Posted by Adam Jacobi
Why to watch: Why, Northwestern is playing in the Cotton Bowl for the first time in the program's history! Sure, by that we're referring to the venue and not the bowl game itself (that's in Cowboys Stadium) but this is Northwestern's first game in Dallas, period. Isn't that enough? Doesn't history mean anything to you? Of course, it would be nice if Dan Persa -- the man who almost single-handedly put Northwestern in the postseason to begin with -- were healthy and able to play, but a fully Persa'd Northwestern team wouldn't have slid all the way to the TicketCity Bowl. As for Texas Tech , the nation can witness Tommy Tuberville and his neutered, lobotomized version of Mike Leach 's Air Raid offense. That won't be fun, per se, but not every play's a comedy.
Keys to victory for Northwestern: The Wildcats lost a lot when Dan Persa ruptured his Achilles' tendon, but heart appears to be the chief missing ingredient. Even though Persa never played a snap of defense (to the best of our knowledge anyway but you really can't rule this out), when he was out, Northwestern began giving up points in bunches. Illinois roughed the Cats up to the tune of 48 points at Wrigley Field, then Wisconsin rolled up 70 points in three quarters -- the fourth was nothing but random Wisconsin students from the crowd taking snaps on first down, then the Badgers punting on second down out of pity. If Northwestern wants even a fighting chance, it'll need to get its mojo back first. That means Evan Watkins will need to put together a good game under center, and tailback Mike Trumpy will probably have to get 100 yards or close to it just to keep the Northwestern defense off the field. Also, not giving up like 50 points would be ideal.
Keys to victory for Texas Tech: Obviously, step one is getting Taylor Potts off and running (or throwing, anyway); Potts is something of a relic of a bygone era considering his upbringing in the Leach offense, but he still threw nearly 500 times for 31 scores this year. Most of those scores went to Lyle Leong , who is downright lethal in the red zone: 13 of his 17 touchdown catches came in the red zone, with three more coming within 26 yards. MORE OF THAT PLEASE, obviously, but if Northwestern sells out to limit Leong's availability like Oklahoma , Oklahoma State , and Texas all did (all Tech losses), Potts is going to have to figure out how to spread the wealth successfully between the 20s and in the red zone. He did that against Baylor, so it's not as if this is an impossible task.
The TicketCity Bowl is like: Church. You may not enjoy it, but that's not the point and it never was to begin with. This is the first game of the New Year, kicking off at noon on the East Coast and in the morning everywhere else in the States, so odds are that most people watching the game are going to be wishing they were still in bed. Ah, but this is the institution you worship, this combat on this sacred acre of grass, and if anything's going to drag you out of bed with a brain still spitting up champagne and gasping for air, this is it. Get up, get in your seat, and get back to the real world as you watch the first snap of 2011.