This post is sponsored by EA Sports NCAA Football 2011.
Enough reminiscing, after all, looking back is for the weak, foolish, piddly masses, and for me, if EA Sports tells me to do it.
Today, we'll be shifting our rear-view mirror into a fore-view mirror, and looking at what we fans can reasonably expect out of the next edition of the Northwestern Wildcats.
The 2009 Wildcats were pretty good. Eight wins good.
But when you lose two starting wide receivers, your defensive end, No. 1 cornerback, and both your safeties, things are going to change. Oh, and our quarterback. Did I mention our quarterback? We lose our quarterback. Crap.
The Northwestern dream is to have a team that consistently is above .500. This is harder than it seems: I mean, look at Michigan. But for a team that was so bad for so long, it seems especially difficult for NU.
Stringing together a winning season in this, a rebuilding year, would be huge for Northwestern, and I think it's achievable. First off, any self-respecting BCS school should be able to eke four wins out of NU's out-of-conference schedule this year. (Note: this sentence implies that Vanderbilt is not a self-respecting BCS school. Last I checked, our OOC schedule featured Vandy, Rice, Illinois State, and my fraternity's white league flag football squad, featuring me as a substitute d-lineman. If we can't get four wins out of that, I will shave the logo of whichever team we lose to into my blonde, nearly invisible leg hair. And that's a promise.
That puts us two-thirds of the way to the magical six wins that would promise us a berth in some bowl, preferably not the Motor City Bowl. This team is good enough to earn another two wins with a Big Ten schedule that doesn't include Ohio State.
No! They're not as good as last year's team. But I wouldn't ask them to be as good as last year's team. I'm asking them to win out on their dismal out-of-conference schedule, and then win two of eight in-conference games. You might not trust Dan Persa, you might not trust our running back by committee, and you might not trust our slipshod secondary composed entirely of people you're only kinda familiar with. But with all that, you should still be able to expect this team to get six wins.
And from there, we can begin talking about that other Northwestern dream: of being able to win a bowl game of any sort.
This team can do it. First off, I'd be surprised if they win enough games to earn another Outback or Alamo Bowl bid, pitting us against some SEC or Big 12 opponent. But since there are now eight Big Ten bowl affiliations, NU is essentially guaranteed to head somewhere in December if they earn six wins. And when that happens, they'll probably be pitted against some opponent they actually have a decent chance of beating.
So, expectations. I expect this team to win 6-7 games, and then, there's the pipe dream: this team can win Northwestern's first bowl game since 1949. Or, they could take our broken hearts, remend them, then snatch them away from us and smash them into a million itty-bitty teeny-tiny pieces. But if there's one thing I support on this blog, it's getting your hopes up.
So, the 2010 Northwestern Wildcats. GET YOUR HOPES UP.