Northwestern plays Illinois this weekend, and as Tim Beckman has tried to make clear on many occasions, THIS IS AN IMPORTANT RIVALRY. Becks is planning on burning all his purple clothes and only calls Northwestern "that school up north" and also has a big Northwestern logo with an x through it in the Illinois locker room. You see? Important rivalry.
Of course, it really isn't. If I made a Chief Keef cover entitled "That's that Big Ten school I don't like", Illinois would probably come up somewhere in the middle of my first verse, but it definitely wouldn't be in the chorus or anything.
But you know what? Timmy B has had a bit of a rough go of it thus far this year. Against FBS competition, his team has been outscored 335-142. They've lost eight straight, and are winless in the Big Ten, with only one loss by less than two touchdowns. They're 121st in the country in scoring. He's been universally regarded as way in over his head, and many think he'll be fired after his only year in Champaign. I feel a bit bad for the guy.
So, as a personal favor to Tim Beckman, I've decided to treat this like a major rivalry game. Let's give the coach who made a point of talking about how much he was going to hate Northwestern the rivalry game he deserves, since it could very well be his only one.
So here's why this Saturday's game is THE MOST IMPORTANT OF THE YEAR for Northwestern, a must-win.
- Revenge: My first two years at Northwestern, the Wildcats beat Illinois, first a 27-10 romp in the last Sweet Sioux Tomahawk game, then a win that wasn't as close as the 21=16 scorline Jacob Charest's only career start with Juice Williams hurt. I figured Illinois was a comfortable win for NU most of the time. How wrong I was: the past two years, the Illini embarrassed Northwestern. Mikel Leshoure ruined Northwestern's spectacle at Wrigley Field with 330 yards on the ground in a 48-27 win, and last year A.J. Jenkins had three touchdowns and 268 yards as the Illini came back from a 28-10 deficit, with Nathan Scheelhaase driving the field in just over a minute after Jacob Schmidt scored a go-ahead touchdown to pull ahead 38-35. That's a blowout and a killer comeback. Basically, what I'm trying to say is that Illinois football has ruined my life. (You see, Tim? I'm really trying.)
- The stupid hat thingy: The Land of Lincoln Trophy, aka the LOLhat, has only been in existence for three seasons, but it's already been out of Evanston for too long. Once a month, Morty Shapiro gets together with bigwig Northwestern alumni and plays games of Monopoly with life-size pieces and real cash. The various CEO's gathered typically procure their various pieces via outrageous means. One guy has a man-servant euthanize a perfectly healthy Scottie dog and stuff it. One forces somebody to sit on am n extremely patient live thoroughbred for the entire game. One steals cannons from various historic military bases throughout the world, and fires them off at poor people's houses when he wins. Morty is a simple man: he only wants his hat. But for two straight seasons, Pat Fitzgerald has refused to bring it to him. Morty has settled for a platinum-encrusted thimble, but it's just not the same. Plus, Lincoln is really in right now, by which I mean the next person to photoshop Pat Fitzgerald into the poster for "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" or the Daniel Day-Lewis movie gets seven SoP points, which are redeemable for nothing.
- Bowl placement: The better Northwestern's record at the end of the year, the better the SEC team that gets to rip out Northwestern's entrails and eat them in front of Northwestern's still-blinking eyes on national TV in a bowl game.
- Seniors: It's their last game, kind of! Bowls.
- They're sort of the worst: I mean, guys, Illinois is 0-7 in conference. There are dumpsters on fire that are like, "WOAH, CHILL OUT" when you compare the Illini to a dumpster fire. Northwestern probs shouldn't lose this game. If they did, it would help put a positive spin on Illinois' season that they really don't deserve. I mean, I wasn't around for the dark ages of Northwestern football, but 1-7 has to feel better than 0-8, right?
- Patrick Ward's balls: One year ago, Jonathan Brown wasn't just playing against Northwestern football, but our very way of life. Brown contested one of the rights I personally hold most dear: the right to walk around without fear of a linebacker ramming us as hard as they can in the genitals. Jonathan Brown wants us to live in fear, fear that somewhere, somewhere very close, somebody is planning on jamming his kneecap into our very souls, by way of the dick. He wants us to walk around scared. Is that not terrorism? A win Saturday isn't just a win over Illinois. It's a win over everybody, everywhere, who thinks they can knee dudes in the balls and not pay for it. We're fighting for freedom - freedom from fear. Patrick Ward's balls paid the ultimate sacrifice, but it's not one we'll soon forget. Saturday, gentlemen, we fight.
So there you go, Tim. I hope you're happy. Northwestern-Illinois is now an official faux-rivalry, and we're doing the best we can to get riled up about it. The nutshots and fake hate you teach us, we will embrace it, but we'll better the instruction. It's time to end Illinois' season with a knee to the groin.