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Friday, November 09, 2012

Know Your Foe: Northwestern 2012

Michigan welcomes Northwestern to A2 tomorrow for the Wolverines' penultimate home game of the 2012 season (I know, they grow up so fast, don't they?).  Michigan holds a 53-15-2 edge against the former Mildcats, including last season's game at Ryan Field (also known as The Big House West when Michigan plays there).  And yet it's the 7-2 Purple Cats coming into town ranked 21st in the Coaches' Poll and 24th in the BCS against the unranked Wolverines.  But you knew all that.  What you didn't know is all down below in the MZone's World Famous KNOW YOUR FOE: Northwestern 2012 Edition.

The Latin means "Holy shit,
this school's expensive
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 (with Ohio State the conference's only community college). 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.  On the not so Heavenly side of Heavenston: the relationship between the village and the university has turned a bit 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 were ahead of the current college football uni cliche and added black to their unis. And while black and purple aren't a good combo, this color addition corresponded to the time when Northwestern stopped being a laughingstock on the gridiron.  Thus, no surprise, they kept the black (as every other school seemingly added the color to the uniforms as well).

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 (not counting the grass and mud stains when they used to get their asses kicked game in and game out pre-Gary Barnett).

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. Yes, 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, #29 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."

All righty.

ATHLETICS - According to the Wikipedia article probably written by Northwestern's mom, "In the 2010-11 school year, the Wildcats had one national championship, 12 teams in postseason play, 20 All-Americans, two CoSIDA Academic All-American selections, 8 CoSIDA Academic All-District selections, 1 conference Coach of the Year and Player of the Year, 53 All-Conference and a record 201 Academic All-Big Ten athletes. Overall, 12 of Northwestern's 19 varsity programs had NCAA or bowl postseason appearances." 

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 something called the Helms Athletic Foundation, 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.

"Nation, last weekend USC coach and human weasel
Lane Kiffin was once again accused of cheating..."
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, Jerry Springer), but no Presidents.

THE GAME -   While NW is 7-2, those wins are about as impressive as Michigan's 6 -- i.e. not so much.  The only team they've beaten with a winning record is the same 5-4 Gopher squad Michigan stamped out last weekend.  In fact, Northwestern's best win may be a 29-28 loss at home to Nebraska (and we use the term "home" loosely even though the game was in Evanstan as there were way more Husker fans).  So I guess this weekend we find out which team is more legit...ish.  While KYF thinks the opening 13 line was a little high, after Devin's breakout and playing in The Big House, go Blue:

Michigan -31
Northwestern - 24


616goblue said...


A pretty good babe quotient among almumni and yet you post a picture of Steve Colbert?

Have to say my friend, the jouranlistic standards of a Michigan Football Friday Know Your Foe are high, a quick edit will correct the oversight.

Dennis said...

Northwestern may be a good test for the Michigan defense. However, I think it is a test the Wolverines will pass. Either Michigan QB will give Northwestern trouble, but it will come down to whether or not Michigan can run without Denard. I think if he is in, he won't run as much and they will play call like they did against ND and Alabama. The question is will they have a better result. It is at Michigan, so I think you guys win 27-21.


Perhaps Yost is evolving. First no healing pic after Nebraska, now Colbert. Though I do have to say eye candy is not hard to find, Colbert's genius is a much rarer commodity.

Yost said...

Sorry, 616, but I have to agree with Dennis on this one: Colbert's genius is about the only thing that could've trumped a gratuitous pic of a Northwestern hottie.

As a comedy-centric blog, we had to kneel before Zod on this one.

616goblue said...


Say it isn't so!

From the blog that drilled down to expose the ASU cheerleader gone bad, inspiring the M-zone's BCS (i.e. Blog Coed Showdown) and the ever popular "this is your life this is college life" we now get the "genius" that is Steve Colbert?

Dennis, good catch that he forgot the post-Nebraska healing pictures. Today we do not have pictures that are worth a 1000 words from NW's "pretty good babe quotient" alumnae base nor anything from the business empire created by a robe-wearing, pipe holding alumnus out of Evanston.

Our Creator bestowed upon us a primal genius that vastly supersedes anything produced by Mr. Colbert.

As a loyal reader since the Colin Cowherd incident, Victors Club member and season ticket holder since 1995, I suggest you do not stray far from the creed that established the Mzone firmly in the Michigan Football blogosphere.

Thank you for your consideration.

Yost said...

LOL, 616.

And thanks for mentioning Your Life vs College Life. Haven't done one of those in a long time. Must come up with one. Was always one of my favorite segments.

Mikoyan said...

I keep forgetting about the Your Life Vs. college but those are hilarious.

Yes, need more gratuitous babe pics...

As always great KYF.

Ramona said...

All you guys called it by a touchdown, brilliant predictions!

surrounded in columbus said...

now that i have two daughters in college, i sorta don't miss the "your life vs college" segment.