1. The new year couldn’t come soon enough for Northwestern, which had the worst run of luck in terms of injuries and tough losses of any FBS team last season (and probably a few seasons before that). I like that Pat Fitzgerald and the program didn’t panic. The calendar turned, and maybe the Wildcats’ fortunes have as well. The news that star back/returner Venric Mark will get a fifth year of eligibility after multiple injuries limited him to three games last season is just the tonic for fans whose high hopes crashed in a 1-7 Big Ten season.
2. As I begin to make my list of teams to watch during this offseason, one of the first to come to mind is TCU. The Horned Frogs went 47-5 from 2008-11, including that 13-0 season in 2010 that finished with a Rose Bowl victory over Wisconsin. The Horned Frogs have gone 11-14 in their first two seasons in the Big 12, 6-12 in conference play. Injuries played a big role, and four conference losses by a total of 11 points in last year’s 4-8 season indicate TCU isn’t far gone. But consecutive mediocre seasons means half the team doesn’t know how to win. Winning -- and losing -- moves fast these days.
3. The Senior Bowl is an annual convention for the 30 NFL staffs that aren’t in the Super Bowl. But college coaches go as well -- some to see old friends, others to network for jobs, and all because they’re on the Gulf Coast recruiting. Alabama coach Nick Saban didn’t need to publicize it. He drew a covey of reporters. Minnesota assistant Jay Sawvel made his own pub. He tweeted a pic of head coach Jerry Kill with two former players in the game: Golden Gophers defensive tackle Ra'Shede Hageman and Northern Illinois safety Jimmie Ward. Pretty smart.