompson (knee, "out")||Key Injuries||QB Tyler Huntley (collarbone, "needs a miracle" but also a game-time decision); WR Britain Covey (ACL, "out"); LB Chase Hansen (undisclosed, "minimal chance")|
If you looked at that table and thought “wow, these are two teams I really want to check out,” you are wrong, an idiot, and a liar.
Neither of these teams has beaten anyone worth a damn: when you’re having to count on road wins at the vaunted Farm or over an Iowa team that went, shockingly, 8-4...things aren’t ideal.
Both insist upon a stout defense that holds in the red zone and limits explosive plays. One has a quarterback hobbled by injury and possibly not playing, the other has a quarter hobbled by injury and the kinds of decisions that produce a 15:14 TD:INT ratio.
I texted my buddy at this point in my preview writing process. His response: “I got nothing either. Can’t really hype that it’s a rematch of the Wooden Classic from last month [in] basketball.”
You know what? Fuck it.
SCOREBOARD, RUNNIN’ UTES. YOUR BOUNCY-SHOOTERS SUCK, AND YOU SHOULD FEEL BAD. WOO!
Goddamnit, even that game was the consolation championship of a tournament that Northwestern opened by getting run off the court by Fresno fucking State. This sucks.
Look, these teams are the dictionary definition of average.
They are run by boring, risk-averse coaches—both former linebackers!—who insist their players Graduate, Do It the Right Way, and Win. Their boring-as-shit offenses are predicated on running and controlling the ball. They lost—predictably—to better, higher-ranked teams in their respective conference championships.
On paper, I’m sure sportswriters have told you all the differences: Utah has a more dynamic offense behind QB Tyler Huntley, the Utes’ defense is capable of straight-up stopping you, and Kyle Whittingham’s teams “just don’t lose bowl games” (he’s 11-1 as a coach). Northwestern’s Clayton Thorson has failed to live up to admittedly-high, Mitch Leidner hype, the Wildcats’ defense bends a lot, and Pat Fitzgerald is a mere 3-5 in bowl games.
Let’s disabuse ourselves, first, of the notion that Kyle Whittingham’s 11-1 bowl game record means fuck-all, shall we?
No one’s pretending that Northwestern has a sterling bowl record—a 2-game winning streak for the first time in program history is the most pathetic thing I’ve ever bragged about with a straight face—or beating anyone particularly monstrous to do it (Mississippi State, Pitt, and Kentucky hardly wow you). But these Whittingham wins are over (in order): Georgia Tech, Tulsa, Navy, Alabama, Cal, Georgia Tech, Colorado State, BYU, Indiana, and West Virginia. Of those, the win over Alabama in 2008 is the only one that makes me take notice (and man, Utah, thanks for doing that).
...man, I’m sorry, guys. I can’t do it. I thought I could work myself into a rage reading idiot Salt Lake City beat writers’ breathless takes and general college football commentators’ dismissals of Northwestern football. But it’s not there.
Look, Northwestern is an 8-5 team, and a Pat Fitzgerald team to boot. True frosh RB Isaiah Bowser will run the ball into the line over and over and over again regardless of success, Paddy Fisher will line the stat sheet with tackles, and Clayton Thorson will plod around the pocket with the stone feet associated with an ACL surgery, missing some maddeningly-open throws and completing a couple others to WRs like Bennett Skowronek and (if he’s healthy) Flynn Nagel. They’ll focus on stopping RB Zack Moss, whose efficient running keeps the heat off both an injured Huntley or backup QB Jason Shelley. You’ve seen this movie, and it involved a 3-0 halftime score.
That could mean Northwestern at Iowa or the Pac-12 Championship Game. Take your pick.
Imagine this as an Iowa-Stanford game, only with the roles of “smart school” and “bunch of idiots on a hill somewhere” reversed. Or something. This shit is so boring, I can’t even conjure up some real good Utah slams because as a sensible human being I like them more than BYU, Whittingham seems to be a not-shitty human being or coach, and the most newsworthy shit to come out of this bowl run-up is the Green Bay Packers wanting to interview Fitz.
We got the Rose Bowl we deserved, only in San Diego.
And now no one cares.
Who wins the Holiday Bowl?
This poll is closed
Oh, right. I should pick the game: Utah, 17-14. Maybe a couple derpy overtimes. Why not.