Sometimes, it takes an awfully long time to remember how to feel, so although it's Monday morning after Northwestern lost a tough one to Ohio State on Saturday night, I figured I'd try to remind you. (We'll get into the actual football in due time.)
The Wildcats played a game that many, including me, had billed as one of the biggest games in program history against a team that hasn't lost since 2011, but lost by the skin of their teeth -- the score was 40-30, but it was really 34-30 before a failed last-ditch effort play somehow wound up with Ohio State scoring. They led at the half and going into the fourth quarter. There were several mistakes Northwestern made that could have changed the outcome of the game. There was also a maybe bad call by the referees late that ended Northwestern's best chance to win.
It should sting, because Northwestern was oh-so-close to blowing the roof off of its program. They wanted it. You wanted it. The overflowing student section wanted it. The thousands and thousands of alumni who sold their tickets to Ohio State fans... well, maybe they didn't want it, but the good news is someday the kids in the student section will be season ticket holders. My point is, this should feel like anything else in life you've come close to accomplishing, but failed.
It's also by-and-large what I expected. I hoped Northwestern would win, but didn't think it was likely. I hoped Northwestern wouldn't get blown out, but acknowledged it was a possibility. When I had to put my name on the line and say something -- something I take VERY SERIOUSLY now that somebody's keeping track -- I predicted Ohio State would win a game in the high 30's, low-40's by three points and posted a Mariah Carey video:
Sure enough, hearts broken.
The fact that Northwestern was in a close game against the best team they or anybody else in the Big Ten will play all year is very good. It means Northwestern is very good. It means that Northwestern should have a shot to beat damn near anybody in their seven remaining games. They might not go 7-0 -- in fact, they might lose next week against Wisconsin -- but Saturday night proves that we were right to have high expectations.
Now, it's Northwestern's turn to live up to them. As we've said a bunch of times, the schedule -- having to play Wisconsin and Ohio State this year, while nobody else in the division has to -- is Northwestern's greatest weakness. (Editor's note: Apparently, Iowa also has to do this. They're kinda not in the picture, though.)
The thing that hurts is that Northwestern played amazingly, but failed to capitalize on a tremendous opportunity to offset that difficult schedule. If Northwestern loses to Wisconsin, they'll be in a huge hole at 0-2 in conference play. From there, it will be hard to accomplish the team's goal of winning the Big Ten -- although, it should be noted, not impossible -- and if that's the case, the obvious talent of this team might go unrewarded thanks to the cruel foibles of randomized schedules.
Life does go on after a hard loss, but Northwestern has to get a result next week.
You know what this isn't, though? An opportunity for us to rehash the tired "Northwestern always chokes! Rabble rabble rabble!" meme. Honestly, if this is how you think sports work, there are millions of columnists willing to provide you with fodder. However, I'd prefer to discuss the literally dozens of interesting ways we can look at the football game that just happened and how it can relate to future football games instead of your Skip Bayless impersonation. So please, move along.
With regards to this: thanks to everyone who made GameDay look awesome. Saturday absolutely stung, but its hard not to be proud of Northwestern, as a school and a team.
More from Sippin' On Purple:
- Ohio State 40, Northwestern 30
- Northwestern College GameDay in Evanston Open Thread!
- No. 16 Northwestern vs. No. 4 Ohio State: Game info, how to watch, TV, preview, and more on the Wildcats' big game
- Northwestern-Ohio State: Previews/Predictions time for Buckeyes-Wildcats!
- On being in New York for Ohio State-Northwestern, the game that could change Wildcats football