Northwestern Wildcats

BATON ROUGE, LA - NOVEMBER 28:  Head coach Les Miles of the LSU Tigers look on during the game against the Texas A&M Aggies at Tiger Stadium on November 28, 2015 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
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Les Miles reportedly ‘out’ as a candidate at Western Michigan

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Well, at least theoretically it was fun while it lasted.

In a television interview Wednesday, former LSU head coach Les Miles intimated that he would be open to the Western Michigan job if it was offered. Based on one report, there will be no decision for the Mad Hatter to weigh.

How serious a candidate, if at all, Miles was remains to be seen — FootballScoop.com noted they had heard the two sides spoke earlier in the week — although it always just seemed like he would end up in broadcasting for a year before getting back into the coaching game on the next spinning of the coaching carousel.

As for the WMU opening moving forward, it appears the search could be wrapped up as early as this weekend.

Tim Lester, a former Broncos quarterback who’s in the school’s Hall of Fame, and Northwestern assistant Matt MacPherson have interviewed for the job, as has Michigan running backs coach Tyrone Wheatley. It appears though that, like Miles’, Wheatley’s candidacy has come to an end.

Finally, FootballScoop is also reporting that WMU is planning to meet with current Alabama offensive line coach and former FIU head coach Mario Cristobal at some point Friday. Speculation is that Cristobal and Lester are the front-runners and that a decision — and even an announcement — could come as early as Saturday.

Alabama opens as Bovada’s early 2017 title favorite

TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 09:  Quarterback Jalen Hurts #2 of the Alabama Crimson Tide celebrates after throwing a 68-yard touchdown pass during the third quarter against the Clemson Tigers in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium on January 9, 2017 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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Alabama may have seen their dynasty temporarily derailed Monday night in Florida, but at least one wagering establishment expects Nick Saban to get it back on track post-haste.

Bovada.lv released its opening set of 2017 national championship odds very early Tuesday afternoon, with the bookmaker installing Bama as a 4/1 favorite coming off the loss to Clemson.  Last year at this time, coming off their fourth title in seven years, the same book had the Crimson Tide as a 7/1 favorite.

The team ‘Bama beat, Clemson, is at 16/1, tied with ACC Atlantic rival Louisville and behind six other teams besides the one they beat on the field last night — Florida State (7/1), Ohio State (15/2), Michigan (9/1), Oklahoma (9/1), USC (9/1) and LSU (12/1).  The other 2016 playoff team, Washington, is at 40/1, the same as 4-8 Notre Dame and behind the likes of Texas (28/1) and Miami (33/1).

Boise State, at 75/1, was the highest favorite amongst Group of Five programs.

Below are the complete list of 2018 title odds for the championship following the 2017 season, again courtesy on Bovada.lv:

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Report: Chicago Cubs want to host bowl game at Wrigley Field

CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 20: A general view as the Northwestern Wildcats take on the Illinois Fighting Illini during a game played at Wrigley Field on November 20, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. Illinois defeated Northwestern 48-27. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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The New York Yankees may have some company when it comes to hosting college football bowl games.

Chicago Cubs president Crane Kenney told Teddy Greenstein of the Chicago Tribune that the Major League Baseball organization “absolutely” intends to host a bowl game at famed Wrigley Field.  As there is a moratorium on adding bowl games until 2019, the absolute earliest that a postseason game could be played at Wrigley would be the 2020 season.

Besides, because of an ongoing restoration of the iconic stadium, no football games could be played there from 2017-19 anyway.

Northwestern and Illinois played a game at Wrigley in 2010, but that contest was subject to some derision as, because of the baseball parks configuration, just one of the two end zones were utilized.  That shouldn’t be an issue moving forward, thanks in part to the restoration.

From the Tribune:

The Big Ten and Northwestern approved the Wrigley Field layout months before the 2010 game, aware that thick padding would be needed to protect players from crashing into the wall at the right-field bleachers. But upon seeing the field days before the game, officials decided not to risk it.

With advance warning, the field could have been laid out to allow for the use of both end zones, given that the wall outside the third-base line is pegged to the ground and can be removed by a forklift.

Anyway, that’s history. Dugouts will be moved closer to the foul poles before the 2018 season, allowing for ample space, Kenney said.

In 2013, it was announced that Wrigley Field would play host to five future Wildcats football games, with the dates not specified.  Those games, expected to involve Big Ten foes, are expected to commence in 2020 to coincide with the club’s bowl ambitions.

Yankee Stadium has hosted the Pinstripe Bowl each of the past seven seasons, and has played host to a handful of regular season games as well

Justin Jackson’s career day helps Northwestern nip No. 23 Pitt in Pinstripe Bowl

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 28: Justin Jackson #21 of the Northwestern Wildcats dives for a touchdown in front of the Pittsburgh Panthers defense during the first half of the New Era Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium on December 28, 2016 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images)
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If you’re a fan of Northwestern football, go ahead and send all of your thank you notes and/or cards to Justin Jackson, c/o NU athletics.  Although, you could save some for the secondary as well.

Thanks in very large part to Jackson’s career day, Northwestern (7-6) was able to hold off No. 23 Pittsburgh (8-5) and stake its claim to the 7th annual New Era Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium with a 31-24 win.  The victory was the Wildcats’ first in a bowl game since 2012 and just the third ever since the program was established in 1892.

And, again, thanks be to Jackson.  The junior running back gashed the Panthers defense for 224 yards and three touchdowns on 32 carries.  His previous career-high was 188, set in a mid-October win over Michigan State earlier this season.

Jackson was part of a back-and-forth second half, with the lead changing hands four times in the last two quarters after the Wildcats had taken a 14-10 lead into the halftime locker room.  What turned out to be the final lead change didn’t involve Jackson, though, as Clayton Thorson connected with Garrett Dickerson for a 21-yard touchdown pass on a fourth and one with 8:23 remaining in the fourth quarter to give the Panthers a four-point lead.

On the first play of the ensuing possession, Quadree Henderson, playing in pace of the injured James Conner, fumbled the ball back to the Wildcats at the Panthers’ 27-yard line; four plays later, a Jack Mitchell 37-yard field goal extended the lead to seven.

Pitt’s second-to-last chance to tie the game nearly ended in a touchdown but for a tremendous defensive play in the end zone and instead came to a halt on an interception tossed by Ben DiNucci, who prior to this game had never attempted a pass at the collegiate level.  The redshirt freshman was in the game because starter Nathan Peterman sustained a third-quarter head injury and didn’t return.  Conner suffered the same fate on the same type of injury in the same quarter.

Another DiNucci interception with 1:22 left sealed the Panthers’ third consecutive bowl loss.  The 24 points were the fewest for a Pitt offense this season that came into the game 11th in the country in scoring at 42.3 points per game.

Interestingly, with Pitt’s loss, ranked teams are off to an 0-3 start to the bowl season.  The Big Ten is 2-1 this postseason, while the ACC suffered its first loss after winning its first three.

Red-zone stands, Justin Jackson push Northwestern to halftime lead on No. 23 Pitt in Pinstripe Bowl

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 28: A general view prior to the Northwestern Wildcats taking on the Pittsburgh Panthers in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium on December 28, 2016 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images)
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Northwestern’s defense bent to the point of breaking but (mostly) never snapped, leading the Big Ten school to a surprisingly defensive 14-10 halftime lead on No. 23 Pittsburgh in the 7th annual New Era Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium.

Already up 3-0 late in the first quarter, Pitt was looking at a fourth and goal from the Northwestern one-yard line that if successful would’ve extend its lead to two scores.  Instead, leading rusher James Conner was stuffed for no gain, with the Wildcats flipping that turnover on downs into a 10-play, 99-yard drive that was aided greatly by a 68-yard Justin Jackson run and capped off by Jackson’s eight-yard touchdown run.  The junior running back accounted for 88 rushing yards by himself on that drive.

The Panthers, though, seemed poised on the ensuing possession to regain the lead.  On a second and goal from the 10-yard line following a false start penalty, however, Nathan Peterman was picked off by the Wildcats’ Godwin Igwebuike with just under 13 minutes remaining in the second quarter.  Pitt’s defense, though, returned the favor, with Avonte Maddox intercepting a Clayton Thorson pass in the end zone five minutes later to snuff out a Wildcats’ scoring opportunity.

The Panthers’ offense could do nothing with the gift, handing the ball right back to the Wildcats on a three and out.  Eight plays and 74 yards later, another Jackson touchdown run, this one from 16 yards out, pushed the lead to 14-3 with just over three minutes remaining in the half.  In addition to scoring both touchdowns, Jackson ran for 147 yards on his 18 carries.

On the next possession for Pitt, however, it was the big play that got the Panthers back into the game, with Peterman hitting Jester Weah on a beautifully-thrown 69-yard touchdown pass just 17 seconds after the Wildcats’ second score.

The fact that the Wildcats held the high-scoring Panthers to a mere 10 points through two quarters was, along with Jackson’s play, the story of the first half.

Pitt came into today’s game 11th in the country in scoring at 42.3 points per game.  The Panthers scored at least 36 points in 10 of 12 regular season games, and in the other two they scored 28.  In their regular-season finale, they scored 76 points in a win over Syracuse.

Despite the relative lack of points, both teams moved the ball relatively well.  Northwestern finished with 294 yards of total offense, Pitt 264.  The Panthers came into the game averaging 447.5 yards per game while the Wildcats are less than 100 yards away from hitting their seasonal average of 392.9.

Having deferred after winning the pregame coin toss, Pitt will open the second half on offense.