Thursday, November 13, 2014

NFL Picks Week Eleven: Three years of waiting to see our lady

Last weekend, Northwestern played Michigan in what can only be referred to in the loosest of terms as a "college football game." I say without hyperbole that this was probably the worst-played football game I have ever seen in my life between any two teams at any level relative to the (theoretical) amount of talent on the field. In what was ultimately a 10-9 defeat for my Wildcats against that bitterest of bitter foes, the game was so inexplicably discombobulated that it very nearly verged into the territory of "fun bad" as we all drank in the local alumni bar and watched the mediocrity (and that's being generous) ensue.

To wit, this clash of cretins featured the following incidents and factoids:

-- Northwestern finished with -9 yards rushing due to quarterback Trevor Simien taking multiple sacks.
-- NU at one point started a drive at Michigan's 15-yardline and came away with no points.
-- Michigan had an averaging starting field position of its own 42 and somehow scored merely 10 points.
-- Punting on 4th and 26, NU's punter bungled the snap and kicked it with his left foot for 20 yards.
-- Michigan fumbled at one point after snapping the ball into a man in motion in the backfield.
-- Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner missed a handoff because he tripped... on nothing.
-- Northwestern missed a 36-yard field goal.
-- NU had no plays over 20 yards and its longest rush of the game went for a whopping six.
-- Michigan converted just one of its 12 third down opportunities.
-- Michigan and Northwestern combined for six turnovers including four very bad interceptions.
-- Gardner finished the game with a QBR of 5.2. Simien wasn't much better at 38.9.
-- NU did not score on its first 12 drives. In the second half, three of those drives began in Michigan territory.
-- Somehow NU strung together a 95-yard drive that ended in a field goal to end the shutout.
-- The game ended when NU scored a touchdown with three seconds to go, but opted for a game-winning two-point conversion on which Simien was quickly sacked rather than overtime despite having out-gained Michigan by a significant margin in the fourth quarter.
-- Michigan knew the exact play that was coming on the two-point conversion.

This was, in no uncertain terms, a tremendously bad football game, that part way through brought comparisons to an epic encounter in 1939 between Texas Tech and Centenary College in which driving rains made offense nearly impossible and the teams resorted to punting a total of 77 times in hopes of recovering a weather-driven muff at the other end of the field. A whopping 67 of those punts occurred on first downs, including 22 of them on consecutive plays in the second half. I would say that game was equally as bad as Northwestern-Michigan was, but at least that one had a coherent strategy.

So naturally, after watching this unbelievable display of suckitude, I'm doing the only sensible thing: traveling to the midwest to watch this real life Wildcat Scratch Fever Dream in person. For you see, after four years of waiting since the game was initially announced, I am finally heading out to South Bend, Indiana to watch Northwestern visit that most-hallowed of college football grounds, Notre Dame Stadium.

I am very excited for this despite the likely beating that awaits. I have never been to Notre Dame before and it's supposed to be something of a magical experience. I also haven't been back to Chicago since my unexpectedly-extended five-year college reunion, and there is plenty to do, plenty of people to see and plenty of food to eat that I've got on my agenda. It'll be a good weekend even if there will be a rough three-hour patch on Saturday afternoon.

When this game was originally scheduled three years ago I made the decision then and there to be in attendance. Of course, back then the game appeared far more likely to be, you know, good. Northwestern was in the midst of one of its most successful stretches in program history and Notre Dame was back on the path to matching its play on the field to its all-powerful brand. NU hasn't really kept up its end of the bargain, but there will still be historical factors that make the matchup exciting, such as the famous season-opening upset in 1995 that spurred the Cats to the Rose Bowl, and a truly awesome series of game program covers.

Regardless of what happens, it should be a pretty exciting experience, and regardless of whether or not it's technically a team I'm required to check off my list, Notre Dame Stadium feels like a place I need to see regardless. It's too important a football mecca not to. This weekend I will finally sit down in the late fall chill at the House Knute Rockne Built. I can only hope that somehow Notre Dame fails to win one for the gipper this time.

Last week: 7-6-0
Season: 68-78-0

MIAMI (-4.5) over Buffalo
CHICAGO (-3) over Minnesota
CLEVELAND (-3) over Houston
Seattle (+1.5) over KANSAS CITY
Denver (-9.5) over ST. LOUIS
NEW ORLEANS (-7) over Cincinnati
NY GIANTS (+4) over San Francisco
Tampa Bay (+7.5) over WASHINGTON
CAROLINA (-1.5) over Atlanta
SAN DIEGO (-10) over Oakland
GREEN BAY (-6) over Philadelphia
ARIZONA (-2) over Detroit
INDIANAPOLIS (-3) over New England
Pittsburgh (-6) over TENNESSEE

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