And miles to go before the 2022 Northwestern Wildcats finally put me out of my misery...
I. Case History/Opening Statement
A. Case History
Can we not?
Pat Fitzgerald enters his seventeenth year at the helm in Evanston with, seemingly, his biggest rebuilding project yet. In 2021 the ‘Cats weren’t just beaten, they were thumped at every turn, breaking 14 points in a Big Ten game just once—in a season-opening 38-21 loss to Michigan State that wasn’t even that close.
The Northwestern defense regressed absent longtime defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz: under first-year defensive coordinator, failed NFL retread, and—most importantly—Good Buddy of Fitz Jim O’Neil, the Wildcats’ D slumped from 1st in Football Outsiders in 2020 to 103rd in 2021. All-American safety Brandon Joseph looked at the mess and transferred to Notre Dame. (But don’t worry, know-alls insist that he wasn’t even that good anymore.)
The revolving door at quarterback featured the now-departed Hunter Johnson, the now-graduated Andrew Marty, and the now-watch-me-throw-this-incomplete-pass Ryan Hilinski. Northwestern’s quarterbacks in 2021: 208/365 (57.0%) for 2128 yards (177.3/gm and 5.83 YPA). Running for their lives behind an offensive line that has been, at best, “Oof,” and at worst “HOOOOOOOOBOY,” Northwestern quarterbacks heaved it into the stands if they could or just took sacks like they were collecting them. The line and a core of rushers, absent bellcow Cam Porter, generated a bottom-quartile average line yards rate. I don’t know that I could name for you a single Northwestern receiver still on the team.
But Northwestern didn’t just lose in 2021, they lost boring. Not once in a Northwestern game did the lead change. NOT. ONCE. Northwestern fell behind, and they lost.
What’s worst about this New Northwestern Football is that Pat Fitzgerald has so thoroughly molded the culture of this program to his liking that it is practically devoid of anything interesting or inspirational. Players repeat, dutifully, that they are going to compete for Big Ten championships, then run the ball into the line for two yards at a time, over and over and over until Pat Fitzgerald nods and critiques execution and looks for another old coaching buddy from the 2000 Idaho Vandals who he can hire. Maybe Tom Cable’s free.
B. Opening Statement
Ladies and gentlemen of the jury...
...ah, hell. Northwestern’s going to be bad. And so instead, humble members of the jury, I just ask that you let me fall in love with Northwestern football again. They’re going to be bad; just let me believe in something.
Adetomiwa Adebawore might not be awful. And Cam Porter is back. I just want to have a little fun in 2022.
A. Evidence Already Presented
Cocktail Party Preview: Pat Fitzgerald’s Best Days Are Definitely Behind Him
2022 Northwestern Offense Preview
Slants and Blunts: Talking Northwestern Quarterbacks and Legal Weed
2022 Northwestern Defense Preview
Podcast: Northwestern Athletics is at a crossroads. How do they survive?
Sports Northwestern is Good At
Friday Hate: Northwestern Football is Just a Broke-Down Farm Stand
B. What We Can Learn From Pop Culture
Yes, Big Ten West, we get it. You’re very stoic and Scandinavian. Just let us have our beach ball back, please.
(Also, the Jan-Tibbles moment is an excellent Hankwitz-O’Neil comparison, no?)
III. Schedule of Events
IV. Emotional Plea
I just want Northwestern football to be fun again. Please. I don’t even need basketball on grass—just something more than Pat Fitzgerald standing by stoically while looking like someone who has multiple Punisher stickers on his F-150. A quarterback who can throw the ball, a defense that can occasionally get a stop.
That’s all we want. Anyone sane at Northwestern is asking for a bowl—and, failing that, some of us are even willing to take “5-7, but fun for a change.”
I have become a broken record and written the same article multiple times; it’s why writing for Iowa Week came so naturally to me. I don’t like being this negative about Northwestern football—my preferred state is “get drunk and have fun at a tailgate, then watch the ‘Cats do some stupid shit on a football field,” regardless of the curmudgeon I may play online. The 2014 Wildcats went 5-7 and missed a bowl game, but I will never stop telling anyone who will listen how fun it was to be a chaotic bundle of weird that went to Notre Dame and won.
Life is too goddamn short to watch your quarterback three-hop a pass to a third-string tight end; Fitz, please stop calling that play in particular. And fire Jim O’Neil.
Please, OTE writers, put me out of my misery. Say 6-6—
2022 Northwestern Record Predictions
|He was a HS QB||4||8||3||6|
But this is a year where even if Northwestern gets substantially better, the record might only improve by a win. I’m convinced the ‘Cats will get potato boat-raced by Nebraska, road games to Penn State and Iowa are no joke, and of course Ohio State is coming to Evanston.
Add to that the inability to beat Duke, the fact that Miami Hydroxide hasn’t been bad, and Southern Illinois is a Top 25 FCS club, and...
...oh god. Northwestern’s either going 1-11 or 7-5 (7-2 B1G). Bring it on.
In the Big Ten in 2022, Northwestern goes...
This poll is closed
5-4 or better
Overall, Northwestern goes...
This poll is closed
2-10 or worse
8-4 or better
What part of "even-year Northwestern" do you not get, MNW? Big Ten Championship here we come!!!