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Northwestern tweaking preseason practice schedule

CHICAGO -- Football teams will often go certain lengths to eliminate the bodily discomforts and general unease associated with cross-country road trips. Changing practice times is one of the more common methods, and Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald is planning to do exactly that with his Wildcats in preparation for their Aug. 31 season-opening night game at Cal. Fitzgerald talked details with the Chicago Tribune’s Teddy Greenstein Wednesday at Big Ten Media days in Chicago.

"We'll be making some major changes," he said.

Fitzgerald said the plan is to practice at 9 p.m. under the high-wattage lights at Lakeside Field.

The Trib article gives further insight to Fitzgerald’s planned practice schedule, including starting “most fall camp practices” at 4 p.m. (CT) in the hope of preparing Northwestern for the slate of night games it faces to open the season. After the Cal game, Northwestern faces a 6 pm ET home kick against Syracuse (Sept. 7), a 9 pm start against Western Michigan (an unknown kickoff time scheduled for the Maine game Sept 21 nestled in between) and a 7 pm primetime date with Ohio State.

It would be easy for Northwestern to overlook the Cal game, and my general understanding of NU preseason fan sentiment leads me to believe many Wildcats supporters have already chosen to write off the Golden Bears as a cupcake nonconference opponent. Overlooking them – particularly under the auspices of air raid guru Sonny Dykes – would be a mistake. Northwestern is likely going to have to grind out a difficult game on the road against a team with better individual talent, and collective schematic guidance, than its recent existence under Jeff Tedford might suggest.

The Wildcats are making no such assumptions; Fitzgerald’s attitude and attention to detail practically assures it. Changing practice times won’t guarantee the Wildcats a win at Cal, but it can’t hurt, right?