Weekly Wildcat Watch

Each week Purple Reign will scour the Internet and compile stories and news that every Wildcat fan needs to know...and maybe some you don't need to know. This week features articles from the ESPN.com, the Detroit Free Press and a few well-run blogs, among others. Come inside for recaps and links to the articles.

Pretty slow week for Northwestern news. But there were a few good tidbits during these slow summer days for college sports.

The only bit of "real" news is that Northwestern's swimming coach, Bob Groseth, is retiring after 20 seasons at NU.

From Northwestern Athletics:

Groseth began his coaching duties at Northwestern in 1989, taking over a team that finished last in the Big Ten in each of the 11 seasons prior to his arrival. During his tenure Groseth built the Wildcats into a contender, finishing in the upper half of the conference in seven-consecutive years from 2001-07, including a third-place effort in 2004. Northwestern also had a five-year stretch from 2004-08 in which it was a top-12 team in the nation in each season, peaking with a modern era-best sixth-place finish in 2007.

Another recent mention of Northwestern came via the Minnesota Web site The Daily Gopher. The author of the blog is taking an admittedly premature look at the Gophers' 2009 football schedule, and a few days ago he previewed the Week 4 game between the Gophers and Wildcats.

The assessment of Northwestern is none too flattering…

Well, frankly, there's not much too sexy to look at when previewing Northwestern football this year. Yes, last year the team went 9-4. Yes, that marked the third straight year of improving records for Coach Fitzgerald. Yes, Northwestern is 24-24 in Big Ten play since 2003. However, the Wildcats lost their veteran QB C.J. Bacher, four-year starting RB Tyrell Sutton (and backup Omar Conteh), and their top four wide receiving targets. Those who attended the 2008 NW - Minnesota were wiping the drool off the side of their lip in anticipation of overtime when Brendan Smith decided to end the game by intercepting Adam Weber and returning it for a touchdown with 12 seconds remaining…

The preview gets pretty in depth, and if reading about a football game that is four months out intrigues you, this blog post is worth a peek. The author forecasts a 28-20 Minnesota win, even though the game is in Evanston.

Also taking place in the blogosphere – a word I was curious to see if spell check recognized…it doesn't – is an entry by Lake The Posts, which has to be one of the eminent Northwestern football blogs out there. Aside from plugging my recent article about Fitzgerald and recruiting linebackers, Lake The Posts has two videos that are definitely worth watching.The first video is from a November post the week after NU defeated Minnesota. The other is a video Lake posted on June 12: A compilation of the Wildcats' 1996 comeback win over Michigan in Evanston.

What I found so fascinating about these two videos – aside from the fact that they're both epic wins – are the offensive formations. Look at last season's Minnesota game compared to that Michigan game. It's so weird to see quarterbacks under center, which is where they used to line up back in 1996. Anymore, a lot of teams – including Northwestern – will line up in the shotgun, with three of four wide receivers, on something like third and two. Against Michigan, it's all under center.

Even on the Wildcats' game-winning drive against the Wolverines – trailing by one, on their own side of the 50, less than two minutes to play – they were still lining up under center. The seminal play of the game – a fourth-and-nine from Michigan's 47 – was from under center. It is just so weird to see, especially in light of last season's spread-vs-spread, NU-vs-UM game. Go to the 3:45 mark of the Minnesota YouTube video, and you'll notice NU in a five-wide, shotgun formation on a first-and-10 with a tied score and 15 minutes left in the game. Just goes to show how much things have changed.

Moving on... in this article, ESPN.com's Mark Schlabach looks at the nation's toughest and easiest schedules. Surely inspired by this thread on Purple Reign's message board, Schlabach lumps together Michigan, Indiana, Penn State, Wisconsin and Northwestern, dubs them The Little Five, and rails against their non-conference slates. Honestly, though, his criticism isn't necessarily unwarranted…

From the article:

Indiana, Michigan, Northwestern, Penn State and Wisconsin hail from the Big Ten, but you wouldn't know it by glancing at their nonconference schedules. Combined, they play five FCS opponents, five smaller directional schools and only three opponents from BCS conferences (and that includes Syracuse twice).

The Detroit Free Press also talked about The Little Five story.

This blog post isn't specifically about Northwestern, but NU is mentioned amid the larger discussion about the statistic YPP – yards per point. YPP is a method – not perfect, but interesting nonetheless – to gauge offensive efficiency. In theory, you want a low yards per point average because that would indicate fewer turnovers, more red zone productivity, etc.

Northwestern enters the conversation because they were the only team to finish in the top five of the Big Ten but not finish in the top five of YPP.

Finally, from the Evanston Review, here is an article about the university's efforts to establish a better relationship with the city.

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