So We Beat Nebraska: Northwestern Football Season Reset

LINCOLN, NE - NOVEMBER 5: The Northwestern Wildcats leave the field after beating the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Memorial Stadium November 5, 2011 in Lincoln, Nebraska. Northwestern beat Nebraska 28-25. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)

A few weeks ago I wrote this post stating facts about NU's season - incidentally, in the exact same class I'm sitting in right now, but that's besides the point. 

Suffice it to say, Northwestern going on the road and beating No. 9 Nebraska shakes things up a bit. After losing three games against ranked teams, NU had a face-off with the highest-ranked team they will play this year and handled them: the offensive line blocked spectacularly, the defense swarmed to the ball and nailed runners repeatedly in the backfield, and a week after allowing 6.5 yards per carry and 38 points to a hapless Indiana squad, we held one of the nation's better running teams to 3.5 yards per carry. NU won, and it wasn't surprising based on the way they played.

First off, I'm going to go ahead and point that the majority of the facts I stated were right: I said NU could still make a bowl (now more true than ever), I said we were better than our 2-5 record due to us playing only close games and that by luck of the draw we should have won one (which I feel we proved by beating a very good team in a similarly close game) that we couldn't blame the season on Dan Persa's injury (we just won a game with Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian in the driver's seat in crunch time) and that we should want the Army game back (you think?). I won't validate what I said in that post about the defense being horrible anymore after they went out and played spectacularly against Nebraska, although, it's the only game since BC they haven't looked very bad in.

Now that that's out of the way, let's think about the season going forward. It looks like we have a pretty typically mediocre NU football year going on: one ugly non-con loss we shouldn't have, several murderously irritating losses, and one huge win out of the middle of nowhere.

With games against Rice, Minnesota, and Michigan State on deck, I think any reasonable person should predict a 6-6 finish to the year. 

Rice: We shouldn't overlook them - I mean, NU lost to Army - but this isn't a good football team. Wins over Purdue, Memphis, and UTEP don't validate a team, even if they did just put up 671 yards - yup - against UTEP. Northwestern shouldn't lose to Rice, and if they did, it would pretty much derail their bowl chances, but to be fair, if they lose, they probably don't deserve to go bowling.

Minnesota: They've played damn well the past two weeks, beating Iowa (which NU didn't) and coming within a score of Michigan State, but the things Minnesota has done this year in terms of results shouldn't be done by any Big Ten team ever. Gotta win.

Michigan State: Sure, Nebraska, who we just beat, took these guys to a woodshed. The win over Nebraska should certainly give us hope that this win is more plausible, but this team is better than NU by all stretches of the imagination. Despite great defensive play this week, I feel like Kirk Cousins can and will murder Northwestern's secondary. It's an upset if NU pulls it out.

So that leaves us at 6-6. The B1G already has eight bowl-eligible teams, and it doesn't look like two teams will make the BCS, and there are only eight B1G bowl spots. That means something kind of important: going 6-6 won't guarantee an NU bowl berth. If NU finishes 6-6, they'll have to a) bank on getting selected over Iowa or Illinois, hint, NOT HAPPENING b) hope other teams around the country failing to fill their bowl spots. The only way for NU to guarantee a berth in a bowl will be by winning out and following up a seemingly season-murdering five-game losing streak with a five-game winning streak. Implausible? Yes. Impossible, the way the team has been playing? No. Whether or not we want our bowl streak to end in like the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl is a question for another time, but, for now, let's focus on NU winning.

So here's my season recap:

1. At 4-6, NU still has work to do. Yeah, this work is beating two sub-par teams, but, still.

2. If they finish 6-6, they'll need other teams to do work for them. This is my area to root for Kansas to turn their 0-6 season around and begin wrecking nonsense in the Big 12 so they don't fill up their bowl berths and I get to take the 4 train to NU's appearance in the Pinstripe Bowl, as Mark Schlabach predicts.  

3. I'm kinda pumped.

The win Saturday was fun as hell, and although I'm perfectly fine with it just having been one awesome afternoon/evening, it would be nice for the football team's play my senior season to be meaningful. With three weeks to go, they have a chance to do that. 

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