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Northwestern Potluck #2: Coffee and Coordinators.

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Northwestern Football drives are short. Stay awake for it.

You’re going to need some help to get through Northwestern Week. Like a Dalgona Coffee.
Photo by Sabrina Hentschel/picture alliance via Getty Images

Welcome to the 2nd potluck! Let’s get right to the silliness, eh? As noted in LPW’s article this morning, Northwestern finally sent Mick McCall to a farm upstate to run and play, and Mike Bajakian was brought in to...do...something? His history as an OC in P5 college football is….something? In the press release heralding his acquisition, Northwestern pointed out that BC led the ACC in rushing YPG (because they had over 100 rushes more than the next closest team), fewest turnovers (between a power run game and throwing half your passes into the turf, that shouldn’t be tough), and that teams he called plays for finished in the top 40 in total offense 7 times in 9 seasons.

But...there should be reasons for concern. In his 3 seasons as a P5 OC, the best spot for his team in scoring offense is 65 (which, granted, is 61 spots higher than where Northwestern finished last year). And those bona fides feel...wrong, since in his 3 years as a P5 OC his teams have finished 104th, 93rd, and 47th in yards per game and 105th, 83rd, and 43rd in total yards. ARE YOU BAD AT MATH OR DID YOUR NEW OC LIE ON HIS RESUME, NORTHWESTERN? (Research update: It’s outright fraud. Claiming a top 40 offense for the regular season and excluding the bowl game? That’s some moving the goalposts, Northwestern. Bravo). And if you were to get away from compiling stats like total offense and look at YPP, BC was a robust 67th with 5.77, which should be noted was well over a yard per play better than Northwestern’s 4.23. The approach was simple, and will feel like a warm, comfortable blanket to Northwestern fans: bash a fatback into the line repeatedly and hope for good things. When you go up against a terrible defense (Syracuse) you’ll get an insane number (9.21 YPP), but when you go up against someone with a defense (Clemson, ND), you’re not going to have as much fun (2.85, 2.93 YPP respectively). Throw in the fact that this was a guy who got his offense’s skull crushed in by Kansas last fall in prime time at home, and you can’t help but be excited about the future of the offense! (Not you, Northwestern fans.)

Anyway, will changing from a power run OC who takes mediocre shots downfield to a power run OC who takes mediocre shots downfield change the fortunes for Northwestern’s offense when we get football back, or should the frenzied fuchsia feline fans work on whittling down their reading list on Saturday afternoons? And what was one staff change your program made that you thought would make all the difference in the world, but ended up being just a shuffling of deck chairs on the Lusitania?

BMan31: This question makes some B1G assumptions. First off, we aren’t getting football back. I’d recommend the Violet Purrers start having their butlers dust off some old volumes. I just don’t see enough of a change to stir any emotions here. When it comes to Purdue, just start naming names from the decade prior to Brohm. You’ll hit something pretty easily.

Beez: Nobody should ever plan for something to do instead of watching your team’s “offense,” but you should have some backup plans just in case your moribund offense that contained zero players you’d want in a fantasy league just dropped its OC for an OC from a team you’d be even less likely to want players from for your fantasy league. Still though, New Is Always Better, as my good friend Barney Stinson would say.

pkloa: Wildcats fans should never just abandon the team, but I might recommend putting a stop to all that “hope” you’ve been holding on to. The new OC may be just what was needed, but probably not.

James Franklin has made the right coaching moves way more often than not, BO’B wasn’t around long enough to change coaches, and Paterno had almost zero turnover for his last dozen years. I don’t think there has been a coaching hire with failed expectations in a long, long time.

LPW: I’m cautiously optimistic this will work.

BRT: I’m not sure it will be successful in the sense that it makes Northwestern into a perennial contender, but it does make a certain amount of sense. NW is not a team that could easily absorb a massive system change, and it’s not ever going to be likely to attract a lot of flashy skill players. So finding someone similar who can utilize what they have better than McCall isn’t a bad idea. It’s also a very, very Fitz approach.

Jesse: None of this is probably the answer for an “EXCITING. NEW. WILDCAT. OFFENSE.” But, it’s probably a step in the right direction in many ways. Northwestern’s identity has been - as I noted yesterday - solely predicated on playing not-to-lose. So long as you can drag the other opponent into your defensive struggle-ball, not turn it over a million times, and maybe run the ball on occasion, you’ve got a chance. Now, I wouldn’t have gone the ol’ Boston College looks the part, route, but this is very peak-Fitzgerald and I don’t necessarily hate the idea.

Thumpasaurus: You know, I think you’re underrating the value of bringing fresh eyes to a situation, even if it’s going to involve a similar approach. We are surely in the end times, because I’m contradicting your pessimism about Nern football.

MNW: Christ on the cross, WSR, I am not going to tell you again: PARAGRAPH BREAKS.

I want to make a distinction here (that I recall nuancing for you but that, shockingly, did not make it into this question): Mick McCall was not a power-run OC. He was a spread guy from Bowling Green who went from going 4 or 5-wide in the Mike Kafka/Dan Persa years to stacking the line (relatively speaking) and using RPO concepts out of a more congested box by 2015. You can trace a lineage from the CJ Bacher/Persa/Kain Colter-quarterbacked Northwestern to the Trevor Siemian/Clayton Thorson era.

The point is, this is Pat Fitzgerald’s offense, and he wants a coordinator who will match his vision of being Stanford-by-the-Lake. The concepts that vision incorporates are the pace of a spread, like you say — Bajakian wants to get up to the line, use pace to exploit mismatches, and run the ball effectively.

It is still rearranging deck chairs, but let’s not pretend Bakajian is just Mick McCall 2.0.

WSR: I swear to Vishnu that if you don’t knock it off about paragraphs, the Minnesota previews will be full Kerouac.

Let’s be honest, if we were to get a football season, Northwestern fans will want to bring books to the game to ignore what’s happening in front of them. The biggest advantage of moving to a hurry-up offense with Northwestern’s talent is that it’ll get the punter on the field faster, which is always a good approach. Fitz needs to find a way to move away from Neanderball, but that’d expose his precious defense and that just won’t do.

If you’re looking for a coach that’s supposed to bring hope and delivers blatant incompetence, Minnesota is your team! From Glen Mason’s “defensive coordinators” like Moe Ankeny, Greg Hudson, and David Lockwood being the reverse Fitz hires (“Who gives a damn about the defense as long as it doesn’t hurt my precious run game!”) to Tim Davis “fixing” Tim Brewster’s OL (Mass did not kick ass, Tim) to Jay Johnson being brought in to breath new life into the offense under Tracy Claeys. Spoiler: He did not. Gopher football has been a long series of mediocre coaching changes that rarely work out, and I hope Northwestern joins us in that tradition.

Stew: We kinda all know how this is gonna go, right? It’ll be ever so slightly better than it was (how could it not?). Fitz will be belligerent at press conferences about it. Fans will complain. Nothing really changes. I know this, because Fatty Pitz has become Ferentz. Rearranging deck chairs, but nothing really changing. Absolutely mandating that the offense is not there to score points, but to protect the defense. This is how it goes.

Iowa has done the same thing about 3 times, now under Ferentz. After Ken O’Keefe left, everyone thought the offense would improve, only to hire Greg Davis and the Frankenstein’s monster of an offense he put together (an outside zone running game does NOT pair well with a horizontal passing game). By the time Prince Brian was named heir, I mean OC, most fans just hoped for a return of tight ends and play action passing in an otherwise boring offense. Deck chairs, rearranged back!


As I sit on yet another pointless conference call that should have been an e-mail and think about Northwestern’s offense, I can’t help but think about my need for coffee. 1) What was your favorite coffee shop around your school? 2) What’s your favorite place now? 3) How do you take your coffee?

BMan31: First off, thank you for saying what needs to be said before almost every single conference call. I didn’t really pay for coffee in college. We had a Mr. Coffee drip brewer that someone in the apartment would make a pot every morning. Sometimes, I partook. Others, I did not. I still make my own coffee today. I’d prefer some Tim Hortons but most of those in the area closed and weren’t between home and work so I never really got to enjoy the chance for some strong, nearly boiling hot, Canadian goodness. And I take it black or full of booze (Grand Marnier is the spirit of choice).

Beez: I legit didn’t drink coffee in college. When I needed caffeine I’d go with Redbull, back when there were just the two flavors. Now...I get most of my coffee from the Keurig at work, my favorite “place” is my friends’ house where they have one of those fancy ass coffeemakers that grinds the beans and brews all from the push of one button, and the absolute worst is Chick Fila coffee, which makes me feel sick every time I drink it.

At work I’m drinking my coffee black. At home I add slightly-more-than-I-intended Chobani Sweet Cream...creamer to my coffee (or any cream and a little sugar). I recommend the Chobani stuff with all the energy it’s possible to muster for a creamer recommendation.

pkloa: I’ve never been an avid coffee drinker, nor have I had a favorite coffee place. If I’m home and I want coffee, it’s Folgers. If I’m on the road and I want some, I’ll get it at whatever fast food joint the wife and kids want to stop at.

Jesse: I’m on record saying my favorite coffee shop in Omaha is Archetype Coffee in the Blackstone district, but it’s been forever since I’ve been there. As for my current favorite? Well, I have fresh roasted coffee beans sent to my house and I use a chemex because WHO IS GOING TO COFFEE SHOPS NOW?!? So long as the coffee is quality, I don’t add anything to it.

As an especially fun twist, I have a nitrogen-infuser to do cold-brew coffee and that’s been fun. So yeah, I drink a lot of coffee…

BRT: I didn’t routinely drink coffee until grad school, but I loved “working” in coffee shops in college, especially the conveniently located The Coffee House. I say “work” because much of the appeal was that I’d inevitably see people I knew there and would end up talking, while still feeling righteous that I’d gone to do homework. I now love The Mill in Lincoln, and Crescent Moon. Lincoln is a surprisingly good coffee town. I think a great coffee shop should have 1) good coffee (duh); 2) music at the right volume (I am old, yes); 3) a variety of seating—plenty of tables, but ideally some comfy seating too; and 4) a good vibe—hard to define, but you know if it has it.

I usually make my own coffee at home—cold brew in the summer, and pour over in the winter. I like some half-and-half in it. Life’s too short for black coffee.

LPW: I usually went to a Starbucks in Lincoln Park, or at a chain bookstore, and now I just make coffee at home on an OXO Brew 9 cup coffee maker and take it with a little bit of half and half.

MNW: At Northwestern there was not the best array of coffeeshops that I remember. If I went off-campus for any, it was just a chain, like Starbucks or Einstein’s on Sherman. There’s a more indie place, Unicorn Cafe, on Sherman, too, but I recall that being more of a grad student/art student kind of place — a place I decidedly was not when I was in college.

To be honest, “Norbucks” (the Starbucks in the Norris Student Center) was on-campus and didn’t have sales tax (gods bless NU predating Evanston). I usually just went there or to the “Secret” Einstein’s on campus. Nowadays there’s a Coffee Lab type of place west of campus by the Noyes stop which was cromulent when I went.

In the Twin Cities these days, I’m very bummed that the Dancing Goat over on E 7th in St. Paul went out of business. That was my grading cafe — a couple lattes from there and I could bang out a whole raft of midterms. As far as writing my dissertation, every Sunday night for about 3 months I would pile up my books and make the drive to Caffetto, a delightfully weird hole-in-the-wall in Lowry Hill East with pinball machines and a really unique crowd. Coffee with just a touch of cream, no sugar for me.

WSR: When I was young and hungry and poor, I’d simply go to a Perkins and post up in a booth all night with my laptop and their bottomless pots of coffee and see how much damage I could do to my stomach. Was the coffee good? No. Was the seating comfortable? No. But it was like $2 plus tip, and I could easily scrounge that up. Now, my two favorite choices are Spyhouse Coffee in Minneapolis, which is an outstanding collection of good roasts and excellent bakery items (gotta have that, donchaknow) or a pourover I’ve got. I’ve gone hipster and I’m OK with it, because it’s quick and easy and good. Every once in a while I’ll put in a little cream and sugar, but that’s rare. More often than not I like my coffee as black as my heart. Every once in a while I’ll put in a little cream and sugar, but that’s rare.

Stew: For as much as my snobbery extends, it does not reach the vast snobbery field that is coffee. I do, apparently, have my limits. I mostly just like a decent mocha from whatever local place is closest. In Iowa City that’s the Java House. In Decorah, that was Magpie’s. At home my wife likes the Columbian blend from Trader Joe’s, and I desecrate it with a scoop of cheap hot chocolate mix.

Zuzu: Believe it or not, I’m a 3rd year PhD student and do not drink coffee. I guess I like tea, but don’t seek it out. I do like hot chocolate. Yes, I am tired all the time. But I’m not one of those weird people that gets cranky without my caffeine fix. USC has a really good little cafe, called Dulce, that makes a dope matcha tea latte. I get it with oat milk and no ice. At Rutgers, for the life of me I can’t think of any non-Starbucks cafe (which are everywhere). There used to be one run by Rutgers Dining Services called Scarlet Cafe in the Alexander Library, but it closed.

Poll

What goes into your coffee?

This poll is closed

  • 20%
    Alcohol!
    (10 votes)
  • 27%
    Creamers of some sort
    (13 votes)
  • 14%
    Hot chocolate mix
    (7 votes)
  • 37%
    Coffee, goddamnit.
    (18 votes)
48 votes total Vote Now