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Northwestern Closing Arguments: 2021 Season Preview and Predictions

It's like this foghorn that keeps calling out to you: "Wiiiiild-cats, Wiiiiild-cats"

NCAA Football: Citrus Bowl-Auburn vs Northwestern
The short-wearingest, union-bustingest, establish-the-runningest football program YOU JUST CAN'T QUIT.
Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

I. Case History and Opening Statement

For the second time in three years, the Northwestern Wildcats won the B1G West. Will they avoid another letdown after an exceptional season? Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, MNWildcat and LincolnParkWildcat are here to argue Northwestern’s case.

A. Case History

Your honor, ladies and gentlemen of the commentariat: once again, Northwestern answered the call.

Amid a season marred with COVID uncertainty that probably should not have been played, Pat Fitzgerald, with the help of transfer QB Peyton Ramsey, new OC Mike Bajakian, and outgoing DC Mike Hankwitz, marshaled the 'Cats into a squad that avoided the COVID bug almost entirely and once again stymied error-prone Iowa and wisconsin clubs. They won the West, with only a minor hiccup at Michigan State that put fanciful College Football Playoff rumors to bed, and gave CFP runners-up Ohio State all they could handle in the Big Ten Championship.

Northwestern won the Bryce Harsin Interview and also Citrus Bowl over the Auburn Tigers, because winning bowl games is just something we do now. You'll get there, Indiana.

We saw the emergence of All-American frosh safety Brandon Joseph and bowling ball RB Cam Porter, and to make up for Ramsey's graduation, Northwestern brought in South Carolina transfer QB Ryan Hilinski. Some uncertainty remained, but we were thinking about a potential repeat.

B. Opening Statement

Your honor, we get it. We can take a hint.

I don't know whether it was three-quarters of our production graduating or transferring, an offensive line depth piece AND Porter being announced out with injury on the same day, or former Clemson 5* QB Hunter Johnson being announced as the starter and evoking memories of a disastrous 2019 campaign. Maybe it was already in the cards when DC legend Mike Hankwitz retired and Pat Fitzgerald brought in an NFL retread with more connections to the NU staff than actual collegiate bona fides. [If you can believe this, it looks like a mediocre white dude failed upwards.]

Maybe the world isn't ready for Northwestern Football, Thoroughly Whelming Football Dynasty.

But, your honor, hear us out: we will always answer the call when the giants of the Big Ten need to be knocked down a peg. Whether a cruising wisconsin, uppity Iowa, or backwards-looking Nebraska, the 'Cats keep this bit grounded. We in the West aren't playoff squads, we're Rose Bowl clubs, and if you don't believe me, an 11am game at Ryan Field in November will quickly remind you of it.

Northwestern plays an essential role in this conference; in 2021 it's needed as much as ever.

II. Discovery

A. What We’ve Written About Northwestern This Off-Season

We wrote things, then Northwestern’s presumptive—by me, at least!—starting QB wasn’t actually the starting QB and the best RB on the team got injured in preseason camp.

B. What We’ve Learned from Pop Culture

OK, it's like a tinny Wildcat noise calling out to you, but admit it.

You want us. You need us. You can't live without us. And when you think you can--BAM!--Pat Fitzgerald magicks a 17-10 win on a rainy November afternoon.

III. Schedule of Events

IV. Emotional Plea

LPW: Jim O’Neil, welcome to Northwestern. Please don’t suck. Fitzy, I sure hope you know what the hell you’re doing with that hire. Getting Hank from Wisconsin because Bielema made one of many massive mistakes was a coup. I know you liked working with O’Neil a long time ago... This better not backfire.

Commentariat, I don’t think we’ll repeat as division champs again. You don’t have to like us, even when you enjoy seeing us take down one of your hated rivals. We’re going to keep having mediocre offense and stifling defense and some way win games. You’re welcome. It’s just, we’re going to have a small letdown this year. We’re not going to repeat as division champs. Fitzy, just keep the team winning and in bowl games, after the usual stellar success with academics and whatnot.

MNW: Folks, we know you don't like us. Even if you claim "Northwestern's my second-favorite Big Ten team!" to that one niece or nephew who got out of your shithole town and made something of their life, you loathe playing us and you loathe sharing the rarefied stench of Cornfield U with an Armani-wearing, Tesla-driving, Nathaniel West-reading group of elitists.

We gave the world Chet Haze and Michael Wilbon, and fuck Northwestern forever for that.

But you don't like Northwestern unless it's convenient to like Northwestern. At one sign of "Ope, they lost their starting quarterback!" it gives you great glee to remember the 3-9 campaign of 2019 and pretend that is some sort of long-standing historical trend. You like Northwestern as the patsy you can drunk-dial on New Year's or Valentine's Day, just as long as we don't think we're sticking around.

And yet: there we are. Call it Joe Bidening.

This year it might be tougher to squint and see those signs of progress—a rebuilt offensive skill position set, a two-thirds-new linebacking corps, a defensive coordinator who, well, exists.

But a deeper offensive line, a reloading secondary, and a fortune in alimony from the Mattress King—I mean, the guiding hand of Pat Fitzgerald—could see us through.

And after all, we're just asking for a reduced sentence. Give...I don't know, the Redbox Bowl or a nice Guaranteed Rate Bowl. Somewhere we can reconnect with all the gray-hairs who sell their season tickets to Iowa fans but show up for every bowl game and tell you they were there for the Dark Ages.

But in the end, your honor, when wisconsin gets too Spethy-y or Iowa shows up on the cover of Sports Illustrated, guess who answers the call?

You want us. You need us. You can't live without us.

V. Verdict

And Oh. My. God.


Did your prediction of the Wildcats’ 2021 finish change with the news about Cam Porter and Hunter Johnson?

This poll is closed

  • 40%
    Went down: there just isn’t enough in the tank anymore.
    (81 votes)
  • 42%
    Stayed the same
    (85 votes)
  • 17%
    Rose, actually, since this is when Northwestern is most dangerous
    (36 votes)
202 votes total Vote Now


Northwestern in the Big Ten will finish...

This poll is closed

  • 5%
    2-7 or worse
    (13 votes)
  • 7%
    (19 votes)
  • 18%
    (45 votes)
  • 29%
    (71 votes)
  • 24%
    (58 votes)
  • 13%
    7-2 or better and I will have some of whatever Townie is smoking.
    (32 votes)
238 votes total Vote Now


Overall! Northwestern goes:

This poll is closed

  • 5%
    4-8 or worse
    (13 votes)
  • 5%
    (13 votes)
  • 9%
    (22 votes)
  • 23%
    (54 votes)
  • 32%
    (73 votes)
  • 16%
    (37 votes)
  • 7%
    10-2 or better
    (16 votes)
228 votes total Vote Now