Weekly Wildcat Watch

This Weekly Wildcat Watch is heavy on stories about the proposed game at Wrigley between Northwestern and Illinois. Judging from these articles, that idea is really gaining strength. There is also a lighthearted look at some of the better coach-speak from the nation's media days; a good Fitz quote made the cut. Stories come from the Tribune, Sun-Times, ESPN, even the Money Times.

On the heels of Big Ten media days, the overriding story this week had to do with Illinois and Northwestern playing a game at Wrigley. And judging by the rhetoric – not to mention the sheer amount of attention and coverage that this thing is getting – it's looking more and more likely that it will happen.

The AP wrote about the idea here, as did the Chicago Tribune here, and Examiner.com here.

The Sun-Times had coverage of the proposed Wrigley Game, but also had an interesting picture of what it would look like here. As you can see, that end zone is pretty cramped, and that's something that Illini coach Ron Zook touched on before adding that it's nothing that can't be worked out.

In this article from ESPN, Zook says, "One of the end zones is going to be very, very tight. But I think they're excited about the opportunity, and I think it would be great for the city of Chicago, I think it would be great for Northwestern and great for the University of Illinois."

The coverage that this idea has generated is pretty incredible. Aside from ESPN and the Chicago outlets, even the Money Times covered the story here, and ESPN covered it again here.

The second of those two ESPN articles had this good quote from Zook that shed some light on why the schools are pushing this so hard:

Well, to be honest with you, we were there last night and walking around with the people there and I just think it would be an awesome venue. Obviously, until just a couple years ago, there had been more NFL games played in that stadium than any other stadium, and there hasn't been a game played there since 1970.

And can you imagine the national media? I think it would be great to have that opportunity. I'm probably speaking out of turn, the higher-ups make the decisions, obviously.

Zook's talk of exposure and the media circus that would follow a Wrigley game reminded Purple Reign of a quote from Fitz at the media days this week:

To have the exposure we had o the Big Ten Network and have our games seen worldwide and nationally, it really helped us in recruiting and we're really seeing the fruits of that labor now this year in our recruiting class….It's really helped us from a standpoint of getting Northwestern football out to the masses, and especially the recruits throughout the country.

It really, really seems like both coaches want this to happen. There wasn't much groundbreaking fodder from the Big Ten media gaggle in Chi-Town last week, but this possible Wrigley game between Illinois and NU is a big story, at least for the Wildcats.

Apologies for again mentioning Kansas and Missouri, but I am originally from Kansas City, and it's relevant here (I swear). Anyway, I saw first-hand how much fun neutral site games can be when MU and KU decided to hold their annual "Border War" at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City instead of on the schools' campuses. While each team has lost the Arrowhead game that would have otherwise been at their home stadium, you won't find too many fans of either school who don't like the arrangement. The ambiance and atmosphere compensate for the lack of home-field advantage.

And that's at Arrowhead. Imagine how much more intriguing and, frankly, how much cooler a game at Wrigley would be.

Moving away from the Wrigley game, I was interested to see ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg make this prediction in his Northwestern preview:

Jeravin Matthews becomes the answer at running back -- One of only two true freshmen to see the field last fall, Matthews transitioned from wide receiver to running back and performed well this spring. With top-end speed and good hands, he fits what Northwestern wants in a running back for the spread offense. The Wildcats figure to audition several backs early on, but Matthews will emerge as the best of the bunch.

Purple Reign is on record saying that Matthews will end up being a focal point of the Northwestern backfield. That Rittenberg concurs doesn't necessarily mean it's going to happen, but with Stephen Simmons' relatively pedestrian production last season, and with the Wildcat offense's ability to facilitate small, quick backs like Matthews, it is maybe a little surprising that more people haven't come to this conclusion as well.

This one from NewOrleans.com is hardly groundbreaking, nor is it devoted to Northwestern. But the author does (somewhat mockingly) discuss all of the cliché, saying-nothing-at-all coach-speak that took place around the nation at various conference media days.

The quote he plucked from Fitz's time at the podium is a good one:

We've got as much competitive depth in the skill positions as we've ever had.

The wise remark that follows: "As the saying goes, if you have two quarterbacks, you have none."

And here the Chicago Tribune looks at Fitz's insistence that his team's offensive and defensive lines will be paramount to the Cats success this season – not necessarily the new faces at the skill positions.

Guys grow up throwing the ball, catching the ball and running the ball. Guys don't grow up putting their second step in the ground and trying to move a guy 6 inches.

If you have your left hand in place with your offensive and defensive lines, you have a chance to get into a fight. You can always find guys who catch it and run it, and we're excited about the competition we have [for those spots].

Finally, in case you missed it, here and here Purple Reign has its own breakdown of the goings on from NU at last week's media days.

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