Good morning! If you’re still looking for a preview of Northwestern football in the 2018 season, we’ve got the answer for you! If you’ve already been there, done that, read on: We’ve got a Northwestern potluck for you.
Northwestern in case you’ve forgotten, won 10 games and the Music City Bowl in 2017.
(I know, right?! You’d forgotten!)
That 10-3 (7-2) record brought with it, though, very little satisfying for critics of Pat Fitzgerald’s program: outside of the program’s first bowl game winning streak in history (that streak is now at two, and go fuck yourself), the team managed an S&P+ ranking of just 45 and failed, once again, to bring home a Big Ten West title—and wasn’t terribly competitive against the best of the Big Ten they did play.
My questions, then, are these:
 From your respective perspectives, where do you see the reputation and status of the Northwestern football program? A nice lakefront practice facility, the occasional 10-win season, and not much more? A Big Ten West contender who’s going to make the leap at some point, damnit?
 Tell us about the most underwhelming (or under-the-radar) 10-win team in your program’s history. Why were they so underwhelming/under-the-radar?
MC ClapYoHandz- I look at Northwestern as a team that is never going to be sloppy on X’s and O’s and therefore can catch anyone sleeping, and a team with heart that reminds me of the good ol’ high school days with a stadium to match. I’m intrigued by what they do with their new 5* QB with that in mind (my money is on transfer/jersey burning combo). I struggle to see them winning a conference title in the current B1G environment, but they can make anyone sweat.
Second question is making me do research, which, how dare you. Wisconsin achieved 10 wins for the first time in its inaugural season, 1993, and has done it 12 times overall. It’s hard to pick one because every one of those seasons ended in a conference championship and/or a strong bowl win. I’m going to go with 2014, because the three losses included Gary Andersen refusing to use Melvin Gordon in a loss to LSU, an away loss to Northwestern in the worst overall gameday experience I’ve had (40 and rain/wind, pretending to tailgate properly in Northwestern, Joel Stave refusing to acknowledge that Godwin dude was not a Badger), and 59-0.
But even then, Andersen made way for Chryst and Godpapa Barry got to add another win to the tally on his statue.
BRT: Is this a national rep or a Big Ten rep? Because nationally, I think your rep is next to nothing. But within the Big Ten, I think you’re reasonably respected as a team who can ruin almost anyone’s Saturday (except when you play Nebraska in Evanston, obvs.)
As for our own ten-win team, it’s been so long I can’t remember. See, I make the jokes for you. I know our last one was a Pelini team, right? But while they are sometimes underwhelming, maybe, they are never under the radar. Because unlike Northwestern, this NU still has enough name cachet that ten wins grabs some talking points and higher-than-necessary rankings when it happens. This, of course, has been moot for several seasons now, however.
Dead Read: Northwestern has already made its leap. It is a huge accomplishment to elevate this program to the point where mediocrity is a disappointment, as I remember how Northwestern could only aspire to to hot garbage status in the 80’s. A well-coached team always has a chance, and Fitz comes up with one dazzling gameplan every year. He cannot conjure his sorcery every week, though, as only the truly mediocre are always at their best.
It is hard for a school with a limited fan base and high academic standards to reach the pinnacle, much less maintain dominant status, so I do not see Northwestern as being a program that will ever run off three consecutive conference titles. The Purple Cats can always ruin someone’s season, and I can see them going bowling almost every year. I can picture a dream season where they win the conference. I can also envision, however dimly, a dream run where they reach the conference title game two years in a row.
God, this is so much better than when NW had to bring Princeton to Evanston to end an epic losing streak.
[ed. Note: Only in the interest of clarity--certainly not brevity--Northwestern ended The Streak with a 31-6 thumping of Northern Illinois in 1982, prompting headlines like “Northwestern: Paradise Found after 34 Lost Weekends.” During that time, the school scheduled three games with Princeton, only one of which was played. While Big Ten Coach of the Year Dennis Green (RIP) had righted the ship, the ‘Cats still filled their 1986 obligation and traveled to Princeton, thumping the Tigers 37-0. SEE? MUCH LESS PATHETIC.]
[dead read ed. Note: He’s right, of course. NW had also scheduled noted football powerhouses Dartmouth and Cornell, games that were fortunately never played.]
As to general reputation, I would say Northwestern is an interesting team that you do not want to schedule for fear of losing to them and being embarrassed. Like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get.
Any ten win season Nebraska has had since 2001 would satisfy the second part of your question.
Boilerman31: I see Northwestern as a program similar to Purdue during the height of the Tiller years. A good program trying to break through.
Fun fact of the week: Purdue has never had a 10-win season. You may kindly get fucked now.
Stew: This is a setup, right? I mean, come on. Seriously? Fine. I’ll try to restrain myself.
[MNW note: Stew was so restrained he completely forgot to come back with what I’m sure were scathing and intensely original takes on Northwestern football, which you’ll remember is 9-8 against Kirk Ferentz and 7-5 against Iowa under Pat Fitzgerald.]
LPW: I see Northwestern continuing to achieve good seasons in the B1G West and should one of these years make it to Indianapolis. I’d like a Rose Bow appearance one of these years too.
The Lakefront facility is completely stellar and will help reel in good recruits, and hopefully that helps us win recruiting battles against Stanford.
Thumpasaurus: Northwestern has become a Big Ten gatekeeper of sorts in that if you can’t beat them, you’re not great. This means however that they virtually always beat teams they’re better than.
There’s basically no such thing as an under-the-radar ten win season for Illinois. They either beat every other B1G team in the same year on the way to the Rose Bowl, ranked in the top 10 while producing the top overall draft pick, or won the Big Ten and went to the Sugar Bowl. Hell, we don’t even need to win ten games to go to the Rose Bowl.
Our next ten-win season will be enormously celebrated and everyone will notice, but it’ll be seen as a fluke when we go 5-7 the following year and it’ll be ancient history when we go 2-10 the next year.
WSR: You’re Northwestern. You’re on a temporary hiccup where you’re better than us, but that will soon be rectified under the law of both Minnesota and Northwestern seeing each other on the schedule and thinking “Yup, that’s a win.” You’ll settle nicely behind us, and all will be right in the universe.
A 10 win season? Underwhelming? Well I can’t recall much from of the 3-season stretch between 1903 and 1905 where we won 14, 13, and 10 games, so I’ll have to go with 2003. 5-3 in the B1G with bed-shittings against Michigan (why does everything always come back to that damn game around here?), then a hangover against Sparty the next week, and a pantsing at the hands of Iowa just isn’t that impressive. Mix that with your standard Glen Mason non-conference cupcakey goodness (combined record of 20-29, with only mighty Tulsa having a winning record) and a Sun Bowl win over Oregon thanks only to Mike Bellotti showing off a degree from the Andy Reid School Of Advanced Clock Management, and it’s a pretty hollow 10 win season.
It was rude of me to forget to give a food-based question for the potluck, and I apologize.
These debates over program “success” and “progress,” though, are exhausting among Northwestern fans, who like nothing more than to use SAT words to argue the same points over and over on message boards about whether they are accepting mediocrity under Pat Fitzgerald or really progressing as a program. [I’m one of ‘em. It’s truly liberating.]
As such, for a food pairing I shall revisit the oldest of old Chicago-adjacent debates: Who’s got the best pizza?
In Evanston, that really boils down to two established Chicagoland chains (I’m not sure if Carmen’s is opened or closed anymore, but I don’t care. Stop getting closed for health violations or whatever): Giordano’s and Lou Malnati’s.
Giordano’s was the official choice of the NUMB Sousa Section (fucking fight me), what with their 40% off WildCard deal and $1 Miller Lites on Wednesdays. I also trend their way on the food debate, because I do not care for Lou Malnati’s “sauce,” which is really just sliced tomatoes atop cheese. I do not like sliced tomatoes, thus I do not like Lou Malnati’s.
But you tell me, reader:
Where should you go for pizza in Evanston?
This poll is closed
(Feel free to go to the comments to answer the potluck questions and weigh in on the pizza debate. No doubt you’ll be a complete twat and say “Well the best pizza is actually [insert restaurant in downtown Chicago],” because fuck reading comprehension, right?)