clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Bowlapalooza 2015: Outback Bowl Preview - Northwestern Wildcats vs Tennessee Volunteers

New, 61 comments

Bowlapalooza 2015: The Outback Bowl Preview

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Northwestern has doubled its win total from last year, and is going bowling somewhere warm! Specifically, to the Outback Bowl to play the Tennessee Volunteers.

Where is this Bowl Game?

Tampa Bay, at Raymond James Stadium, aka the place where the Tampa Bay Buccaneers play. It's a cool stadium with a pirate ship that fires cannons!

When is this game?

New Year Day!

Who is in this game?

Northwestern vs Tennessee

What's in it for the participants?

Northwestern: the best season in school history with 11 wins, further proof our defense is elite, a chance for Pat Fitzgerald to extend his SEC win streak to four games, revenge for the 1997 Citrus Bowl loss to the Peyton Manning led Volunteers.

Tennessee: further proof that the rebuild on under Butch Jones is coming along, and they'll be able to compete with bigger SEC teams in the future aka Florida, and the murderers row of the SEC West except Arkansas (lol@BERT), showing Vanderbilt that they can beat us.

What's in it for the fans?

Northwestern:

LPW: Celebrating the best season in school history win-wise, another win over the SEC, and a nice warm bowl trip. Unfortunately, I wont be there, but MNW will.

MNW: Indeed I will! The Outback Bowl is (from my limited experience) one of the best for fans and bands.

Wednesday the 30th is the Outback Bowl Day at Clearwater Beach, in which fans of both teams gather on the sands of Clearwater to revel in the Gulf of Mexico sun. The bands of both schools play, players and cheerleaders engage in various feats of strength and spirit (I recall a tug-of-war), and everyone has a wonderful time.

A brief (too late) anecdote: When the 'Cats played there in 2010 and I was a member of NUMB, we bused to the Clearwater Beach staging area in our "unofficial" beach uniform. As we're primarily a marching band and don't have a ton organized in the way of "warm-weather" attire, that consisted of our black Outback Bowl t-shirt (with purple lettering, sculpted N, and Outback logo), jeans, and tennis shoes. Now, you're thinking "MNW, that sounds really fucking uncomfortable to play in if it's 80 and sunny and sandy." And you're right. As we sat on the buses waiting for our marching orders (heh), our band graduate assistants were meeting with the director outside. Finally the grads ran frantically from bus to bus, poking their heads on and shouting directions: "No shoes and socks! Roll up your jeans!"

And so we did. It was Auburn's band, wearing crisp orange polos and khaki shorts, and us in t-shirts and rolled-up jeans. It was awesome and beachy and a great day.

Thursday the 31st has both a battle of the bands at Busch Gardens and a parade in Ybor City, followed by various social events hosted by the Northwestern Alumni Association. The parade is especially fun, as throngs of NYE drunks line the streets of Tampa's Cuban neighborhood at 5pm and get rowdy. It's a great time.

In all, it should be a great return to Tampa for the Wildcat faithful, win or lose. The Outback Bowl rolls out the carpet for guests, and with the opportunity to show they can hold their own with SEC fans again, Northwestern fans can make a great name for themselves.

Tennessee:

SEC SEC SEC SEC SEC PAAAAWWWWLLLL!

Seriously, a chance to extend the narrative that Big Ten teams are slow and weak and the SEC is strong.

Bullet points that don't fit the above but should fill in the details

Northwestern - Tennessee History:

Northwestern and Tennessee played once , with Tennessee winning the 1997 Citrus Bowl in a game billed as a duel between 2 Time Bednarik and Nagurski winner Pat Fitzgerald and Peyton Manning.

LPW: I'll let former walk on defensive back Matt Stewart describe the game:

If we were going to win, we’d have to do it without Hudhaifa Ismaeli. Coach Barnett kicked him off the team for smoking marijuana. It was the second time he’d been caught. It pissed me off. Hudhaifa was our best player, one of the best players to ever wear a Northwestern uniform, and here he was throwing away his talent by using drugs. He’d been selfish to smoke up before the season ended. I knew Hudhaifa planned to go pro, so getting kicked off the team didn’t hurt him, but it hurt us. We could've used his talents against Tennessee. Peyton Manning was one of the best passing quarterbacks in the game and we needed all our weapons available to slow him down. Hudhaifa’s absence meant Gerald Conoway would take over at corner. Faraji would start at nickel. The coaches told me if Eric got hurt, I was in at safety.
The day before the game, a virus struck. The flu quickly spread amongst the team and zapped the energy from some of the starters. I didn’t get sick, but Darnell Autry did. On game day he woke up with a 102-degree temperature. Coach Barnett flirted with not letting him play, but Darnell drank a bunch of fluids and convinced Coach to let him start the game. In his heart, Darnell knew this would be his last collegiate game and he didn’t want to miss it. The next time he would put on pads, he’d be playing running back for the Chicago Bears.
The media built up the game as Peyton Manning versus Pat Fitzgerald. Offense versus defense. It was a beautiful morning – 79-degrees – and I just hoped the sickness plaguing the team wouldn’t slow us down. It did.
Stewart, Matt (2012-03-28). The Walk-On: Inside Northwestern's Rise from Cellar Dweller to Big Ten Champ. Matt Stewart. Kindle Edition.

Tennessees's orange reminds me of the lame creamsicle orange uniforms the Tampa Bay Buccaneers used to wear. You have problems when the Illinois Fighting Illini and even Syracuse have better orange uniforms than you do!

I was at the 2000 Head of the Tennessee Regatta, and trust me, the country down there is downright beautiful, especially with the fog. The 8 person shells had to duck the boats going down the River, and Neyland stadium is huge! I'd love to go to a game where you can tailgate on a boat.

MNW: Hi. I has a rant.

One last thing. InsideNU has had its own little run-in with some of the mouth-breathing finest of #VolNation, and a few Iowa fans at Black Heart Gold Pants have corroborated that, at least on the internet, Tennessee fans are some of the fucking worst. So I figured, "Okay, I mean, they can't be that bad, probably just super-passionate about their team and not wanting to hear about a quasi-competent Big Ten squad, right?"

How wrong I was. Watch:

This is what you are, Tennessee. Some angry guy who can't properly frame a camera on his face, dropping casual "faggot" bombs and other juvenile insults, all predicated on the following ideas:

(1) Northwestern has no history of football excellence and should be ashamed accordingly.

(2) Northwestern has a small stadium and very few fans.

(3) Tennessee, being members of the SEC, are naturally faster, stronger, and innately better human begins and football players than Northwestern.

(4) Because Tennessee [a] beat Northwestern in 1997, or [b] beat Iowa in 2014, there's no possible way Northwestern or any Big Ten team (possibly) not named Ohio State could hold a candle to the Creamsicle and White. Those were, after all, the exact same teams that will step on the field on January 1.

Consequently, there is no way that Tennessee could possibly, within the realm of comprehension, defeat Northwestern by any less than 10 points. If they don't double Northwestern up, it's embarrassing to the school, "Rocky Top," and probably the reanimated corpse currently moonlighting as a Denver Broncos quarterback. Shit, General Neyland his goddamn self might crawl out of the grave and bitchslap Butch Jones for not running "the Vanderbilt of the North" (they're very big on that comparison) out of the stadium.

Well, congrats, #VolNation. You're #FSUtwitter nearly two decades down the road. Hang your hat on that 1998 national championship and your multitudes of mouthbreathers who take pride in YouTube videos like the one above. Because I'll bet that (1) you'll distance yourself from the moron above and have to actually acknowledge that maybe Northwestern could give your good ol' Southern boys a game, (2) you'll share sentiments similar to that...American--and God bless the fact that that's all I'll consider that I have in common with him--or (3) you'll realize that no one has given a shit about Tennessee football outside of the Volunteer State since Peyton put on the Ol' Faded Tablecloth and Omaha'd his way into our hearts.

If you read this (and for the sake of my love/hate relationship with the OTE commentariat I hope you don't/do), you'll ignore any respect I could have for the Tennessee football team. But I have an immense amount for the rebuilding project Butch Jones has undertaken. They thrashed Iowa in last year's Gator Bowl and took several talented SEC teams to the wire this year. Once you read down to the picks, you'll see I think highly of this year's Volunteer squad. They have an explosive offense, a defense that has proven it can run with the likes of Alabama, and a mission to completely rebuild their program that appears--in the short term--to be succeeding.

But damn if seeing the classlessness by which some of your more vocal fans comport themselves on the Internet (I know, Mistake #1 by me) and bandy about not only shitty logic and argumentation, but personal and gendered insults hasn't made me feel more personally invested in this game than I would have prior.

So congrats, #VolNation. You've made it a point to remind Northwestern that they're one of the few P5 schools in America that people care less about than you. After you beat "our boys" by 10 or 40 or whatever in Tampa, most of the nation will go back to disregarding you once you lose to 'Bama and Georgia and whomever else in 2016. But you'll be able to shine that trophy and know that you showed those "sissies" or whatever other slurs you prefer to hurl what kind of upstanding football fans y'all are on Rocky Top (by the way, you're gonna have to pay those telephone bills eventually, whether you want to admit they exist or not).

Get fucked, VolNation.

The pick

LPW: I'm not sure our offense can put up a good enough fight to win this game. I'd love to be proven wrong!
Tennessee knows our passing game isn't good, and Clayton Thorson is still raw, so they'll attempt to lock Justin Jackson (the ballcarier!) down. Our defense will have to shut down Joshua Dobbs, and that might be harder than it looks.

Tennessee 14, Northwestern, 10.

MNW: It pains me to do this, but I'm still not convinced by the 'Cats offense and its ability to put up points. Tennessee has a statistically-decent defense against the run (Northwestern's, like, only redeeming quality on offense), though they're prone to allowing the big play--you could say they're half-bear, half-cat.
Defensively, Northwestern did have its moments where it struggled to read quarterbacks running the ball (Purdue and Ball State come to mind), and Joshua Dobbs could exploit that, trappin' the ol' 'Cats defense like a duck in a pen. If the 'Cats fall behind early, this one could be over fast. I don't think they do, but I think the Vols have one more bullet in the offensive holster. Either way, I'll be gettin' my corn from a jar. Y'all come back now. Tennessee, 27-20.