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Fact or Fiction: Northwestern is one of hardest jobs in college football

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Fact or Fiction: Northwestern is one of hardest jobs in college football

1. Northwestern is one of the five hardest jobs in college football. 

Pat Fitzgerald

Pat Fitzgerald (USA Today Sports Images)

Smith: FACT. Northwestern is a very unique job. Usually when we call jobs “unique” that means “difficult,” and Northwestern is no exception. The first issue is talent acquisition. The academic requirements are hard enough when trying to land high school players that can make an impact on the field. But in today’s college football Northwestern is basically closed off from the transfer portal because of its tough academic standards. That’s a bad recipe.

The conference is another major issue. Yes, being in the Big Ten gives Northwestern financial stability and a bigger pocketbook. But there is a flip side to that for the Wildcats. The Big Ten is 1a or 1b, depending on who you ask in the debate with the SEC for the toughest conference top to bottom. Northwestern is never going to be considered an upper echelon team in the league on a consistent basis. Expectations are manageable though, and the fans don’t expect yearly championships, just competitive play.

This is one of the toughest jobs in America.

Vaccher: FACT. Northwestern’s academic requirements have always made it a difficult job, but the recent changes in college football have only made it harder. Add the fact that the next coach will be replacing a Wildcat legend in Pat Fitzgerald and it’s definitely one of the five toughest jobs in the Power Five.

Northwestern was the last Big Ten team to form a collective, and the Wildcats seem to be a bit behind the curve with NIL. It’s notoriously difficult to get transfers who are not graduates admitted into school. With USC and UCLA joining the Big Ten and the West division disbanding, it’s going to a much steeper hill to climb for Northwestern to ever get back to a Big Ten title game. Plus, as we’ve seen in their handling of this recent hazing investigation and the resulting firing of Fitzgerald, the administration in charge right now is – shall we say – suspect.

To be fair, there are a lot of pluses for the job, too. Northwestern has one of the best practice facilities in the country. It’s a beautiful campus on the North Shore of Chicago. The Wildcats are planning to build an $800 million stadium. The pressure to win isn’t as high as most places.

But overall, this job has a lot of challenges that are only going to grow in the future. The next guy will have his work cut out for him.

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2. Matt Rhule will land 11 or more four-stars this cycle. 

Matt Rhule

Matt Rhule (USA Today)

Smith: FICTION. This is a pretty difficult thing to project but the safest bet is to say fiction. The thing that hurts Nebraska is that only four of the current commitments are rated as four-star prospects, but Carter Nelson actually has a chance (an outside chance) to become a five-star.

I think it’s a matter of time before QB Daniel Kaelin and RB Kewan Lacy are four-stars. Both players are very worthy of that rating and will put up monster numbers during their senior seasons. This is not an impossible task for the Huskers, but I don’t think they will get there this cycle.

Now, if they make a bowl game this season let’s revisit this for the 2025 cycle.

Carpenter: FICTION. Nebraska has a group of four-star commitments as of right now, and those four (TEs Carter Nelson and Ian Flynt; WRs Jacory Barney Jr. and Dae’vonn Hall) are near-locks to stay rated as four-stars. There are a host of other current Husker commits who are the best candidates to become four-star prospects, and their chances range from likely to potential to earn their fourth star: Kaelin, Lacy, OL Gibson Pyle, DL Carlon Jones, LB Willis McGahee IV, DB Mario Buford and ATH Keelan Smith.

Then, there are three four-star targets Nebraska is still targeting who it has a realistic shot with: OL Grant Brix, OL Preston Taumua and DE Devoux Tuataga.

From that group of 10 (three four-star targets; seven three-star commits), the Huskers would need a combination of seven to wind up ranked as four-star commitments in their 2024 class. The odds of that are Not Great, Bob. It’s possible, but the much safer and more realistic bet is putting money on Nebraska having fewer than 11 four-star commits this cycle.

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3. Nicholas Marsh’s commitment will get the ball rolling and save Michigan State’s 2024 recruiting class. 

Nicholas Marsh

Nicholas Marsh (Nick Lucero/Rivals.com)

Smith: FICTION. Bringing Marsh back into the fold was a huge moment for the Spartans. Coach Mel Tucker needed another win on the recruiting trail and Marsh is a potential all-conference type of player.

He is typically the type of player that will help bring others along in the class. Will that happen this time around? I am dubious about that happening for the Spartans. The 2023 recruiting class finished No. 36 in the team rankings. After Marsh’s commitment the team sits at No. 46 in the 2024 rankings. I don’t think they’ll even finish ahead of the mark set with the 2023 class.

Tucker needs a huge bounce-back season on the field after finishing 5-7 last year. The schedule is more manageable with road games at Iowa, Rutgers, Minnesota, Ohio State and Indiana. Penn State, Michigan and Washington at home are going to be tough matchups.

If it’s another bumpy road during the year, it won’t matter how good Marsh is. It’ll be a fight to keep him committed with another sub-500 season.

Callaghan Croley: FACT. It would depend on how one would define save, but I personally would say yes.

Will it single-handedly turn Michigan State’s recruiting class into a great one right now? No. But for a program that has missed on several of its top recruits this cycle, Marsh is a huge recruiting win for Michigan State.

The River Rouge standout is a dominant wide receiver who has a chance to be a game-changing wide receiver at the next level once he cleans up the finer points of his game. Additionally, we all know getting prospects to recommit after a decommitment is terribly difficult. There is no overstating the magnitude of the recruiting victory for the Spartans, and it is one that the program can use to build momentum on the recruiting trail heading into the fall. There are simply very few players who have the upside of Marsh in this cycle, and replacing him on their board would’ve been nearly impossible.

Add in the fact that Michigan State also added one of the country’s top running backs, Anthony Carrie, just less than two weeks prior, and the Spartans have one of the best running back-wide receiver commitment combinations in the nation. A lot of programs would love to build future offenses around that type of talent. The recruiting ranking may not stand out right now for Tucker’s program, but the Spartans over the last few weeks have quietly gotten the ball rolling on the recruiting trail – and with potentially another 10 to 13 spots left in their class, there’s plenty of time and room for Michigan State to make noise over the second half of this cycle.

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