Preps Talk

Northwestern will battle Mississippi State in Gator Bowl

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Northwestern will battle Mississippi State in Gator Bowl

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- The Gator Bowl ended up with a less-than-marquee matchup thanks to the success of the Southeastern Conference and the NCAA sanctions surrounding two Big Ten programs.

The New Year's Day bowl in Jacksonville landed Northwestern and Mississippi State, two teams with little or no national prominence.

The Wildcats (9-3) and Bulldogs (8-4) accepted invitations Sunday, leaving the New Year's Day bowl game in Jacksonville faced with the challenge of selling tickets and generating a television audience.

Florida and Ohio State headlined the Gator Bowl last year, a matchup that featured Urban Meyer's former team against his future team.

This time, the bowl wasn't nearly as fortunate.

Sure, Northwestern is playing on New Year's Day for the third time in four years. But the Wildcats aren't known for filling stadiums or bringing buzz. The Gator Bowl would have been in much better shape had Big Ten powers Ohio State (12-0) and Penn State (8-4) been bowl eligible. And Wisconsin upsetting Nebraska in the Big Ten title game shuffled the bowl lineup, too.

''A lot of things changed last night,'' Gator Bowl president Rick Catlett said.

Mississippi State is back in Jacksonville for the second time in three years. In 2010, coach Dan Mullen and the Bulldogs were one of the surprises of the SEC. This time, though, MSU limps in having lost four its last five games.

With Alabama (12-1) and Florida (11-1) getting berths in the Bowl Championship Series, that left the Gator with the No. 7 team from the powerful league instead of the sixth. And that's a significant drop-off considering the top six teams won at least 10 games and have some of the league's largest fan bases.

The best angle the Gator Bowl seemingly had going Sunday was the relationship between Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald and Mississippi State's Mullen.

They got to know each other pretty well while recruiting the Houston area nearly a decade ago and have stayed in contact since.

''It's going to fun,'' Fitzgerald said. ''You always love to compete, and when you get to compete against a friend, it kind of makes it that much more special. ... It's not about us. It's about the young me in our program.''

Fitzgerald and Mullen said they rarely talk about schematics even though both teams run spread offenses.

''I've called him on a lot of different occasions just about different questions and how to handle different situations, how you set up your schedule and all the things that go on, all the different issues you have to deal with on a daily basis as a head coach,'' Mullen said. ''Pat's somebody that has always been gracious enough to help me out and help us when we had questions or ideas.''

Don't expect Mullen to share any tips on playing well in Jacksonville, though.

The Bulldogs beat Michigan 52-14 in 2011, one of Mullen's more significant wins in his four seasons at Mississippi State.

''I think the challenge of playing a team we've never played before is a great experience for our guys,'' Mullen said. ''That lack of familiarity with the two teams makes it pretty special.''

94 Days to Kickoff: Kaneland

94 Days to Kickoff: Kaneland

NBCSportsChicago.com preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O'Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting July 30, we'll unveil the @NBCSPrepsTop 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 24.

School: Kaneland

Head coach: Pat Ryan

Assistant coaches: Mike Thorgesen, Ryan Gierke, John Pavlak, Drew Sterkel, Matt Smith, Zack Martinelli, Ryan Noel, Mike Lotz, Anthony Mastropieri, Trevor McKeown and Alec Aurelio

How they fared in 2017: 7-4 (3-1 Northern Illinois Big 12 East Conference). The Knights made the Class 5A state playoff field. They defeated Lindblom, then lost to Sterling in second round action. 

2018 Regular Season Schedule:

Aug. 24 @ Hinsdale South 

Aug. 31 vs Geneva 

Sept. 7 vs Rich Central 

Sept. 14 @ Sterling 

Sept. 21 vs DeKalb 

Sept. 28 @ Sycamore 

Oct. 5 @ Yorkville 

Oct. 12 vs Morris 

Oct. 19 vs Rochelle

[MORE: 95 Days to Kickoff - Waubonsie Valley]

Biggest storyline: Will the Knights leave their mark in the last season of the Northern Illinois Big 12 East conference?

Names to watch this season: RB Jonathan Alstott and OL/DL Drew Hahn.
 
Biggest holes to fill: The Knights will need to reload in a few key spots, especially at QB and on the O-line; however, they bring back a nice core of 11 returning starters (five offense, six defense).

EDGY's Early Take: The Knights are still in search of a new conference to call home after the 2018 season. The Northern Illinois Big 12 is in its last season under its current form. This year's Knights have a chance to get back to the state playoff field. The schedule is very tough, but this team will challenge every single week come August. 

Daily White Sox prospects update: Eloy Jimenez homers, Seby Zavala goes to the DL

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NBC SPORTS CHICAGO

Daily White Sox prospects update: Eloy Jimenez homers, Seby Zavala goes to the DL

Here's your daily update on what the White Sox highly touted prospects are doing in the minor leagues.

Double-A Birmingham

Eloy Jimenez hit his eighth home run of the season in a 7-3 loss. Zack Collins and Matt Rose each had a hit, a walk and a run scored. Ian Clarkin gave up five runs and walked five in his five innings. Seby Zavala, who leads the Southern League with 10 homers, went on the disabled list with a wrist injury.

Triple-A Charlotte

Jordan Stephens had a good second outing at the Triple-A level, allowing just one earned run in his 6.1 innings. He allowed five hits and walked two, striking out four batters. In his two starts with Charlotte, he's got a 2.19 ERA with three earned runs allowed in 12.1 innings. Charlie Tilson doubled in the 12-6 win. Thyago Vieira gave up two runs in his lone inning of work, and his ERA stands at 5.85 on the season.

Class A Winston-Salem

The bats seem to have gone a tad cold for the Dash, who suffered a 4-1 loss. The top five hitters in the lineup — Joel Booker, Alex Call, Blake Rutherford, Micker Adolfo and Gavin Sheets — combined to go 2-for-18.

Class A Kannapolis

Lincoln Henzman gave up four earned runs in five innings, allowing a pair of home runs. Luis Gonzalez and Evan Skoug each had a hit in a 5-3 loss.