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Friday, October 07, 2011

Know Your Foe - Northwestern

Your undefeated Michigan Wolverines go out on the road for the first time this season as they the visit the Northwestern Wildcats in the second night game of the season.  Michigan holds a 52-15-2 edge against the former Mildcats, although Northwestern won the last meeting in 2008 during Rich Rod's first season.  Ron, my new cohort here on KYF actually attended that game.  The weather was so awesome, it only stopped raining so it could snow a little bit.  But enough small talk.  Now it's time for the big post - the MZone's World Famous KNOW YOUR FOE.

The best crest U-M's faced this year
HISTORY - On May 31, 1850, nine Methodist men gathered in a law office above a hardware store in Chicago to plan a university that would serve the former  Northwest Territory, a vast region that included what are now the states  of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and a part of  Minnesota. Though the school is non-sectarian, some religious overtones remain, including two biblical passages on its crest (along with untold souls mortgaged to the Devil after allowing the former football laughingstock to play in the Rose Bowl in the mid 90s). Since the departure of the University of Chicago in 1946, Northwestern remains the only private Big Ten School. Interestingly, Northwestern and U of C almost merged in the 1930s, but the plan was killed by the Northwestern trustees.  Sure, they would have created an academic powerhouse with potentially the worst combination of football teams since, uh, never.

LOCATION - Evanston, Illinois.  The village was named for Northwestern's founder, John Evans and has some lame nicknames like E-town, the City of Homes and -- wait for it -- Heavenston (I just threw up in my mouth a little bit). In the 1960's, the university changed the shoreline of Evanston by dumping landfill into Lake Michigan to allow more land for campus buildings. Recently, the relationship between the village and the university has turned frosty as, per the founding charter, Northwestern does not have to pay property taxes. Ever. Sweeeet deal if you can get it (No, Exxon, you're not a college).

And although it's more a 'burb than a "college town," it's still a great place to live. A lively downtown, easy access to Chicago, and a beautiful beach (when it's warm enough) make Evanston one of the more desirable and expensive suburbs of Chicago. It's also home to numerous famous people, including the Cusacks, Jeremy Piven, Charles Gibson, Donald Rumsfeld, and Eddie Vedder. Not bad for a town of about 75,000.

NICKNAME - Wildcats, named by a Chicago Tribune reporter in 1924 (and thus not in honor of that shitty Goldie Hawn movie). Some of the school's previous nicknames include the Fighting Methodists and the fear-inspiring Purple. In 1972, with a nod to popular culture at the time (and probably just the overwhelming urge to get high), the student body voted to change the school nickname to "Purple Haze". It never stuck.

He looks like a Looney
Tunes character
MASCOTWillie the Wildcat is the costumed mascot for the university. The original mascot was a live bear cub named Furpaw (before they were known as the Wildcats). But in 1923, after a losing season, the university abandoned Furpaw (as a mascot) because they believed he was bad luck. If Northwestern continued this practice of changing mascots after bad seasons, they'd be on about their 80th mascot by now (although, before Pat Fitzgerald, they pretty much used to do the same thing with their coaches).

COLORS - Purple and White (which replaced Black and Gold in 1892).  In the '90s (1990s, that is) they went trendy and added black to their unis. Black and purple are not a good combination. Unfortunately, this also corresponded to the time Northwestern stopped being a laughingstock on the gridiron, so they kept the black well beyond its sell date.

Logo - After struggling through the '70s to find a logo, Northwestern settled on their current version in 1981 and have not changed it since. The stylized bold N is sometimes adorned with a snarling wildcat, but the N is the symbol of the university and has been the only adornment to the football helmets for 25 years.

While the current N is solid, and has provided the university and its sports teams an identity for a long time, I think Northwestern made a mistake in 1967 when they went away from using this guy.

(Bottom logo from Chris Creamer's SportsLogosNet).

FIGHT SONG - The Northwestern fight song, Go U Northwestern, is a solid middle of the pack song for the Big Ten. Theodore Van Etten, inspired by a 20-7 victory over Indiana, wrote the song in 1912. It's pretty sad when your fight song was written because of a victory over Indiana - in football. The song was originally titled Go Northwestern Go but was changed soon after.

By the '80s, students and fans began yelling "Go 'Cats!" at the end of the song's chorus repeat which, if you ever witnessed N'Western football in the '80s was probably just a clever way of calling the team pussies.

ACADEMICS - Quite simply, Northwestern kicks some serious academic ass. They are currently the top school in the Big Ten according the latest U.S. News and World Report rankings, coming in at #12 (ahead of the second-ranked school in the B1G, #28 Michigan).

Maybe it's because of these high academic standards that NU has some traditions that sound as boring as they do intellectually inspired.  Take for example, Mayfest and Dillo Day.  According to the school website, "the roots of Northwestern's end-of-the-year celebration, Mayfest, reach back to the 1890s, when students would celebrate the 'renunciation of the May Queen of the temporal world for a spiritual one.'"  Uh...yeah.  I'll take Hash Bash, thank you very much.

Wait it gets worse better: "Nowadays, Mayfest is a weeklong celebration capped by a more recent tradition, Armadillo Day. In 1972, Northwestern students from Texas held a small celebration in honor of the armadillo. More than 25 years later, 'Dillo Day is the culmination of Mayfest and an all-day Saturday event on the lakefront with bands, games, and vendors.

Woo hoo!  Games?!  Go U Northwestern!

ATHLETICS - The Wildcats had a decent year last season, with 12 of the 19 varsity sports advancing to post season play, and winning the National Title in Women's Lacrosse.  Historically, it hasn't been as good. Northwestern is a charter member of the Big Ten, and promptly called dibs on the cellar. Though their women's lacrosse team has won 6 national titles, and their 1931 basketball team was proclaimed National Champs by the Thrifty Nickel, there have been few brights spots. Several low lights, including basketball and football players charged with bribery and point shaving, as well the infamous soccer hazing incident.

Hef attended for a semester of grad courses
(which was a good enough excuse for this pic)

FAMOUS ALUMS - Their alumni list is about as impressive as any in the country. When you combine a powerful academic school with one that's also strong in high profile areas such as drama and journalism, you're going to get a list with a ton of people that everyone knows. From the entertainment field you have Ann-Margaret, Zach Braff, Cindy Crawford, Marg Helgenberger, Charlton Heston, Shelly Long, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jeri Ryan, Seth Meyers, David Schwimmer, Zooey Deschanel, Kimberly Williams and Warren Beatty (although a good number of these folks didn't graduate). That's a pretty good babe quotient there too. From the business world Northwestern can claim the past and present CEOs from companies such as Wells Fargo, Motorola, Paramount Pictures, Office Depot, AON and some company we've never heard of, Playboy. Numerous journalists are NU alumni including Christine Brennan, Gregg Easterbrook, Rachel Nichols, Michael Wilbon, and Brent Musburger. Former Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel.  And Stephen Colbert. That pretty much trumps any astronauts or athletes that Michigan might be able to brag about. The school has also produced a number of presidential election losers (William Jennings Bryan, George McGovern, and Adlai Stevenson) and just plain losers (Rod Blogojevich), but no Presidents.

THE GAME - Dan Persa should be back, and this could be a test. I'm doubting it. If you'll pardon me, it's hard to type while I'm drinking the Kool-Aid. I believe in the D. I believe in super Denard. We stay undefeated.

Michigan - 34
Northwestern - 10

ED. NOTE:  That was Ron's pick above.  With a prediction like that, I think he had to have been drinking something and I'm not sure it's Kool-Aid.  I'm also drinking the Diet Hoke but think that a) we were very lucky to beat ND and b) too many are putting too much stock in a 58-0 blitzing of the Corpse Posing as Minnesota.  But I love the staff and this team.  But with Persa back, it's going to be very tough.  I'm torn.  I want to believe.  But I've been hurt by 5-0 Michigan teams in the past.

These aren't those teams.

Michigan - 30
Northwestern - 28


Bigasshammm said...

It's a good thing that Michigan is 5-0. That way the 4-0 Michigan team can't hurt you anymore.

Dennis said...

I think Michigan will be able to deal with Persa who is probably still fairly ouchy.

Michigan 35
Northwestern 23

To steal from the Hoover Street Rag, now that your defense has invented this new thing called tackling, opposing teams won't always score every time they have the ball.

Now, if someone would just share the patent on the concepts of blocking and the forward pass, OSU fans would be grateful.

Blogger's word verification for this post, bludgen, suggests what will happen in Lincoln on Saturday Night.

Speaking of ouchy, here is my other prediction for me this weekend:

OSU/Nebraska game pain: 63
Post vastecomy pain: 49

Mikoyan said...

wow Michael Wilbon and Gregg Easterbrook....two guys that I would read on a regular basis.

616goblue said...

Yes quite an impressive celebrity babe list for Northwestern, which trumps Madonna and Lucy Liu.

But astronauts are in a category amongst themselves. Space, bitches, space.

A former coworker of mine played on that mid 90s Rose Bowl Wildcats team and roomed with Pat Fitzgerald, I wish them the best. However their best will likely just keep the score close. Remember Northwestern lost to Army, which would be a mid-level MAC team.

Yost said...


Oops. See, I can't even type it I'm so scarred.

Dennis said...


Nurse at snip snip procedure today had Michigan scrubs. Still went through with it. :)