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Inside NU Mailbag: Dean Lowry/Bears conflicts, facility updates, Willie The Woodchuck and more

Plus, Trevor Siemian, four-star recruits and Joe Flacco's eliteness.

Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

Throughout the spring, with Northwestern sports in somewhat of a lull, Henry Bushnell will, from time to time, field questions from you, our readers, on social media and answer them in whatever way he chooses.

To submit a question for the next mailbag, comment on this article, comment on our Facebook page, Tweet @insidenu, or email us at

Dean Lowry is now a Packer. I'm a Bears fan. How do I handle a player from my favorite college team going to my least favorite pro team? Do I root against him, like I do the rest of the Packers? Or do I root for GB to lose while he sacks Jay Cutler 3 times?
- Johnathan Wood

Well first of all, watching Jay Cutler get sacked is one of the most satisfying experiences in sports. Put your Bears' fandom aside for a second. The subsequent facial expressions and body language should be savored and revered for the comedy that they are. So always root for Jay Cutler sacks.

But on to the real questions, because they are fascinating. This is such a classic dilemma. It's a conflict that will rage inside of you incessantly for three hours when the two teams play each other. Personally, I don't think it's possible to follow through with your suggestion — rooting for three Lowry sacks but a Bears win. It will nag at you throughout the game, and it compromises the viewing experience.

This issue is also accentuated at Northwestern, right? "Super Bowl Champion Trevor Siemian" jokes aside — don't worry, they will feature later — there just aren't any prominent NFL players from NU. The top two are probably a 32-year-old offensive lineman and a reserve defensive tackle. Thus, Northwestern fans naturally feel more of a connection to those who do make it, and pin more responsibility on those who could make a name for themselves in the league.

If you're an Ohio State fan and a Cleveland Browns fan, you're probably not rooting for Joey Bosa and Joshua Perry when their Chargers visit Paul Brown Stadium on Christmas Eve. (Well, you probably are because a loss might get you the No. 1 pick in the draft, but that's beside the point.) Northwestern fans, on the other hand, will (and should) cling to somebody like Lowry.

But what do you do? I think you root against him on the two Sundays he plays against the Bears. On the remaining 14, you root for him. You still root for the Packers to lose, but that internal conflict isn't as polarizing, because the consequences of a Packers win aren't as grave or direct.

Put on your Nostradamus hat. NU had 2 players drafted this year. How many next year? How high does the highest pick go?
- Johnathan Wood

Well, Johnathan, funny you should ask. Because... uh... WHOA... okay then:

mock screenshot

Yep, that's Rotoworld's initial 2017 NFL mock draft, and yep, that's Anthony Walker going No. 18 overall to the Houston Texans.

Yep, Walker is also only a junior in 2016, so he'd have to leave school early — something no Northwestern player has done since the turn of the century — to make this ridiculously early projection come true. Regardless of when he leaves school though, he should be a hot NFL commodity.

As for the rest of Northwestern's 2017 draft class, Sam Brief has an in-depth breakdown for you right here. I'll set the over/under on Northwestern players drafted in 2017 at 2.

Is a hot dog a sandwich?
- Ben Goren

Hell no.

Is Joe Flacco elite?
- Ben Goren


H E L L   Y E A H.*

Regarding the QB situation in Denver, who will be Siemian's 2nd string: Sanchez or Lynch?
- Inside NU commenter Willie4Prez

Neither. The answer is Trevor Siemian. Trevor Siemian is his own backup. Because, uh, why the heck would you being in anybody else when you need to go to victory formation?

Now for the serious analysis section of this answer... Let's play "Be The Bookie" for a sec. Consider two different sets of odds. First, what percentages would you give Trev, Sanchez and Lynch for "Which Broncos quarterback will start the most games in the 2016 regular season?" Second, give me over/unders on games started for all three.

For the first one, I'll go Sanchez 65%, Lynch 28%, Trevor 7%. For the second, I'll go Sanchez 10.5, Lynch 4.5, Trevor 1.

How much wood could Willie chuck if Willie was a woodchuck?
- Zack Becker, @zack2thefuture

Well, Zack...

How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood? Wouldn't that be the answer? Because even if Willie is a woodchuck, it remains unclear if woodchucks can chuck wood, but if a woodchuck could chuck wood, Willie could chuck wood, and if there is a certain amount of wood that a woodchuck could chuck, that's how much wood Willie could chuck. TRANSITIVE PROPERTY MUTHAF*****S.

Willie Supa Hot Fire

Also... Zack... I feel obligated...

How much wood could Willie chuck if Willie *were* a woodchuck?

How come despite our recruiting improvements, we still fail to compete for top recruits — 4 stars and higher?
- Calvin Zhang, @CalvinZhang

I love recruiting rankings. A lot of us do. They've proven to be somewhat predictive of on-field success, and in the year 2016, more time and resources go into evaluating these 16- and 17-year-olds than ever before. Theoretically, that means they're getting more and more accurate.

But I think there's one way in which we overanalyze recruiting rankings, and that's the obsession with these star ratings. Star ratings are based on the most arbitrary of cut-offs. They take an already inexact science and confound it with a misleadingly exact denotative system. The difference between a four-star and a three-star could be massive. It could also be minuscule, such as it is with NU recruits Earnest Brown and Sam Miller and some of their peers that have that one extra badge of honor. So try not to look at the stars. Look at 247's composite score. Look at the actual rankings. Look at other scholarship offers. Those measures, whether qualitative or quantitative, are less deceptive.

Let's also acknowledge that one 10-win season doesn't take you from mid-level three-stars to four-stars. It takes you from mid-level three-stars to high-level three-stars. And indeed, that's exactly how the initial stages of this recruiting cycle played out for Northwestern. Sure, you could grumble about the recent commits, and yes, it might be fair to say that Pat Fitzgerald and his staff haven't taken advantage of the 10 wins as well as they perhaps could have. But whether players like Miller and Brown are high three-stars or low four-stars, they're darn good recruits. The 2017 class should be and will likely be the best in Northwestern history.

Update on progress on the new lakefront sports facility? What's the overall timeline?
- Drew Faust, @back_werd

Good question Drew. As you probably know, all three major non-revenue sport stadiums are complete. Baseball opened the new Rocky Miller Park this spring. Martin Stadium was ready for the lacrosse home opener, and has also hosted soccer games. The new Lakeside Field, which is now the field hockey field, has been in use since the fall.

The main news on facilities is that, after an extended wait on construction for the south end zone, Hutcheson Field is complete (and beautiful):

As for the project's centerpieces, Ryan Fieldhouse and the Walter Athletics Center, construction is still in the early stages, but both remain on schedule. What is that schedule, you ask? Athletic director Jim Phillips said back in November that the estimated timetable was two years. As you know, these ventures tend to take longer than expected for a number of reasons, but late 2017/early 2018 is a reasonable expectation for completion.

A bit more info on the two main facilities can be found here.

*h e l l   n o.