EVANSTON IL: Head coach Pat Fitzgerald of the Northwestern Wildcats leads his players through this year's version of the "Suck It Hawks!" end zone celebration.
10. The Hawkeye Redemption. In their last six meetings with Iowa the Northwestern Wildcats have shown an almost Andy Dufresnesque commitment to deception. The Wildcats have won five of six from Iowa by lulling the unsuspecting Hawkeyes into a false sense of security by playing absolutely awful the week prior. In some years the commitment to hoodwinking the Hawkeyes has been nothing short of genius, and certainly a testimony to their persistence and dedication. For example, in 2006 the Wildcats lost six straight games to convince the Hawkeyes they'd abandon hope and accepted their fate as a loser, then, of course, they came to Iowa City and thumped the Hawkeyes. This year's illusory act included losing to Army, an miserable team that's been able to win but one other game. Last week the Wildcats raced out to a lead against Michigan to showcase another facet of their deception, the total and complete defensive collapse. Expect Northwestern to tunnel their way out of Kinnick with a win this Saturday and then, having successfully accomplished their season's sole mission, spend the rest of the year sunbathing in Zihuatanejo (which is a euphemism for "losing every other game").
9. Achilles Latest Stand. In Greek mythology, when Achilles was a baby his mother Thetis took him to the River Styx whose waters possessed powers of invincibility. Once there she dipped his body into the water but as she held him by his heel her hand prevented it from being washed over by the water of the magical river. Achilles grew up to be a strong Northwestern quarterback who survived many great battles. But one day, an Iowa defensive lineman attacked his heel, killing his career shortly thereafter. Or so it seemed, this Saturday expect Northwestern's god of passing and scrambling to have arrived from the heavens to wreak pain and eternal grief upon his enemy Hawkeyes.
8. Line in The Sand. Talented, fast, strong, lauded and NFL bound. That's Iowa's defensive line from a year ago, and that group couldn't do squat to contain Dan Persa. This year's Iowa defensive line rushes and contains the quarterback with all the urgency of a Maui Beach Hilton conga line. This Saturday expect the Hawkeyes defensive linemen to form a long processing line and lead the team on a shuffle dance to a 3-3 record.
7. Clockwork Red. If the Hawkeyes are somehow able to keep it a one score game and get possession of the ball with less than two minutes remaining then expect fireworks, on the Northwestern side of the field that is, as the Wildcats celebrate early knowing that Kirk Ferentz is about as eager to call on a two-minute offense with the game on the line as Alex DeLarge was at being kind to strangers.
6. Flight Club. Watching Iowa's offense work out it's identity crisis is like watching Tyler Durden, one series it's Project Mayhem and the next it's like a support group meeting. Expect Northwestern to take Iowa into a basement this weekend and kick the living shit of them.
5. Do More With Less. Ryan Seacrest, Fall Out Boy, and Matthew McConaughey could only dream of squeezing more success out of less talent than do the Northwestern Wildcats. Northwestern doesn't even attempt to recruit actual athletes because their admissions standards are just so gosh darn high. Well, there's that and other than Prince circa 1980-something no real man would be caught wearing purple. As a result, the Wildcats find themselves competing not with Stanford, Cal, or even Michigan for prized recruits, but with Rice, Duke, Vanderbilt and the Ivy's for that handful of players who can walk and do advanced trigonometry at the same time. Despite being at an enormous athletic disadvantage expect Northwestern to cogitate and then calculate their way to yet another win this Saturday. [Republished due to popular demand! By my 9-year old daughter that is...]
4. Superback! Northwestern's Drake Dunsmore is not a fictional comic book superhero, nor is he faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, or able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. However, he can play wide receiver, slot receiver, running back, full back, and tight end, all in a single game...and has. In the Northwestern offense they call this sort of multi-skilled, interchangeable superhuman the "Superback," and Dunsmore has perfected the role. Expect Dunsmore to save Northwestern from the Evil Agriculturalists this Saturday.
3. Third World. In the last three seasons, Northwestern has converted 27 of 53 third-down opportunities. Iowa, on the other hand, has converted just 9-of-37 on third down. In brief, when Iowa plays Northwestern they've looked liked a developing country trying to compete with a superpower. Which, Northwestern alums would tell you while looking down there collective noses, is only proper.
2. Payback. Pat Fitzgerald is 4-1 as a head coach against Iowa and was 2-0 as a starting linebacker for the Wildcats in the 1990s. Iowa fans are baffled by the man's mastery of the Hawkeyes, but one need only look to his football past to know why. In 1995 Fitzgerald was in the process of leading his team to victory over the Hawkeyes when, as he claims, several Iowa players employed a highly controversial and unsportsmanlike blocking technique to end his season and ensure he would miss Northwestern's first ever Rose Bowl game. "It was a toss sweep to their outside zone, and we knew they did a really nice job of cut blocking, and I got cut," Fitzgerald said of Iowa. "I was trying to get up and like three guys fell over the top of me." Fitzgerald would suffer broken bones and ligament tears to his ankle but more importantly, on that day his heart became an arctic glacier of disgust for the Hawkeyes. Expect Fitzgerald's tit for tat fixation to continue to yield high returns for the Wildcats this Saturday.
1. Trent Mossbrucker. Need I say more?