Because of just how damn special I am—or perhaps that dates are hard—the Northwestern Wildcats, a 1-11 team in 2022, have now occupied eight calendar days just to tell you how poorly things are likely to go in 2023.
I’ve surely told this story here before, but there’s a metaphor, so stick with me.
New Year’s 2012: having returned home with the Northwestern Marching Band from a futile loss in the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas too late on New Year’s Eve to have a proper celebration that night, my house of eight decided to host a party on New Year’s Day night.
One of our roommates, who understood Russian, successfully bargained with the manager of a local liquor store. That manager did not know that my roommate spoke Russian as he discussed a break-even point with his associate—my roommate procured case after case of a Brazilian champagne at $8/bottle that would be part of an “all you can drink” event hosted at our house. We charged $10 at the door to cover costs of champagne and light snacks—probably a couple bags of chips.
You’ll be stunned to learn I don’t remember what happened next.
The band descended on the house. We played champagne pong—booze in the cups, none of that water bullshit—for hours. People threw up off our balcony, our porch, into all of our toilets, in my shower, and, to top it all off, into our washing machine. (Credit to the kid who came back the next day and cleaned it up.)
Our house was destroyed. The floor was still sticky at graduation, and we had washed it at least a dozen times.
But the hangover.
Friends, when you drink bottle after bottle of Brazil’s finest, you deserve every bad thing that comes your way the following day.
I have never been, nor will I ever again be, that hungover in my life. Everything hurt. Water wouldn’t stay down. Headaches, nausea, the whole nine.
But there was a solution nearby.
Glimmering like an oasis just down Ridge Avenue, Chicken Shack—as of 2023 still the best late-night bite to the Daily Northwestern (the kids are alright)—is the greasy fried chicken spot you need in your life. The rules are simple, and I don’t care if they accept cards now: Cash only, eat the bread.
There was no hangover that Chicken Shack could not cure.
We walked down and got our boxes:
For me? Quarter dark, sauce on, two cans of 90-cent grape pop from the off-brand vending machine. Worked every time.
We all trudged the block back to our house, sat in silence, and consumed our Chicken Shack as some bowl game or college basketball transpired on the TV. The smell of grease filled the living room as we all looked around, hopefully, thinking the worst was behind us.
In comical unison, about three of us stood up at once and sprinted to our respective bathrooms. The grease brought that Brazilian champagne screaming back.
The hangover eventually subsided, but the legend of that evening—and its lingering effects—remain a group legend (and, we hope, a NUMB legend) to this day.
Normally, this would be a potluck of sorts. However, in the absence of much writer enthusiasm for contributing dishes, I guess I’ll open it up to ask the commentariat—was the Potluck format doing much for you? Is it worth continuing?
To spur our discussion today—since there’s not much excitement in basically just seeing what ways Northwestern would add up to 3-9—here are my Chicago food and beer takes:
- Pizza: Gino’s East
- Beef: Al’s—beef, dipped, hot. I like cheese on mine, but you don’t need to.
- Hot Dog: Jump off a bridge, Chicagoans.
- Chicken: Chicken Shack (Evanston, IL). Cash only. Eat the bread.
- Best Brewery: Maplewood
- Malort? Yes.
Look, we addressed this briefly in our Cocktail Party Preview—you want to set Northwestern up for success in 2023, you’d be hard-pressed to come up with a better schedule:
Honestly, you’ve seen this Northwestern schedule a thousand times before. The recent news that the Big Ten might drop the requirement for a Power 5 game upon the addition of USC and UCLA to the conference is (1) chickenshit, but also (2) welcome if and only if it means I never have to see Northwestern play Duke in football again in my life.
- Rutgers Scarlet Knights: A road opener would normally be cause for consternation. However, the flight east reminds Pat Fitzgerald to blindfold the team and tell them a Jersey accent and an Irish accent are the same. 1-0.
- UTEP Miners: Dana Dimel is on the hot seat in El Paso, but this one’s got the making of a 17-13 Pat Fitzgerald special. The Miners have a good offensive line but a questionable quarterback. For once, Northwestern gets a win. 2-0.
- Duke Blue Devils: I’m not wasting my time on this shit again. 2-1.
- Minnesota Golden Gophers: One of my favorite parts of this is that, even after 14 years, both fanbases pen this one in as a win. I remember how bad Northwestern was last year, though. 2-2.
- Penn State Nittany Lions: I don’t think the ‘Cats will be quite there yet—but will they have settled on Ben Bryant as their starting QB, or is it Brendan Sullivan time? 2-3.
- Howard Bison: If Pat Fitzgerald loses this game, I demand InsideNU lead a coup while Fitzgerald is out recruiting on the bye week. Just occupy the airport and tell him not to return. He’ll find somewhere nice for exile, like Zion. 3-3.
- Nebraska Cornhuskers: A trip to Lincoln as the Huskers’ rebuild under Matt Rhule hits the homestretch. Things might be bad in Nebraska, but they’re playing from a slightly more stacked deck. 3-4.
- Maryland Terrapins: Northwestern has never lost to Maryland in Evanston. Look it up. It’s a goddamn fact. 4-4.
- Iowa Hawkeyes: How many “home” games in Wrigley Field must we endure before we realize it’s a terrible idea? Honestly, Northwestern—how many times would you like to get your shit pushed in “in” Chicago before realizing you’re not going to make fetch happen? And to do it to these fucking pricks. 4-5.
- wisconsin badgers: One of the things I am thrilled about is the prospect of Tanner Mordecai throwing the ball 45 times in Camp Randall as the howling winds of Madison wake the echoes of Joel Stave. 5-5. Fuck wisconsin.
- Purdue Boilermakers: See, now I’ve really backed myself into a corner, because Northwestern is clearly not a bowl-eligible team in 2023, are they? The Boilermakers are undergoing an identity remake under Ryan Walters, though he did manage to shut down Northwestern each of his two years in Champaign. More depressingly, I searched “Ryan Walters” only to be reminded that the Purdue coach is not the first hit for Ryan Walters on the internet. That bummed me out, and I blame Purdue. 6-5.
- Illinois Fighting Illini: I’m convinced Northwestern will never beat Bert again, and also I’m afraid of being mocked if I predict Northwestern goes 7-5. 6-6.
It happens if...
Ben Bryant and AJ Henning jumpstart the Northwestern offense. Pinning all Northwestern’s hopes on a pair of transfers is, of course, hilariously unwise. But these are two proven commodities, the former serviceable and the latter dynamic enough to provide a needed counterweight to the solid running of Cam Porter and Anthony Tyus III. If I squint hard enough, too, I can convince myself that Northwestern could get 400 receiving yards from the tight end position.
David Braun is a miracle worker. In reality, the former North Dakota State defensive coordinator will maybe be able to shore up the fundamentals on a very, very bad defense. But the secondary should be strong again—even some improvements in positioning and tackling from the linebackers could help slow down the run and keep Northwestern in games.
It doesn’t happen because...
The trenches don’t improve. The offensive line is retooled but lacks the star power of years past, while the defense did a great turnstile impression and has to continuously dip into the transfer portal for luminaries from Southern Illinois and Fresno State.
Pat Fitzgerald is inflexible and willing to lose to stick it to...well, everyone. Press conferences these days in Evanston are just 30 minutes of shots at the media for asking the wrong questions or not buying into the vision of a program that’s 4-20 in the last two seasons and has not run out a quarterback capable of making a single decision that doesn’t result in death for someone. Fitzgerald remains irritatingly loyal to mediocre coaches and needlessly hostile to about everyone else.
And that was Northwestern Week.
There’s no miracle fried chicken cure for what ails the Northwestern Wildcats. The Brazilian champagne that was a Jim O’Neil defense, the haughty arrogance of a Northwestern student who taught he knew better, the chasing of another hangover cure, another transfer quarterback, another solution...you’re just going to wind up in the black mold-filled basement bathroom of an Evanston brothel.
In 2023, Northwestern finishes [BLANK] in the Big Ten:
This poll is closed
5-4 or better
In 2023, Northwestern finishes [BLANK] overall:
This poll is closed
7-5 or better
Anywho, that was fun. Did you enjoy Northwestern Week? Vote for how well Northwestern does, and let us know in the comments where we went know on the food and stuff.
Check out all of Northwestern Week 2023!
Monday: Cocktail Party Preview || Tuesday: The New Ryan Field || Wednesday: The Offense || Thursday: Was there defense? || Also Thursday: I’m sure a writer did a Predictions Potluck, right? || Friday: HATE or at least mild disdain || Sunday: Oh, here’s the defense || Also Sunday: Special Teams || Who knows. Monday?: Predictions