Weekly Wildcat Watch

Jim Harbaugh takes a shot at the Big Ten and Northwestern, stories abound about Tony Jones' commitment, and ESPN breaks down teams from around the Big Ten.

Maybe the most interesting bit of Northwestern news last week came via Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh, who on Wednesday was reported to have said some, um, not so flattering things about the Big Ten and Northwestern. From Adam Rittenberg's recap of Harbaugh's comments:

Some of these teams are playing Delaware State (as Harbaugh's alma mater, Michigan, is) or Towson (Northwestern). You know, somebody really ought to take notice of this stuff. You have eight or nine wins and so you're a great football team? Well, what if you played four patsies in your nonconference and then you only won half your conference games and so you get to go play in the Alamo Bowl and everyone says you're a great team.

I can't tell whether Harbaugh's failure to say the word "Northwestern" is laudable or lame, cowardly or cordial. You could say it's good that he didn't, you know, out of respect of something. Or you could say it's pretty weak that he so blatantly talks about the Cats by mentioning the Alamo Bowl and Towson while still failing to call out NU by name. I'm torn on that strategy.

Either way, the Cardinal did play at TCU and at Notre Dame last season, so Harbaugh has some room to talk. Still, Stanford had just five wins on the year, and Northwestern – despite its cushy '08 non-con schedule – did notch a 5-3 Big Ten record.

I've weighed in before on this and will again now: Teams like Northwestern (and Stanford, for that matter) are better off rolling up Ws against, say, Eastern Michigan and Towson. Especially if the alternative is missing bowl eligibility and getting beat down in early-season games – like Stanford's 31-14 loss at TCU. Couldn't have hurt that Northwestern was on national TV in late December playing Missouri while Stanford (proudly) missed a bowl altogether.

Harbaugh's comments are especially interesting because Northwestern and Stanford continually battle for recruits. This has been a topic discussed on the Ryan Field message board here, as well as in this article I wrote about proximity as it relates to Stanford/Northwestern recruiting battles.

Here is Lake the Posts' take on the Harbaugh comments.

The other big Wildcat news this week came via Tony Jones' verbal commitment to the Cats. Before we get to other articles about Jones, I must first plug Scout's coverage of the day, which includes this interview with Purple Reign just minutes after he announces, as well as videos like this one, an exclusive with Scout.com video editor Sean Scherer.

OK, obligatory self-promotion complete, here and here and here are some other reports of Jones' announcement. Jones had 20-plus offers, so this is definitely a big get for the Cats.

Moving away from Jones, here is a blog entry asserting that Northwestern, as a program, is on the rise, although the team this season probably won't achieve anything too noteworthy. At first I thought that article was talking about this Web site; the title is, Purple Reign in extended forecast. Alas, the article isn't about this page or the strides that PR has made in the past few months. It's conclusion:

So, look for Northwestern to eventually get the Purple back to Pasadena and soon -- maybe very soon -- notch a once-unthinkable fourth Big Ten title in less than two decades. It's just a little too soon. Maybe once big, dual-threat QB recruit Evan Watkins has his feet wet in a year or two.

Finally, there were a bunch of Rittenberg blog entries taking a unit-by-unit look at the Big Ten – secondary, running backs, offensive linemen, QBs, etc.

The secondary projections are favorable – "The Wildcats boast the Big Ten's deepest secondary and possibly the league's best" – whereas the running backs, well, not so much – "Northwestern returns virtually no experience at the position after losing four-year starter Tyrell Sutton and backup Omar Conteh..."

Altogether a pretty uneventful week on the NU news front, which isn't always a bad thing.

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