Thursday, October 6, 2011

Who Are You and Why Do We Care?: Northwestern Wildcats

Is there a rivalry here?
In short, no. Since 1892, the Michigan Wolverines and the Northwestern Wildcats have played 69 times. Michigan is 52-15-2 in those games.

When did we see them last?
Unlike the Minnesota game, which was the bright spot of the 2008 Big Ten season, the Northwestern game did not go so well. Northwestern won its first game against Michigan since 2000. BTW 2000 was the crazy year where Northwestern (!) and Purdue (?!?!) tied with Michigan for the Big Ten Championship. In the poorly played home game, Nick Sheridan and Steven Threet combined to go 12/36 for 83 yards and an interception. The only bright spot was a healthy Carlos Brown running for 115 yards on 23 carries. Ricky Reyes (WHO?!) returned a blocked punt to put Michigan up 14-7 in the second quarter, but the third quarter led to C.J. Bacher domination and two touchdowns for Northwestern that Michigan would not recover from. If you want to watch nine minutes of Michigan playing terrible and even missing a 23 yard field goal be my guest...

What do they look like?
Well for a very long time they looked like purple USC. In 2010, the Wildcats broke out a new set of uniforms, which actually have stripes called "Northwestern Stripes." IMO, purple rarely looks good on a football uniform (even Brandon Graham couldn't make it look good). In addition, black for black's sake looks very bad for the Wildcats, especially since their colors are Purple and White. I actually really like their away jerseys, but it's a shame that we will either see them in the purple or (hopefully not) the black. The Wildcat logo is not bad at all, but also nothing too exciting. 

What's their coaching situation?
When Randy Walker died in 2006, Linebackers Coach, Pat Fitzgerald took over. Fitzgerald has done everything the Northwestern fan base could ask for. He has gone 36-30 including three straight bowl games (all losses). Before becoming the Wildcat's head coach, Fitzgerald was an excellent linebacker for the same team. He was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year twice, and won both the Bronko Nagurski Trophy and Chuck Bednarik Award in both 1995 and 1996. After playing one season for the Dallas Cowboys, he became the linebackers coach at Maryland followed by Colorado and Idaho before returning to Northwestern. 

Have they won National or Big Ten Championships?
The Wildcats have never won a National Championship, but they have won eight Big Ten Championships. Three of those championships have occurred in the modern era: 1995, 1996, and 2000. 

Did anyone famous play there?
These are really a stretch... I've only sort of heard of these guys...
  • Mike Kafka: Michael Vick's current back up. 
  • Mike Adamle: former WWE Raw General Manager
  • Pat Fitzgerald
Do they have a goofy mascot?

It is very difficult to do research on Northwestern's Willie the Wildcat when another purple wearing team, Kansas State, also has their own Willie the Wildcat. Supposedly Northwestern's Willie went through a makeover before the video above. I don't know much about mascots, but this one is worse than Goldy. 

Any cool/weird traditions?
  • Well, they are more pretentious than us and they are proud of it.  Since they are the only private school in the conference, Northwestern fans chant "State School" at the other teams in the Big Ten.
  • I'm sure Fouad would hate this one: during kickoffs, their fans jingle their keys (I'm sure it makes a lot of noise). The keys replaced a much more awesome tradition of throwing marshmallows on to the field and at each other. 
So far this season, Northwestern hasn't been bad, but they haven't been great. A lot of this has to do with Dan Persa being out with an injury. In three games without him, Northwestern won at Boston College and vs. Eastern Illinois, but lost at Army. In Persa's return, Northwestern lost to the undefeated Illinois Fighting Illini. While Persa will probably be the best quarterback we have seen, I think our secondary holds up, and Denard does enough on offense. Hopefully we will see more of the DiamondofDoom. Prediction based on everything, but football: Michigan 35 - Northwestern 24.  

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