NCAA Talk

Northwestern mounts huge comeback, beats Utah in Holiday Bowl; Thorson, Fitzgerald heading to NFL next?

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Northwestern mounts huge comeback, beats Utah in Holiday Bowl; Thorson, Fitzgerald heading to NFL next?

It was a tale of two halves for Northwestern in Monday's Holiday Bowl.

After entering halftime trailing Utah 20-3, Northwestern mounted a huge second half comeback to knock off the Utes 31-20. Northwestern, which outscored Utah 28-0 in the third quarter, finishes the 2018 season with a 9-5 record.

Northwestern was just 3-of-14 on third down, though they forced six Utah turnovers (two interceptions) highlighted by an 82-yard fumble return for a touchdown by safety/linebacker Jared McGee.

Six turnovers forced is the most by Northwestern since Oct. 3, 2009 against Purdue, when the Wildcats also forced six turnovers.

Senior quarterback Clayton Thorson — who tore his right ACL on Dec. 29, 2017 in the Music City Bowl — finished 21-of-30 for 241 yards and two touchdowns. However, Thorson exited the game late in the fourth quarter after going down awkwardly near Utah's sideline.

Thorson is one of the top quarterback prospects for the 2019 NFL Draft. 

The win improves Northwestern's all-time bowl game record to 5-10. However, they have now three-straight bowl game wins; from the 1948-2012 seasons, they won two bowl games — the 1949 Rose Bowl and the 2013 Gator Bowl.

One of the biggest questions facing Northwestern is the future of head coach Pat Fitzgerald. According to a report, the Green Bay Packers are expected to request an interview with Fitzgerald for their head coaching vacancy.

Unlike Thorson, Fitzgerald leaving for the NFL is no guarantee. If he does leave, however, Fitzgerald would leave with the most all-time regular season wins (95) and bowl wins (4) in Northwestern history.

Fitzgerald's .576 winning percentage would also be best all-time by a Northwestern head coach, minimum five seasons. 

Fans likely will anxiously wait for news regarding Fitzgerald's future. Overall, though, fans should be appreciative of the job he has done into turning Northwestern into one of the better football programs in the Big Ten.

UPDATE: Here's what Fitzgerald said about his future after the game.

Illinois men's basketball cracks AP poll for first time in more than five years

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Illinois men's basketball cracks AP poll for first time in more than five years

Illinois basketball has not made the NCAA Tournament since 2013 and has endured losing records in three of the last four seasons. However, things are looking up for the Fighting Illini.

Three straight Big Ten wins have the Illini 4-2 in the league, good for second place and the No. 24 spot in the latest AP poll. It’s the first time the Illini have been ranked since Dec. 2014.


Coach Brad Underwood went 26-39 in his first two seasons in charge, but things have turned around this season. A win against Michigan on Dec. 11 gave the Illini a marquee win, but losses to Missouri and Michigan State followed soon after. The current three-game winning streak has featured a blowout win against Purdue, a one-point win at Wisconsin and a three-point win against a surprisingly good Rutgers team.

Illinois’ RPI is currently 42 so they’re far from a lock to get in the tournament, but the Illini are in good shape as of now. The last season the Illini were ranked, they had to settle for an NIT bid.

Chicago native and Morgan Park High School product Ayo Dosunmu leads the team with 15.5 points per game.

NCAA is taking steps to allow student-athletes to make money off their likeness

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NCAA is taking steps to allow student-athletes to make money off their likeness

Bulls rookie guard Coby White has talent, an infectious smile and an afro that makes him stand out on the court. It’s a fair bet he could have made some money off his likeness while he played at North Carolina if the rules allowed it.

The NCAA is taking steps towards allowing its athletes to do so, but there’s still a long way to go in the process. The organization’s Board of Governors unanimously voted to start the process. That vote moves things to the NCAA’s three divisions “to consider updates to relevant bylaws and policies,” as it was worded in the NCAA's press release.

“We must embrace change to provide the best possible experience for college athletes,” said Michael V. Drake, the chair of the board and president of Ohio State. “Additional flexibility in this area can and must continue to support college sports as a part of higher education. This modernization for the future is a natural extension of the numerous steps NCAA members have taken in recent years to improve support for student-athletes, including full cost of attendance and guaranteed scholarships.”

The board asked each division (Division I, Division II, Division III) to make any new rules immediately and no later than January 2021.

It’s important to note that none of the changes are final, or even imminent. It’s still relevant that the NCAA is going through the process at all, after being so strongly in favor of amateurism across the board for its student-athletes.

The potential changes would not allow for compensation based on performance or participation in a sport. Of course, the natural grey area is that higher performing athletes will be more marketable so they would be compensated on performance indirectly.

This comes after California passed legislation to allow college athletes to receive endorsement/sponsorship money and other states are pursuing similar.

This is still far from being official or finalized, but it will continue to be a major story in college sports over the next couple years.