Aaron Rodgers is a badass, plain and simple. When he speaks, people listen (especially those living in Green Bay) because he's damn good at football and life and usually won't steer you in the wrong direction. So when he told Packers fans to "R-E-L-A-X" after his team's 1-2 start, people took it as a sign that the Packers would soon right the ship and they have in a big way, now sitting atop the NFC standings at 10-3.
I don't think it's too much of a stretch to say that I'm InsideNU's Aaron Rodgers, particularly if you've seen my intramural football quarterbacking skills (though my true dual-threat playing style is more along the lines of a more polished Marcus Mariota). So, as Packers fans listened, I implore you to listen to me when I tell you that despite Northwestern's three-game losing streak and disappointing record thus far, there is no need to panic just yet. I won't steal Rodgers' mantra, but I'll spell out another five-letter word for you guys to remember.
While Northwestern hasn't looked good so far this season, particularly on the offensive end, it's important to keep in mind the makeup of this team when assessing their early season play. Per KenPom, three of Northwestern's five most significant contributors are freshman. When you're relying on teenagers that much, you have to expect some learning curves and bumps in the road, and that's exactly what's happened so far.
Vic Law has been particularly disappointing as of late, but he's shown flashes of the immense talent that made him such a prized recruit. Bryant McIntosh has been impressive, but even he has struggled his last few games shooting the ball. When these two players figure out just how to best use their talents to help the offense, you have to believe you'll see a more free-flowing, less perimeter centered offense.
Slow starts are commonplace in college basketball. Again, these are kids, and the lack of continuity from year to year makes it difficult for a coach to find the right pieces to the puzzle. And Northwestern is not alone in having a disappointing start to the season. Not even close.
Last night, Nebraska (preseason No. 21) last to the University of the Incarnate Word, a school playing its second season as a member of Division 1. They've also dropped games to good-but-not-great midmajors in Rhode Isalnd and Doug McDermott-less Creighton. Michigan (preseason No. 24) is coming off back-to-back losses to NJIT (!!!) and Eastern Michigan, both at home. Michigan State (preseason No. 19) has three losses.
Does this mean that these teams were vastly overrated and probably won't contend for a Big Ten title? Nope. It means that for whatever reason, they haven't gelled in the early going and are still searching for the right formula that leads to their success.
While these teams are surely more talented than Northwestern, the 'Cats' story isn't all that different. Yes, it would have been nice for NU to have, say, one loss instead of three, but don't think that the early struggles are a predictor for a bad season. If Northwestern doesn't clean some things up, particularly on the offensive end, it will struggle to win games in the Big Ten.
But let's let Collins coach and let's let this young team mesh for a few more weeks before jumping to any conclusions.