I. Case History/Opening Statement
A. Case History
You might have heard that Northwestern won a bowl game in 2012 for the first time since 1949. You might have heard that Northwestern won 10 games in 2012 for the first time since 1995. You also might have heard that Northwestern opens the regular season at #22 in both the Coaches’ and AP Poll.
Just putting it out there: this ain’t your daddy’s Northwestern University football program.
However, this is a program at the crossroads of "nice story" and "real contender". You might have heard that Northwestern had to use a silent count against Nebraska last year…at home. You might have heard that Northwestern has put a tarp over a couple sections of Ryan Field notable only for horrible sight lines, $5 StubHub tickets, and being populated by either high school bands or visiting fans. You also might know Northwestern as the school characterized by diminishing monikers by bitter Iowa fans tired of losing.
So which Northwestern is the real Northwestern?
B. Opening Statement
Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, today we definitely prove that Northwestern will again be a double-digit win team. Today, we prove that Northwestern is a real contender for not only the Legends Division, but for the Big Ten Championship. Today, we once and for all announce Northwestern’s arrival as a real, perennial Big Ten contender that will on a yearly basis challenge for upper tier bowls and the occasional Rose Bowl.
Forget everything you know about Northwestern pre-1995 – no, scratch that. Remember Northwestern pre-1995. Remember just how far this program has come in the last 18 years, and marvel at the fact that they do it while recruiting a diminished base of student-athletes.
Pride Comes Before
If you’ll remember, the esteemed Mr. Glover promised you that "Northwestern just doesn’t beat Ohio State" and guaranteed a Buckeyes title. Let him promise what he wants. Mr. Glover, while admirable for his efforts at the maintenance and exclusivity of his green space, would do well to remember that history in this case is no guarantor of victory. In fact, his beloved scarlet and gray just might need to beat Northwestern twice to claim a Big Ten title – and that is certainly not an assurance that they will.
Why This Year?
In a year where no one team in the Legends Division has risen to the forefront and earned the role of favorite save for a traditional brand name (hi, Brady & Co.), Northwestern holds, in reality, as good a chance as Nebraska, Michigan, or Michigan State (lol) to represent the West in Indianapolis. A 6-2 record, as I posit, will be good enough to represent the Legends, and Northwestern, off losses to perfectly respectable Ohio State and Nebraska teams in the regular season, will recapture the magic of 2000 and book their date in Indy.
A Team on the Rise
Kain Colter has only improved as a quarterback, and Trevor Siemian will grow into the role of QB 1B in the Northwestern offense, becoming a less transparent passing quarterback and allowing the running game to flourish as Venric Mark shreds opposing defenses. On defense, the ‘Cats cannot have a more banged-up secondary than last season.
With Nick VanHoose operating as a shutdown corner and Daniel Jones blossoming with another season opposite him, a Northwestern defense plagued by an inability to stop the Roy Roundtrees and Kenny Bells of the world last year will find that ability this year. DE Tyler Scott and junior (!!!) LB Chi Chi Ariguzo will bolster a run defense which ranked 21st in the nation last year, only behind Michigan State and Ohio State, both pretty OK defenses in their own right. These are the factors which cost Northwestern games; namely, defense. They will improve. That will get Northwestern that extra win. That will get Northwestern, through a fortuitous bounce along the way, that trip to Indianapolis. That will get Northwestern the rematch.
2014 and Beyond
Recruiting isn’t everything. No OTE writer, I believe, would argue with me on that. In fact, it is reasonable to assume that you would need to travel south of the Maxon-Dixon to find PAWWWWWWWL telling you that "’Bama got dem five-star good ol’ boys with speeeeeeeed gonna be anuther nashunal champeeunship!"
But Northwestern’s recruiting, you guys. Meet Matt Alviti, 4-star quarterback and dual-threat recruit who chose Northwestern over Notre Dame, Michigan State, and a coterie of other B1G schools. Meet Dariean Watkins, all-purpose athlete who chose Northwestern over a whole host of other schools. Meet Kain Colter, who came to Northwestern over Stanford because Pat Fitzgerald sold him on the program and the opportunity to play quarterback. These are the improved players who not only are amazing athletes, but who buy into the Northwestern system.
Oh, and the Northwestern system? It’s Pat Fitzgerald. Dude just straight sells this university. Any recruit who meets him and hears him tell them about the opportunities Northwestern offers him, both in football and life, knows that he’s speaking the honest-to-God truth. See what I wrote for the Smartest Guys in the Room piece. Fitz isn’t going anywhere. Someday, assuming nothing blows up around him, there will be multiple landmarks around Evanston, Illinois, named for Pat Fitzgerald. Possibly even the stadium. He’s created the structure that has improved quality of recruits, plays to offensive strengths, and mitigates defensive weaknesses. He will be Northwestern football and will lead this team to the Promised Land.
A. What OTE Has Written About Northwestern
B1G 2013: Keeping the Enemy Close
B1G 2013: Northwestern’s Smartest Guys in the Room
B1G Swag: Northwestern’s OTE Shirts (buy one!)
More B1G Swag: LincolnParkWildcat Upgrades Already Awesome Shirts
B1G 2013: The Northwestern Cocktail Party Preview
Tyler Scott: Best DE in the B1G
Venric Mark: Good at Things Involving Football
Kain Colter: Seriously, Just Watch the Hell Out
B. What We Can Learn From Pop Culture
The first line says it all, but this accurately sums up how I feel about Northwestern this season. Overlook Northwestern at your own risk – this team’s been on the cusp of being a perennial winner for years.
"Mama Said Knock You Out" by LL Cool J
LL Cool J - Mama Said Knock You Out (via LLCoolJVEVO)
Don't call it a comeback
I been here for years
Rockin my peers and puttin suckas in fear
Makin the tears rain down like a MON-soon
Listen to the bass go BOOM
Over the competition, I'm towerin
Wreckin shop, when I drop these lyrics that'll make you call the cops
Don't you dare stare, you betta move
Don't ever compare
Me to the rest that'll all get sliced and diced
Competition's payin the price
I'm gonna knock you out (HUUUH!!!)
Mama said knock you out (HUUUH!!!)
Don't u call this a regular jam
I'm gonna rock this land
I'm gonna take this itty bitty world by storm
And I'm just gettin warm
Just like Muhummad Ali they called him Cassius
Watch me bash this beat like a skull
Cuz u know I had beef wit
Why do u riff with me, the maniac psycho
And when I pull out my jammy get ready cuz it might go
BLAAAAW, how ya like me now?
The river will not allow
U to get with, Mr. Smith, dont riff
Listen to my gear shift
I'm blastin, outlastin
Kinda like Shaft, so u could say I'm shaftin
Old English filled my mind
And I came up with a funky rhyme
I'm gonna knock you out (HUUUH!!!)
Mama said knock you out (HUUUH!!!)
Shadow boxin when I heard you on the radio (HUUUH!!!)
I just don't know
What made you forget that I was raw?
But now I got a new tour
I'm goin insane, startin the hurriKain, releasin pain
Lettin you know that you can't gain, I maintain
Unless ya say my name
Diggin and drillin a hole
Pass the Ol' Gold
III. Emotional Plea
Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, look into your hearts. Do you want a world where Ohio State wins everything? Do you want a return to the Big Two and Little
Eight Ten? Do you want to suffer through more insufferable Buckeye trolls explaining to you why their winning is good for everyone? Quite frankly, fuck that. Ohio State winning is good for no one, save those savages in that godforsaken state.
Northwestern is the story anyone and everyone with a heart can feel good about. This team is Stanford without that fucking tree. Baylor without Waco and the wackjobs. Boston College-circa-Matt Ryan without the insufferableness that is Chestnut Hill. Northwestern is the former underdog on the rise, the team who has found a way to win – and win the "right way". I say that unironically and without condescension: in an era of grayshirting, flipping recruits, and "hat dances," Pat Fitzgerald openly says that if a kid commits to Northwestern, they will not visit another campus. They will 100% commit to this school and its ideals and will be the next generation—the greatest generation—of Northwestern football since #51 himself roamed the field.
This year, ladies and gentlemen, is the first such generation. This year is the generation which vaults Northwestern out of the Cinderella slippers and into the category of contender. Don’t listen to the bitter fans of the world who complain about Ryan Field, who gripe of sorcery, and who bring up attendance. They’ll be the first to fall when the Purple reign.
Shit, can I redo the Pop Culture?
A. The Staff Calls It
|Jonathan Franz||10-2 (6-2)|
|Jesse Collins||8-4 (4-4)|
|Graham Filler||9-3 (5-3)|
|Hilary Lee||9-3 (5-3)|
|Ted Glover||10-2 (6-2)|
|C.E. Bell||10-2 (6-2)|
|Mike Jones||9-3 (5-3)|
|Brian Gillis||9-3 (5-3)|
|Aaron Yorke||10-2 (6-2)|
|OTE Staff Average||9-3 (5-3)|