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Big Ten, you NEED Northwestern this year.

The Wildcats have loaded up for a strong 2019. But coming off a 10-win season, they’re poised to excel now and exceed (admittedly low) public expectations in 2018.

Michigan State v Northwestern
an image not at all chosen to elicit an emotional reaction; no, sir
Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Northwestern had a very good football team last year. Don’t believe us? That’s fine. I’m not sure we believe us either. But we have a shiny Music City Bowl trophy (and the receipts from Tootsie’s) to prove it, damnit, and now you’ll listen to why you need Northwestern to repeat its 10-win magic in 2018.

Members of the jury, MNWildcat and LincolnParkWildcat will argue in favor of the 2018 Northwestern Wildcats.

I. Case History/Opening Statement

A. Case History

LPW: After losing a game to Duke, winning over Bowling Green, then losing to #10 wisconsin and #4 Penn State, the ‘Cats answered with an 8-game winning streak capped off with a Music City Bowl win over Kentucky to finish with 10-3 overall record.

Northwestern’s very good football season, our third ten-win season this decade, was one of the most exciting seasons (save 2000) I’ve seen in Evanston. We won three consecutive overtime games! Justin Jackson (the BALLCARRIER) ended his Northwestern career as the all-time leading rusher in school history and very high up in the Big Ten record books. Clayton Thorson had a decent season until he tore his ACL in the Music City Bowl. We had solid defensive performances from Godwin Igewebuike, Kyle Queiro, Tyler Lancaster, Paddy Fisher, Joe Gaziano and Sam Miller.

MNW: My esteemed colleague is both kind and a bit withholding in his praise.

First, the kindness: Northwestern fell flat on its fucking face in the non-conference. Yes, a narrow win over Nevada could be chalked up to jitters, but the embarrassment at Duke was exactly what’s been holding Northwestern back—the inability to play and win a complete schedule. Once they were out of it from back-to-back losses to wisconsin and Penn State, the ‘Cats bookended a wild OT home upset of Michigan State with overtime derpfest wins over Iowa and Nebraska. That’s hardly “very good.”

On the other hand, this was a damn good team, on paper. Paddy Fisher hit triple-digits in tackles, and Nate Hall was a presence in offenses’ backfields. Joe Gaziano, Destroyer of Worlds, returns, and Montre Hartage is one of the closer things to a ‘shut-down CB’ Northwestern’s had in recent memory. Jeremy Larkin (which any ‘Cats fan worth her/his salt will tell you averaged 6 ypc/racked up 5 TDs in 2017) will fill in for Justin Jackson the Ball-Carrier, and the depth on the offensive line—buoyed by rising sophomore Rashawn Slater—should protect Thorson better than years past.

And this team won 10 games. And a bowl game. Again.

B. Opening Statement

LPW: Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I really want to say that Northwestern will win ten games again. I really do. However, experience over the past 25 years has taught me to expect a letdown after a ten win season.

But the potential is there.

We’ve got an excellent replacement for Justin Jackson in Jeremy Larkin. Clayton Thorson (provided his knee heals up by kickoff at the end of the month) is a probable NFL draft pick at QB, and he’ll throw to Bennet Skowronek and Flynn Nagel. Paddy Fisher will be the next great Northwestern Linebacker. The rest of the defense will be too green, but it could gel.

Long story short, I don’t think we’re going to win ten games again. Every single damn time we’ve won ten games in the past 25 years, we’ve had a letdown the next season or two.

Pat Fitzgerald will most likely hold information about Clayton Thorson’s knee ultra-close to his vest, and we won’t know who the starter is until gametime (IMHO). Then again, I caught a football from Clayton Thorson at the Big Ten kickoff luncheon, and he appeared to be walking just fine.

[/does not speak, is alternatingly crying and chugging Malort and laughing maniacally while flipping off other Big Ten fans...and chugging Malort]

II. Discovery

A. What We’ve Written

MountainTiger: Northwestern Staff Changes
2017 Northwestern Season Recap
More Wrigley Field Bullshit
2018 Northwestern Preview
Potluck: Most Underwhelming 10-Win Seasons
Northwestern’s 2018 Coaching Staff
Potluck: 10th Assistants
Northwestern Traditions — Fandom
Podcast: Struggling to Say Something Interesting About Northwestern
Potluck: Program-Changing Transfers
Bread and Practice Facilities
Potluck: Northwestern Record Predictions, Summer Edition
Renovating Ryan Field: A Northwestern Mailbag
Northwestern, Put Down That Tide Pod and Read This

Lookit all that hashtag content. YOU SEE THAT, SBNATION?!

It’s almost like we have two Northwestern writers here. That Tide Pod piece is worth a read, if you haven’t seen it yet. And Northwestern morons online (s/o to other SBN folks) lost their shit online, which is really dumb. You idiots.

B. What Other Northwestern SBNation Blogs Have Writ—

loljk here’s BYCTOM:
Music City Bowl Review

C. Summary of Evidence

We forgot one thing. Mute the speakers if you’re at work and peep these views at the new Walter Athletics Center, home to Northwestern Football’s new practice and training facilities along the shores of Lake Michigan:

Yeah. That’s what we thought.

Anyway, you have a pretty pessimistic Northwestern writer in MNWildcat to contend with, ladies and gentlemen of the OTE jury.

You’ve read the changes in the coaching staff, yes, and we’ve got lots of positives with the possibility of Clayton Thorson returning to the field sooner than expected for the ‘Cats, but coming off another 10-win season, things still aren’t as good as they could—and an ever-impatient segment of the fanbase says, should—be in Evanston.

There are positives: Larkin should shred, Thorson has NFL Draft potential, Joe Gaziano and Paddy Fisher anchor a strong—if possibly undersized—front seven.

But you know Northwestern. You know that’s never stopped Northwestern before, and a program that still has to move games into Wrigley Field, is saying “wait until we get a real quarterback in here in 2019,” and barely had anyone notice that they won 10 games in 2017...well, there’s work to do.

D. Timeline of Events

So can they do it in 2018?

Purdue (7pm, BTN); Duke (11am, ESPNU); Akron (6:30pm, BTN); at MSU (11am); UNL (11am); at Rutgers (11am)

The answer...well, all signs point to “no.” Michigan and Michigan State back-to-back weeks, wisconsin and Notre Dame back-to-back weeks (with Iowa lurking)...that’s a lot to ask of a team with a questionable QB, always-suspect OL, and less depth than your average Big Ten heavyweight. I’d expect Northwestern to pull a 1-3 record here, if they’re average. 2-2 would be cause for relief, 3-1...well, you just might be booking a hotel room in Indy.

Which, speaking of...

III. Emotional Plea

As always, fans of other West and East teams need us.

You need Northwestern.

Not in all the true “brings up the average APR” or “does it the right* way” or “hey, still don’t have to worry about unions” sense (it does all that too, though), but because it represents the One True Opposition to fiendish wisconsin in the Legends West Division.

I’m not just talking my usual “Meet a fellow Big Ten watcher at a party” support:

Them: “So, do you follow Big Ten football?”
Me: “Yeah, big Northwestern fan myself.”
Them: “...”
Me: “I went there and marched in the band.”
Them: “...oh. That makes more sense, then.”
Them: “Big badger guy, myself.”
Me, externally: “Ah, so what do you think about Taylor’s chances at a Heisman?”
Them: “Who?”
Them, later: “But yeah, Northwestern’s my second-favorite Big Ten team. Lot of smart kids there.”

I lost track of what we were talking about here.

But this year, Dear Reader, it behooves you to support Northwestern as more than just a passive second team. No, this season you need Northwestern to end the disappointing run of worthless badger squads doing jack shit in the national consciousness, building up stories of walk-on and three-star tight ends turning into 325-pound All-American OLs while huffing mediocre fast-casual fries only to falter when the lights are brightest.

You need a dark horse. And you need a dark horse capable of delivering on the promise of knocking off wisconsin while not being 100% fraudulent. You need Northwestern.

Your honor, if I may submit one more piece of evidence, should it please the court [I have no fucking idea what I’m doing with this legalese]:

wisconsin record against the west

School W L
School W L
Illinois 4 0
Iowa 3 1
Minnesota lol 0
Nebraska 3 1
Northwestern 2 2
Purdue 4 0

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, Northwestern is your best shot.

I know, it sounded better in my head, too. But Northwestern is your best shot to see someone, something other than horseshoe-up-its-ass Iowa or fucking wisconsin in the Big Ten title game.

Besides, it’s more likely you beat ‘em by 30, Team from the East, and we’ll be happy with a Rose Bowl consolation prize, anyways. In conclusion, vote Northwestern to go 10-2 (8-1). You won’t be sorry, and neither will we.

IV. The Verdict

You dicks.


How will Northwestern fare in 2018?

This poll is closed

  • 11%
    10-2 or better
    (33 votes)
  • 12%
    (36 votes)
  • 28%
    (80 votes)
  • 22%
    (64 votes)
  • 15%
    (42 votes)
  • 5%
    (14 votes)
  • 3%
    4-8 or worse
    (11 votes)
280 votes total Vote Now