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Northwestern Closing Arguments: More maddening, consistent inconsistency from the Wildcats in 2019.

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Transfer QB Hunter Johnson has gotten the headlines, but the Wildcats’ bread and butter should have them contending for the Big Ten West again.

NCAA Football: Holiday Bowl-Northwestern vs Utah Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Northwestern had a very interesting football season last year. Pat Fitzgerald won his first division championship and coach of the year award, and the team won yet another bowl game. All of this came after losing to Akron. I know, this is crazy, but we need you to believe that Northwestern will continue to be a force to be reckoned with in 2019.

Members of the jury, MNWildcat and LincolnParkWildcat will argue in favor of the 2019 Northwestern Wildcats.

I. Case History/Opening Statement

Your honor, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, Northwestern will make it ten bowl games in twelve years, and we’ll do it in our usual high-wire-yet-unassuming style.

A. Case History (2018 recap, 2-3 sentences)

MNW: Did we mention the Big Ten Championship appearance and Big Ten West division title? No need to scrutinize the non-conference record; we’re aware the ‘Cats went 0-3 against Duke, Akron, and Notre Dame.

But behind stalwart QB Clayton Thorson and battering ram Isaiah Bowser, to say nothing of a ball-hawking defense led by returning LBs Blake Gallagher and Paddy Fisher, Northwestern forced dragged out wins against wisconsin and Iowa, pulled off a ridiculous comeback against Nebraska, and dispatched also-rans Minnesota and Illinois. It was never the prettiest, but it’s the New Northwestern identity Pat Fitzgerald has worked to cultivate.

LPW: Northwestern’s early loss to Akron pissed me off and I woke up with a bad hangover the next day. Losing to Duke and ND stunk, but didn’t bother me. Fine then, Northwestern would have to play well in conference.

Jeremy Larkin’s retirement led to the coaching staff trying to look for the right running back, and eventually we found Isaiah Bowser, a true freshman running back who punishes hapless defenders like Darnell Autry. I’ve had season tickets since 2001, and it just feels right to have a bell cow running back that can eat the clock and rest the defense. Our defense stepped up, we won some close games, and had that great comeback against Nebraska. Pat Fitzgerald is definitely shaping the team in the image of his glorious playing days.

B. Opening Statement

LPW: Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, the ‘Cats are going to win nine games again. We have a potential QB upgrade in five star transfer QB Hunter Johnson, Bowser’s back to run over defenders, and Gallagher, Gazilla and Fischer are back on the defense.

MNW: Eight wins, your honor, and a bowl win. That’s all I ask. Judge favorably.

II. Discovery

We’ve...uh...we’ve got a lot of evidence to enter into the record.

A. “We got bored in the offseason” edition:

B. NU features:

C. Potlucks and Podcasts:

D. Hate:

We get a lot of weird complaints on Twitter and in the comments of other SBN blogs that Off Tackle Empire is secretly an Ohio State- or Michigan-sympathizer blog, but I think it’s clear—either all or no apologies to InsideNU—that we are a Northwestern blog.

LPW: Damn right.

E. Schedule

III. What We Can Learn From Pop Culture

I’m a Bad Person, and thus I like Friends. Watched the last couple seasons in middle school as it was going off the air, and then my sister and I binged the DVD box sets.

With the West crowded as hell this year, and the usual suspects like wisconsin getting lots of love, with Nebraska apparently set to be Really Good for some reason [citation needed], it feels like Mom and Dad are fighting constantly and Northwestern JUST CAN’T GET NOTICED. As Ross and Rachel and the gang start arguing if they were on a break, Chandler...

...Chandler just fucking loses it.

THAT’S WHAT YOU’RE MAKING PAT FITZGERALD DO, GUYS. THAT’S WHY THE MILLENNIAL PHONE TAKES.

IV. Closing Statement

LPW: No matter what happens, Northwestern will always beat a team it shouldn’t, have one dicktrip loss, and will win another bowl game. We’ve elevated our game in the past few years, and I think we’ll continue to be an upper-echelon team in the B1G West.

MNW: Ladies and gentlemen of the jury.

My, what a handsome bunch! Have you been [working out/eating healthier/finally shaving the peach fuzz off your chin]? Sure is a nice look for you. You should keep it that way.

Ladies and gentlemen, this Northwestern team is not one that needs your love, your pity, or really anything other than a little acknowledgment that yes, they did win the Big Ten West in 2018 and yes, it really could happen again this year.

I know the millennial cracks and cellphone hot takes can be a bit much, but understand them from a place of love—this is a team that has won 15 of its last 16 Big Ten conference games, with its last loss to a West foe coming on September 30, 2017. This is a team that has not allowed Minnesota a score in Ryan Field since 2013. This is a team that has won three consecutive over Michigan State, something no team in the East can claim to have done. Northwestern is, believe it or don’t, a good program and should be acknowledged as such.

The loss to Akron was bad; no one will argue that. The losses to Illinois State and Western Michigan—let’s just not talk about them, please. But for as rollercoaster as Northwestern has decided to be in the non-conference and regular season, they have now finished with a winning record in the Big Ten for four consecutive seasons and not embarrassed the Big Ten in bowl season since an Outback Bowl we all agreed to forget.

And here’s why it will be: The defense. Pat Fitzgerald has constructed a New Northwestern in his image of that hallowed 1995 season—stout defense with marauding linebackers (DID YOU KNOW FITZ WORE A NECK ROLL?), bruising running back, pro-style QB, All-American kicker (in that order). It’s defense-first, and the identity of the team stems from there—not from a 5* recruit or a talented wide receiver. It’s just how Fitz wants it.

We joke about Purple Iowa, but the ‘Cats have demonstrated over Fitzgerald’s years a disciplined, consistently-inconsistently, and definitely-maddening ability to stay near the top of the West by hanging around, playing smart football, and winning games when others decide to fumble five times, throw three interceptions in the red zone, commit dumb late-game penalties, or just switch off mentally on defense. Northwestern will be there—winning The Right Way, pissing you off, and doing it in such a ridiculously-silly way that you know, deep down, that you’re enjoying it.

We think, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, that we proved pretty conclusively the Big Ten West is better for Northwestern having won it and remaining near the top of its standings. We ask that the latter—along with an ounce of your respect—might be its gift in 2019.

V. Verdict/Predictions

Why bother with an emotional appeal? None of these idiots are listening.

They’re going 8-4 (6-3), fuckstains, and see if you can do a thing about it.

(Actually, that’s a pretty decent showing given that WSR spends most of his time plugging his fingers in his ears and listening to Tony Robbins motivational tapes then pretending they’re history podcasts. Not sure what Stew’s up to, but hey, what’s he ever doing?)

Amusingly, not a single writer has predicted Northwestern to make it through its daunting schedule of Stanford, UNLV, and Massachusetts unscathed.

OTE Final Verdict: 7-5 (5-4)

Poll

In 2019 Northwestern will go...

This poll is closed

  • 9%
    10-2 or better
    (18 votes)
  • 15%
    9-3
    (29 votes)
  • 32%
    8-4
    (61 votes)
  • 28%
    7-5
    (53 votes)
  • 9%
    6-6
    (18 votes)
  • 3%
    5-7 or worse
    (6 votes)
185 votes total Vote Now