Only about a 30-minute drive from the Windy City, Northwestern portrays itself to be Chicago’s Big Ten team. If that is the case, then perhaps Northern Illinois should start making a claim to be Chicago’s MAC team. This weekend the two schools will meet each other on the field for just the eighth time in the series history. Northern Illinois could be ready to score its first victory in the series.
Northwestern is coming off a home loss to California, in which all of the weaknesses the Wildcats have this season were completely exposed. The lack of depth and inconsistent quarterback play doomed Pat Fitzgerald‘s team. Northwestern put up a fight late in the game, but only after digging a 31-7 hole at home against a team that failed to reach the postseason last year. The offense managed just 354 yards against a team that finished next to last in all of FBS football (123rd) in total defense in 2013. Northwestern can either take its lumps and improve from this, or show that what was seen in week one is a true testament to what Northwestern football may be in 2014.
NIU may have opened against a cupcake in week one (thumping Presbyterian 55-3), but the Huskies showed signs of being able to move on in the post-Jordan Lynch era with the same basic formula and identity. The Huskies wasted no time in establishing dominance over an inferior opponent, jumping out to a 17-0 lead in the first quarter and owning a 34-0 lead at the half. Northern Illinois churned out 424 rushing yards as a team, and will look to wear down Northwestern on the ground as well.
Northwestern leads the all-time series, which dates back to 1975, with a record of 6-0-1. The lone tie came in 1987. The two schools have faced each other just twice since 1991 (2000, 2005). With the Big Ten trying to get its members to shy away from scheduling games against programs from the MAC, games between the two schools may be few and far between for years. That may be why winning this game would be critical for a program like Northern Illinois. There are no future game son the schedule between these two schools, although Northwestern does have future dates against FCS schools Eastern Illinois, Western Illinois and Illinois State.
Many seem to have fallen on the Northwestern bandwagon in recent years. After this weekend, they may be found jumping off the bandwagon as it bursts into flames and goes crashing off the highway.
In April, Fotu Leiato was arrested on a couple of charges related to the illegal removal of a parking boot from his vehicle. A month later, we’ve learned Leiato was given the boot from his current football program for good measure.
247Sports.com was the first to report that Leiato has been dismissed by first-year Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal. Further to the point, the linebacker’s dismissal came a day after his April arrest but the news didn’t surface until Thursday.
In the April incident, Leiato was arrested on charges of second-degree criminal mischief, second-degree theft and criminal trespassing. That was actually his second arrest this year as he was charged with misdemeanor trespassing in January.
The combination of the two arrests led Cristobal to pull the trigger on a dismissal.
Coming to Eugene as a three-star safety, Leiato played in 37 of 38 games the past three seasons. The Washington native earned the first start of his collegiate playing career during the 2017 season.
The senior had been in line to earn a starting job exiting spring and heading into the summer phase of the offseason.
Darren Kirkland‘s injury-plagued time on Rocky Top has come to an end.
On his personal Twitter account Thursday evening, Kirkland announced that he has decided to transfer out of first-year head coach Jeremy Pruitt‘s Tennessee football program. The linebacker gave no specific reason for his decision to move on from the Volunteers.
“Tennessee will always hold a special place in my heart,” Kirkland wrote. “These moments have been priceless and I’m a better player and man from this experience.”
As a graduate transfer, Kirkland would be eligible to play for another FBS program in 2018. Not only that, but he will have two seasons of eligibility remaining counting this year.
A four-star 2015 signee, Kirkland started 10 games as a true freshman and then another six in a sophomore campaign marred by a high-ankle sprain that forced him to miss four games. In summer camp last year, he suffered a knee injury severe enough to sideline him for the entire 2017 season.
The rehab from that injury kept Kirkland from being a full participant in Pruitt’s first spring practice this year.
Seth Littrell has done a great job turning around the program at North Texas but fans getting a look at the 2018 edition of his team will notice something right away that’s different when they take the field for the home opener: new turf. The Denton Record Chronicle reports that UNT is ponying up $625,245 for the latest “FieldTurf CoolPlay” turf at Apogee Stadium.
“We are excited about the turf,” Littrell said recently, according to the paper. “It was much needed. That turf has been used a lot and has gotten worn down. The new field will improve safety and will be a great resource for our kids.”
The old turf had a good run at the stadium after being installed back in 2011 but obviously the summer heat and 300+ pound bodies playing football will cause a little wear and tear. The Record Chronicle says that “North Texas” and “Mean Green” will be the end zones text while the midfield school logo will include a “dark green outline of the state of Texas.”
Completion of the project is expected to be done well in time for the first game against SMU in September. The school has released some shots of Apogee Stadium without the old turf and it certainly looks kind of wild to see a stadium sans a playing field:
Conference realignment ended a bunch of big rivalries, from the major (Texas-Texas A&M) to the mundane. Former Big 8 and Big 12 rivals Kansas State and Nebraska were somewhere on the middle of that scale after playing each other in football for decades. While nobody is clamoring for the two to get together quite like they are the Longhorns and Aggies, there’s plenty who would still love to see them schedule a non-conference series given how close Lincoln and the Little Apple are to each other (135 miles across the border).
Wildcats athletic director Gene Taylor has been in the job just over a year and it seems like he’s very aware of the scheduling situation between the two schools and is open to getting something done eventually. He was asked about adding the Cornhuskers to the slate in a Q&A on the school’s website and had this to say:
“That is a school that makes a lot of sense,” said Taylor. “We are pretty well-scheduled out in football with our one Power Five opponent, but we do play them in baseball and have had conversations in men’s basketball. If the opportunity were to arise, they are someone we would certainly entertain if it made sense for us.”
KSU is fully booked on the scheduling front through 2022 but have been open to adding home-and-homes with former Big 12 opponents with Missouri on tap for 2022/23 and Colorado on 2027/28. They’ve got a Power Five opponent on the docket until 2031 so it seems like the team wouldn’t be able to get something done with Nebraska until after then. That is, to say the least, a long ways away.
Who knows, maybe they’ll be able to meet in a bowl game at some point over the next few years. The Cornhuskers and Wildcats last met in 2010 in a series that is heavily weighted to Big Red. At least Taylor is leaving the door open and leaving a chance of the two programs hooking back up on the gridiron.