This post is sponsored by EA Sports NCAA Football 2011
When I was asked to write a post about my favorite Northwestern team, I felt a bit guilty. As a current NU student, I lack any sort of historical perspective. On the other hand, a lot of my readers have that in droves: you guys saw Pat Fitzgerald as a player, some of you remember when the Wildcats would go seasons without even picking up a tie.
I'd love to hear who you guys have to pick as your favorite NU teams, but, well, just because I haven't experienced much Wildcats football doesn't mean I can't make a compelling argument for why one of the teams I've seen in my time at NU was a pretty damn good one.
I only have two choices: I arrived on campus in 2008. My first game was against Ohio University, week 4 of the 2008 season. That team was spectacular: senior starters across the board, three established wide receivers getting passes from C.J. Bachér, arguably the best defense in school history, and, of course, Tyrell Sutton. When a lot of those guys left, so did a lot of ambition for the hopes of the 2009 Wildcats.
The fact that they not only fulfilled, but, like, way, way, way exceeded those expectations is why the most recent edition of the Wildcats is my favorite, and it will take some serious, serious work to top.
With the exception of the USA soccer team, I've never seen a team more committed to looking terrible early. Not just in games, but in the season: NU started out 2-2, with only wins against Towson and Eastern Michigan, and losses to mediocre looking Syracuse and Minnesota.
Nobody trusted Mike Kafka as a starting quarterback. Nobody had heard of any of our wide receivers, but Andrew Brewer and Zeke Markshausen didn't seem to mind. Corey Wootton, our defense's rock, was injured, as was a lot of our secondary for most of the year. Things looked bleak.
But I've also never seen a team better at finishing strong. Thanks to the out-of-nowhere dominance and leadership of Mike Kafka at the quarterback position and a really unbelievable ability to force turnovers on the defensive side of the ball, NU came back. Trailing 21-3 in week 3 at Purdue, the Cats stormed back to win 27-21, and kept going to finish the season 6-2.
There was the homecoming win against Indiana, that started out 28-3 Indiana, and ended up 29-28 Northwestern, with a walk-off Stefan Demos victory for the win. There was the game we trailed 10-0 against the No. 4, then-undefeated Iowa Hawkeyes, that ended up seeing them become the one-loss Iowa Hawkeyes.
And then, there was the Outback Bowl. We inevitably went down 14-0, then went down 35-21, only to... well, you know the drill.
This team never dominated. Some people say they were lucky, because they routinely pulled out games they seemed to have no business winning., and ended up six of their eight wins by a touchdown or less - three by a field goal or less.
Well, maybe they were lucky. Maybe they ended up with one less win than their much more heralded predecessors. But they faught for each of those wins in ways I'd never seen a football team fight before, and convinced me that at least four of them were losses. And when the final one turned out to actually be a loss, extending that bowl game losing streak to a 60th year - you couldn't help but be proud of the effort they put out.
So what teams are y'all guys' favorites? I'm expecting to hear a bunch of 1995's and 2000's, so feel free to either go with one of those or, better yet, surprise me.