You know the drill. The Syracuse Orange are taking on the Northwestern Wildcats this weekend. We need to know things about them as a football squad and as a fanbase. That means we need the help of someone who knows. This week, that's the fine folks at Sippin' On Purple. I asked questions, they answered, now you read.
TNIAAM: I kicked off NorthwesternHateWeek (copyright pending) by saying the Wildcats have kinda-sorta become a rival for Syracuse based on recent history. Do you guys feel that way about us?
SOP: RECENT history? So you guys have finally forgiven us for our 48-0 rout in 1948?
I wouldn't say there's any bitterness here, but since y'all have popped up on the schedule a lot, I can go GRRRRRR at people I know who went to Syracuse and they can go (SOUND AN ANTHROPOMORPHIC ORANGE WOULD MAKE) back at me. And then there's the whole Prose Bowl thing, which is fun because there's media attention but not fun because it's just from the people in the media talking about how they are in the media. I'd say it's a friendly rivalry, since the games are non-con and don't really make or break the season. It's helped that the games have been sorta really competitive -- the 2009 game PAULUSSSSS WHYYYYYYYYY was a shootout that turned out to be a huge blemish on our season, and, well, last year was last year.
TNIAAM: Is there anything Pat Fitzgerald couldn't get away with in Evanston?
SOP: I suppose if he opened up a store called "Hitler's Baby Kebabs" (Slogan: "Tastes Reich Chicken") where he personally grilled human infants, skewered them, and served them to customers, MAYBE he'd get fired. He might have to also slightly lower the academic standards of the football team to really push it over the top.
TNIAAM: Northwestern came into the season with a bit of hype. So far, so good. Are NU fans buying in or still feeling cautious?
SOP: I think Northwestern fans have been fully bought in. You see, it's not often there's hype of any sort around Northwestern. Maybe hype like "I think we could make a bowl game this year!" but this year, we were talking about actual, honest-to-goodness, AP Poll ranking hype. I think the general consensus is cautious optimism -- the Rose Bowl's the dream, but I think a lot of us are just pleased with the fact that this team is expected to contend for the Big Ten championship, although they're certainly not favored to win it. There's a ton of momentum around the program, and the positive vibes are outrageously contagious.
TNIAAM: The Cal game was high-scoring and featured some controversy (or contrived controversy) about injuries. What was your biggest takeaway from the win?
SOP: My biggest takeaway is that Northwestern's starting quarterback and starting running back got knocked out of the game and the team still won by two touchdowns. This got lost amidst the fake injury controversy (read that as either a "fake injury" "controversy" or a "fake" "injury" "controversy") and the fact that two of Northwestern's touchdowns were pick-sixes, but I think NU did all the right things to get a win even without their biggest playmakers.
TNIAAM: Last time we visited Ryan Field there was ample space to stretch out. Can we expect to see more butts in the seats this time?
SOP: There'll certainly be less room to stretch out! Like the 2008 game, this one is before students show up on campus, so it still won't be a great atmosphere. But NU has its highest base of all time this year, and... well... we now have a tarp, so even if there are a small amount of people in the game, they'll have less empty bleachers to spread themselves across.
TNIAAM: Will the eventual Cain Kolter Heisman campaign mirror the Heisman campaign for Joe Kane in The Program ("Cain Is Able")?
SOP: I think we're done with Heisman campaigns after doing one for Dan Persa in 2011, prompting a season-long nagging Achilles injury making us look incredibly stupid. Besides, I'd be much more interested in a HURRIKAIN/MARKNADO campaign based around Colter and Venric Mark.
TNIAAM: Rutgers and Maryland in the Big Ten, how's that sitting with you guys? Will you do us a favor and beat the crap out of Rutgers every year, please?
SOP: We are indifferent-to-disappointed in the entire thing. We'd love to beat up Rutgers every year, but we're gonna be in the West division, and they're gonna be in the East, so, we'll play them like once every six decades.
TNIAAM: The Northwestern player that we've never heard of who is going to come out of nowhere and score three touchdowns on Saturday is...
SOP: Well, last week it was linebacker Collin Ellis, who had two pick-sixes in his first start in two seasons, and Treyvon Green, who scored two touchdowns and nearly doubled his yardage from the entire 2012 campaign. But now you've heard of them. Bummer. Green is a threat to repeat if Venric Mark's dings haven't healed from Saturday.
TNIAAM: On Draft Day, how many Wildcats are going to hear their names called and who are they?
SOP: Quite possibly none. Mark is an All-American, the Big Ten's leading returning rusher and a dynamic punt returner, as you guys found out last year, but at 5'8 and 170, tops, there are NFL worries if you're not Tavon Austin. Colter won't be an NFL QB, so he'll have to show his ability to contribute as a wide receiver to make it, but he does have the hands. Tyler Scott is probably the best defensive end in the Big Ten, but he's really, really strong and not exceptionally quick, so he doesn't show up on any draft boards.
TNIAAM: Gun to your head (not literally), will Northwestern play for the Big Ten Championship this year? What bowl will they play in? What's the final record?
SOP: The problem is that Northwestern is very good, but not great, and that also applies to Michigan and Nebraska in the Wildcats' division. (Other people also say Michigan State, but, I have literally vomited while watching their offense out of sheer disgust.) So it's a crapshoot between those three, and of those, Northwestern is the only one that has to play Ohio State and Wisconsin from the other side of the conference. So the odds are stacked against NU, but it's a possibility. I've said 9-3 and the Outback Bowl, but swap it to 10-2 and NU's probably in Indy.
TNIAAM: Game prediction?
SOP: I'm going with Northwestern, 31, Syracuse, 17. I guessed 42-31 last week and it was 44-30, so watch out.