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Don’t Watch This; Watch That: The Absurdity of It All

Remember when all Northwestern-Akron conjured up was a dude reading Miss Lonelyhearts during an NIT game in Welsh-Ryan? Simpler times.

NCAA Football: Akron at Northwestern Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports

Northwestern has won the Big Ten West.

[That’s right, it’s Reflective MNW—the games are 30 lines down; feel free to skip ahead.]

It feels ridiculous to say, and almost as ridiculous to be excited about. Northwestern is 6-4 (6-1), with an overtime win over an historically-”down” Nebraska and a 3-point win over a Rutgers program that it feels like charity to call moribund. They lost, you might have heard, at home to both middling ACC club Duke and woeful MAC program Akron.

That last point, in particular, you may have forgotten—that Big Ten West champion Northwestern lost at home to Akron.

The beauty, though? Not a single goddamn point of what I just wrote matters right now, save “Big Ten West champion Northwestern.”

There’s a stupidity to that, mind you—Northwestern doesn’t get much, save for an additional beating, most likely, at the hands of whoever wins The Game. They’ll likely go bowling, sure, but outside a banner that will no doubt be oversized hanging at Ryan Field, this win means little in the grand scheme of things. It may become, to Big Ten fans, a 2004 or 2005 Colorado Buffaloes team—likely minus the colossal championship game upset; to Northwestern fans, though, it’ll likely take on the myth-making of the Chicago Cubs’ willingness to finally succeed after 100 years of getting out of their own goddamn way.

Northwestern won the Big Ten, though, in 1995, and shared the title in 1996 and 2000.

Yet that’s not stopping us. Thousands of us—THOUSANDS!—have booked our tickets to Indy, and with the generous contributions of an anonymous donor, 3,400 students—45% of the entire undergraduate student body—will be in Indianapolis to watch this game.


When Northwestern won the 2013 Gator Bowl, Pat Fitzgerald brought into the locker room a large stuffed monkey he had brought to the 2011 Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas. The players gleefully, barbarically destroyed the monkey: a symbolic blood-letting—or, I suppose, stuffing-letting.

We were, of course, ecstatic at this accomplishment—the program finally winning one of those fucking meaningless exhibition games played from Boise to Boca Raton by, since 2008, any program that could limp to 6-6. I guess, in a way, it is cathartic for all of us to watch one of our own—a fellow Northwestern alumnus—get each monkey off his back along the way. Bowl eligibility in 2008. Wins over ranked wisconsin, undefeated Iowa. A bowl win in 2013. National rankings, each higher than the next. Another bowl win. A bowl winning streak. A win over Notre Dame.

Now, a division title. Full histories of it will mention, of course, the non-conference record; bitter or cynical fans—perhaps myself included—will cite S&P+ or advanced metrics and maybe enough mention how 6-4 (6-1) Northwestern limped to a 6-6 (6-3) finish. Maybe Northwestern will take it on the chin in the Big Ten Championship Game. Maybe 6-8 after a bowl loss is in our future.

The trip to Indianapolis will happen, though. Northwestern won the Big Ten West. The division title—another stuffed monkey, another totem blocking Northwestern’s path to Indianapolis, has been ripped apart, and in front of the Iowa faithful as, in a ritual familiar ten times over since Kirk Ferentz took the helm in Iowa City, filed out silently after another loss to Northwestern.

So if you’re looking for a reason why we’re being so insufferable about this, know that you can, of course, chalk some of it up to the diffusion of Northwestern alumni throughout media. You may have heard, for example, that Mike Wilbon and Mike Greenberg went to Northwestern. If the ‘Cats, by some miracle, win the title, I’m sure it will garner mention on the Late Show or Late Night. But for the rest of us, on some level, there’s watching one of our own—one of those only 8,000 students milling along the lakefront—succeed; the program we support smash another totem of the Pat Fitzgerald era.

If they’re do it at 6-6 (6-3)? It only adds to the legend. Or, to the absurdity of it all.


Don’t Watch This

Toledo Rockets (-13) at Kent State Golden Flashes [5pm, CBSSN]

Watch That

Tulane Green Wave (5-5, 4-2 AAC) at Houston Cougars (7-3, 4-2)

7pm | ESPN | UH -10 | O/U 68

Florida Atlantic Owls (5-5, 3-3 C-USA) at North Texas Mean Green (7-3, 3-3)

8:30pm | CBSSN | UNT -3.5 | O/U 63

In case you missed it, MACtion lived up to its weird hype again this week: Sure, there was Ohio pasting MAC East front-runner Buffalo last night, as Buffalo fumbled the ball in increasingly comical ways. But there was also Basic Miami going into DeKalb and grinding out a 13-7 victory over NIU to set them at 5-6 and on a two-game winning streak—a comeback that is somehow still dwarfed by Chuck Martin leading the Redhawks from 0-6 to bowl eligibility (the reverse Zook!) in 2016.

And then there was Western Michigan heading down to Muncie, getting taken to overtime, scoring it keep up with the Cardinals, and then...

...oh, MACtion.

Anyway, because I’m endlessly entertained by it, the American West is turning into a complete shitshow: DWT;WT Team of Choice Tulane has now fought their way back to a three-way tie at 4-2 with Houston and SMU, but the Ponies hold the breakers on both teams. I’m rooting for full chaos and a 5-3 shitshow that the AAC somehow never bothered to plan for, a la the NHL just making up tiebreakers and rules on the fly. When Tulane advances by dint of having the highest relative humidity on Thanksgiving, I will shed a single tear and be prouder than college football than I was any time since Northwestern won the Big Ten West.


Whatchu watching on Thursday night?

This poll is closed

  • 17%
    Toledo-Kent State, then Tulane-Houston
    (9 votes)
  • 1%
    Toledo-Kent State, then FAU-UNT
    (1 vote)
  • 27%
    Just Tulane-Houston
    (14 votes)
  • 9%
    Just FAU-UNT
    (5 votes)
  • 43%
    Just some early MACtion
    (22 votes)
51 votes total Vote Now


Don’t Watch This

Boise State Broncos (-19.5) at New Mexico Lobos [8pm, CBSSN]
{CBB} Northwestern Wildcats vs. Binghamton Bearcats, along with the associated PTI broadcast from Welsh-Ryan Arena [4:30/6pm, ESPN3]
{CBB} St. John’s Red Storm at Rutgers Scarlet Knights [6pm, BTN]

Watch That

Memphis Tigers (6-4, 3-3 AAC) at SMU Mustangs (5-5, 4-2)

8pm | ESPN2 | Mem -8.5 | O/U 73

Of course, right as I say “it’s your fault when you have to listen to the Northwestern Medilldoes preen about this title when they haven’t mentioned the school in 3 months,” Michael Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser stop by the renovated Welsh-Ryan Arena to blow all that up. You didn’t read that wrong: Binghamton alumnus Kornheiser and—and you’ll NEVER guess this, but did you know?—Northwestern alumnus Wilbon will broadcast Pardon the Interruption from Welsh-Ryan Arena ahead of the Binghamton-Northwestern tip. Kill me. in the hell is Bob Davie still employed? Players aren’t just playing badly on the field, they’re beating the shit out of each other off the field. Fire that moron yesterday.

SMU, with a win, hops in the driver’s seat in the American—but Vegas isn’t buying Sonny Dykes and the Ponies. As a matter of fact, SMU, at 5-5, is all the way down at 92nd in S&P+, while Memphis is 28th. Can you imagine if SMU won this game and took the division lead at 5-5 with an S&P+ in the 90s? That would sure be embarrassing. But Brady White (64.3%, 9.24 YPA, 22:3 TD:INT) is a helluva QB for the Tigers, and feature back Darrell Henderson is averaging—AVERAGING!!!—9.2 ypc through 158 carries. These are just stupid numbers, and that’s why this O/U is 73 points. Tune in.


Wow, this seems like a pretty normal version of DWT;WT.

This poll is closed

  • 13%
    You OK, MNW?
    (12 votes)
  • 3%
    About damn time—just tell me about the games.
    (3 votes)
  • 6%
    (6 votes)
  • 23%
    It’s only the Friday night section—I’m confident this can get weirder.
    (21 votes)
  • 45%
    I still can’t believe Northwestern won the West.
    (41 votes)
  • 7%
    It legitimately bothers me when the poll doesn’t ask me to choose which game I’m watching, and I hate that about myself.
    (7 votes)
90 votes total Vote Now

Saturday Morning

Don’t Watch This

[22] Northwestern Wildcats at Minnesota Golden Gophers (-1) [11am, BTN]
[10] Ohio State Buckeyes (-14) at Maryland Terrapins [11am, ABC]
Idaho Vandals at [13] Florida Gators [11am, ESPNU]
Arkansas Razorbacks at [21] Mississippi St. Bulldogs (-21) [11am, ESPN]
[14] Penn State Nittany Lions (-27) at Rutgers Scarlet Knights [11am, BTN]
Colgate Raiders at Army Black Knights [11am, CBSSN]
TCU Horned Frogs at Baylor Bears (-2) [11am, FS1]
{CBB} [18] Michigan Wolverines vs. George Washington Colonials [11am, ESPN3]

Watch That

Michigan St. Spartans (6-4, 4-3 B1G) at Nebraska Cornhuskers (3-7, 2-5)

11am | FOX | MSU -2.5 | O/U 49.5

South Florida Bulls (7-3, 3-3 AAC) at Temple Owls (6-4, 5-1)

11am | ESPNews | Tem -13.5 | O/U 61

A pretty bleak morning, no? You’ve got the public executions attendant to Chickenshit Saturday like Idaho-Florida, Ohio State-Maryland, and Penn State-Rutgers, and on top of that there’s not even some high-flying Big XII action to slake your thirst—there’s only South Florida-Temple. And speaking of, I know USF has had its struggles, but...13.5 for Temple?

Also holy shit, Minnesota-Northwestern swung all the way from Northwestern -3 to Minnesota -1? Goodness gracious.

I’ll talk more about rivalries later on in this piece...but I guess I never considered that Baylor-TCU might be a rivalry, owing in part to their history in the Southwest Conference. So I looked it up, and they’ve played over 100 times since 1899! While they don’t play for a trinket of any kind, they do have a delightful name: the Revivalry. If anything, I suppose eternal damnation is threat enough for the loser of a rivalry game—it’s too hard to bronze a spider dangling above a pit.



Happy Saturday! What’s on the docket?

This poll is closed

  • 41%
    (89 votes)
  • 11%
    Ohio State-Maryland
    (25 votes)
  • 10%
    Penn State-Rutgers
    (23 votes)
  • 25%
    Michigan State-Nebraska
    (53 votes)
  • 1%
    Michigan-George Washington
    (3 votes)
  • 8%
    ...I’ll take the extra couple hours to sleep in/get drunk
    (19 votes)
212 votes total Vote Now

Saturday Afternoon

Don’t Watch This

Utah State Aggies (-28) at Colorado State Rams [1pm, Stadium/Facebook]
UTSA Roadrunners at Marshall Thundering Herd (-26) [1:30pm, Stadium/Facebook]
[20] Boston College Eagles (-1.5) at Florida State Seminoles [2:30pm, ESPN2]
Iowa Hawkeyes (-14.5) at Illinois Fighting Illini [2:30pm, BTN]
Miami-Florida Hurricanes (-5.5) at Virginia Tech Hokies [2:30pm, ESPN]
Texas Tech Red Raiders (-6) at Kansas State Wildcats [2:30pm, ESPNU]
Indiana Hoosiers at [4] Michigan Wolverines (-28) [3pm, FS1]
Tulsa Golden Hurricane at Navy Midshipmen (-5.5) [2:30pm, CBSSN]
Air Force Falcons at Wyoming Cowboys (-2.5) [3pm, ESPNN]
Louisiana Tech Bulldogs (-2.5) at Southern Miss Golden Eagles [2:30pm, beIN]

Watch That

[12] Syracuse Orange (8-2, 5-2 ACC) at [3] Notre Dame Fighting Irish (10-0, 4-0 ACC)

1:30pm | NBC | ND -10.5 | O/U 65
Stadium Series: Yankee Stadium, Bronx, NY

Wisconsin Badgers (6-4, 4-3 B1G) at Purdue Boilermakers (5-5, 4-3)

2:30pm | BTN | Pur -4.5 | O/U 52.5

[9] West Virginia Mountaineers (8-1, 6-1 Big XII) at Oklahoma State Cowboys (5-5, 2-5)

2:30pm | ABC | WVU -5 | O/U 72.5

USC Trojans (5-5, 4-4 Pac-12) at UCLA Bruins (2-8, 2-5)

2:30pm | FOX | USC -3.5 | O/U 55

Missouri Tigers (6-4, 2-4 SEC) at Tennessee Volunteers (5-5, 2-4)

2:30pm | CBS | Mizzou -6 | O/U 57

How am I suppose to choose from among these games?! There are 15 games on various national networks (yes, I’m including beIN, get bent). 10 of those games have lines of a touchdown or less.

There’s a Victory Bell on the line in UCLA-USC, sure, and we know what a sucker I am for a good trophy in a rivalry game.

That, though, extends more to Kegs of Nails, rifles named for tertiary historical figures, flags and rags and bags of things holding no more value and sentiment than a TV guide from December 1998—a new episode of Walker, Texas Ranger!—you find in that pile in your nana’s bedroom. Apply possession of that trinket to the outcome of a football game, though? I don’t care if it’s West Alabama A&T playing The Polytechnic Institute of the Smoky Mountains—when the Ol’ TV Guide is on the line, you throw out the fucking records and get ready for a good old knock-’em-in-the-mouth football on a Saturday afternoon.

I just noticed something for the first time, the other day, watching the vomit scene from The Office:

Freeze it at :42. Kevin Malone appears to have a Mizzou helmet on his desk. Odd, right? Turns out it’s a helmet from the Northeast PA Miners, a now-defunct team from the Empire Football League, a semi-pro league operating mostly out of New York State. So I went to the Miners’ home page:

I don’t care if this is something you learned from a Reddit thread back in 2015 or something—one of the most annoying Internet tendencies that I’m totally guilty of is acting like someone who’s just discovered an obscure Easter egg is millions of years behind the times. I don’t rub it in your face that you just realized that Jon Hamm was Lorelai’s love interest at the auction in Gilmore Girls. Don’t be a dick.

They’ve been defunct since 2014. And that clock still shows that it’s 0 days to the next kickoff. It’s like unearthing one of those houses after a volcano erupts and finding a roast still intact under the ash. The internet is a magical place.

I’m not sure what to tell you on Syracuse-Notre Dame. If anything, I feel like I’ve been bullied/pressured myself into watch this one. Because I want nothing to do with this game. I don’t want to watch fawning NBC coverage of a program that makes me embarrassed to be a Catholic, and I don’t want to watch Notre Dame cruise to another win and an eventual shellacking at the hands of Clemson.

Go ‘Cuse.


Which afternoon game are we going with?

This poll is closed

  • 0%
    Boston College-FSU
    (1 vote)
  • 7%
    (13 votes)
  • 38%
    (64 votes)
  • 15%
    (26 votes)
  • 0%
    Air Force-Wyoming
    (1 vote)
  • 24%
    Syracuse-Notre Dame
    (41 votes)
  • 4%
    WVU-Okie Lite
    (8 votes)
  • 4%
    (7 votes)
  • 3%
    The one SEC game that’s not shit this week
    (5 votes)
166 votes total Vote Now

Saturday Evening

Don’t Watch This

Duke Blue Devils at [2] Clemson Tigers (-28) [6pm, ESPN]
UConn Huskies at East Carolina Pirates (-17) [6pm, CBSSN]
Kansas Jayhawks at [6] Oklahoma Sooners (-35.5) [6:30pm, FOX]
Rice Owls at [7] LSU Tigers (-42) [6:30pm, ESPNU]
Texas-El Paso Miners at Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (-7) [6:30pm, beIN]
{CBB} Houston Baptist Huskies at Wisconsin Badgers [7pm, BTN]

Watch That

UAB Blazers (9-1) at Texas A&M Aggies (6-4)

6pm | ESPN2 | TAMU -17 | O/U 45.5

Cincinnati Bearcats (9-1, 5-1 AAC) at [12] UCF Knights (9-0, 6-0)

7pm | ABC | UCF -7 | O/U 60

I would tell you to watch the #22 Iowa St. Cyclones head down to Austin to take on the #19 Texas Longhorns (-2.5), but it’s on Longhorn Network, which I’m pretty sure even fewer people get than get beIN or Eleven. And I think we all know I’m not about advising you to watch games on networks you can’t get.

Do not ‘at’ me, you philistines, but I am going to watch at least a few minutes of UTEP-WKU on beIN. I mean, the football will be bad; the score, though, might be close! I will absolutely watch this. I also, in part, want to see the UTEP uniforms, which are right there on the “garish” spectrum:

Ladies and gentlemen, the 2021 Illinois Fighting Illini!

I was originally just going to post the uniforms and comment on the garishness of the UTEP orange, but then, in keeping with the stupidity of Nike calling Minnesota’s gray uniforms “Anthracite,” I learned that we have DESERT SKY! SUN CITY! WHITE SANDS!

I will use this as an opportunity to reimagine the colors of Big Ten teams:

  • Illinois: Prairie Sky, Wheat City, White Snow (having ripped off Syracuse, I figure it’s only a matter of time before they move on)
  • Indiana: Huh. I learned that Indiana’s official brand guide says that “our primary colors are crimson and white—not cream...because cream—traditionally one of our primary colors—doesn’t reproduce well in most design executions.” Seems like some bullshit.

What were we doing here? Leave your color redesigns in the comments.

Look, I am going to be tuned in to UAB-Texas A&M. Is Cincinnati-UCF possibly going to be fun? Yep! And the Bearcats have somehow managed to fly under the radar since their overtime loss to Temple knocked them from the Top 25. There’s potential here!

But UAB is the fun story of the 2018 season for me. 9-1, with only a bizarre September 8th loss to Coastal Carolina—yes, the Chanticleers—blemishing their record. It’s impressive! ... Then again, the Blazers’ non-conference wins are over Savannah State and Tulane, and they have to close the season in a likely preview of the C-USA championship with Middle Tennessee. But that’s not what we’re doing right now! The Blazers are 9-1, have climbed to 32nd in S&P+, and are Receiving Votes in the AP Poll! That’s exciting! And now, on national TV, they get a change to walk into Kyle Field and beat an SEC also-ran. I will have popcorn and also either a hangover or a lot of defrosted rage from sitting through Minnesota-NU.


Are you mad I didn’t include UTEP-WKU as a Game to Watch?

This poll is closed

  • 23%
    (20 votes)
  • 76%
    (66 votes)
86 votes total Vote Now

I’m Awake and Drunk, What Should I Watch?

Don’t Watch This

New Mexico State Aggies at BYU Cougars (-24) [9:15pm, ESPN2]

Watch That

Arizona Wildcats (5-5, 4-3 Pac-12) at [8] Washington State Cougars (9-1, 6-1)

9:30pm | ESPN | WSU -9.5 | O/U 62.5

San Diego State Aztecs (7-3, 4-2 MW) at [23] Fresno State Bulldogs (8-2, 5-1)

9:30pm | CBSSN | Fresno -12.5 | O/U 42

Wazzu, ranked 8th in the country, is only laying 9.5 points at home to a 5-5 Arizona team. No one believes in you, Gardner Minshew II. No one besides your weird band of Pullman faithful. Now go prove us all wrong.

...of course, I say that and figure “sure, that’s enough rambling for one day.” Then I do the auto-tag-and-link that recognizes and links to players’ names. I realize that I have learned how to spell Gardner Minshew II without the aid of Google or a media guide or anything else.

Sports do weird things to us. I can spell Doug Mientkiewicz at the drop of a hat, and Wally Szczerbiak rolled off my tongue in the “bonus round” of an elementary school spelling bee. Yet when I type, I still can’t spell “independent” correctly without really focusing on it, and I’m fairly certain I don’t know how to spell “occurrence” unless I have those wavy red lines underneath it to aid me when I’m wrong.

It’s funny to think of those mistakes. I remember crying because I could not spell “missile” on a spelling test in, like, 4th grade. When I couldn’t remember all the sounds made by the phonetic group “ough” in 1st grade, I apparently threw a tantrum. When I was a little kid (like 3 or 4), I took my crayons to the old swing set in our backyard and “priced” everything for sale. The swings cost $100. The slide was $50. But the steps...the steps got me. I vividly recall spelling “stps” and “stpps” and “setps” [I finally realizd there was a vowel] and scribbling them out and finally running into the house crying because they cost $250, but damnit, I could not figure out how “steps” was spelled.

But I can spell Gardner Minshew II. No idea what he costs, though.


It’s late, I’m drunk, and I’m watching...

This poll is closed

  • 1%
    New Mexico State-BYU
    (1 vote)
  • 81%
    (75 votes)
  • 17%
    (16 votes)
92 votes total Vote Now

Here’s your football open thread for the weekdays. Enjoy the games.