While Northwestern will be playing for its third straight bowl victory when it faces Utah on Monday afternoon, the Wildcats are understandably more impressed by the Utes’ postseason track record.
Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald told the Chicago Sun-Times that he can’t believe Kyle Whittingham’s 11-1 bowl game record. The two teams square off today at 4 p.m. in the Holiday Bowl.
From the Sun-Times:
“Some teams spend December focusing on the next season. Others, when bound for a not-quite-top-tier bowl, lose focus. Utes coach Kyle Whittingham’s program seems to get more serious than ever about winning. Does he possess a secret formula to bowl success? His record in bowl games at the school is 11-1.”
“Unbelievable,” Fitzgerald said. “I’m going to ask him after the game what he does.”
NU has won 15 of its past 16 Big Ten games, but the Wildcats are just 0-3 in recent non-conference matchups.
The Chicago Tribune also noted Utah’s bowl success.
“Northwestern’s run of two straight bowl wins is downright adorable compared to Kyle Whittingham’s run at Utah. His Utes are 11-1 in bowl games on his watch and have won six straight. Asked Sunday for his take on Whittingham’s bowl record, NU coach Pat Fitzgerald responded: “I prayed a lot, hoping Coach would share his plan. He hasn’t yet. Maybe after the game. … You just tip your hat. He’s a coach’s coach, one of the best, a pro’s pro.”
Like many Holiday Bowl previews, the Tribune pointed out similarities between the two programs, starting with the fact that both coaches played linebacker in college — Whittingham at BYU, of course, and Fitzgerald at NU.
Neither program is flashy. Both are underrated. When you think Big Ten, Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State and Wisconsin probably come to mind first. When you think Pac-12, it’s USC, UCLA, Stanford and Oregon.
“There’s a lot of common ground with the two programs,” Whittingham told the Chicago Tribune. “We operate with more of a blue-collar approach. We’re former linebackers who are cut from the same cloth in a lot of ways. We subscribe to the same basic beliefs about how to run a program.”
From the Daily Northwestern:
“The Wildcats and Utes enter the game on similar trajectories — division champions who thrived late in the season to reach their conference title games, only to fall to more established programs — but the parallels run far deeper, Fitzgerald said.
‘We’re very similar from a standpoint that both teams have overcome a ton of adversity from injuries,’ he said. “To see the way younger guys have stepped up on their tape, as you continue to watch, they just kept getting better and better.”
The Daily Northwestern listed four things Wildcats’ fans should know about a Utah team that hasn’t played NW since 1981.
• Major injury problems in the backfield
• Injuries haven’t derailed their season
• Holiday Bowl will be a grind-it-out game
• Whittingham, Fitzgerald have a lot in common
Kyle Whittingham’s teams just don’t lose bowl games. The Utes have won their last five bowl games, including the last four years, and 11 of 12 overall during his tenure (if you include the 2004 Fiesta Bowl). He can make it 12 for 13 with a win over Northwestern.
Nick Bromberg: Utah 20, Northwestern 16
Sam Cooper: Utah 27, Northwestern 24
Pat Forde: Utah 24, Northwestern 16
InsideNU.com (Northwestern blog)
Davis Rich: Northwestern 21, Utah 13 (Rich: Putting a dent in Kyle Whittingham’s 92 percent bowl success mark becomes another reason to remember this 2018 Northwestern season.)
Matthew Albert: Northwestern 24, Utah 10 (Albert: There is not a doubt in my mind Northwestern wins this game. It won’t be an easy game but Thorson will step up in his final game, methodically picking apart this Ute defense to cap off another successful Northwestern football season.)
Tristan Jung: Northwestern 31, Utah 27 (Jung: Blatant homer pick. That’s all. In my opinion, Utah should not be favored by a touchdown.)
Noah Coffman: Utah 12, Northwestern 10
Martin Oppegaard: Northwestern 17, Utah 13 (Oppegaard: Northwestern’s missing a few of its best players on defense, but I’ll take the team with a four-year starter at quarterback playing the last game of his college career.)
Steve Greenberg: Utah 23, Northwestern 17