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Western Kentucky Losing Streak Putting Northwestern on Notice?

EDSBS linked to this piece about the mighty Western Kentucky Hilltoppers. Western Kentucky, of course, is better known for its basketball than football - where you at, Courtney Lee? - for two reasons: their basketball program has consistently been an NCAA Tournament squad, and their football team just transitioned to D-I in 2007. 

Their first season of D-I play was 2008, and they had a relatively auspicious start: in their first four games, they went 2-2, dropping games (understandably) to Alabama and Indiana, but beating I-AA Eastern Kentucky and walloping Murray State, 50-9.

They haven't won since in 20 tries.

Any good Northwestern fan's ears perk up at this: 20 losses in a row? That's getting serious. Our program holds two things dear: the 1996 Rose Bowl appearance, and the FBS record 34-game losing streak we ran up in the 1980's. Look. It's there in the article I mentioned. We nearly lost to Eastern Michigan last year - they ended up going 0-12 - and I can't think of any reason for why besides the fact that our coaching staff understands that we hold that record dear. Can Western Kentucky catch us? 

Short answer? No.

Sure, the Hilltoppers went 0-12 last year, 0-8 in conference. But it wasn't a horrific 0-12. Yes, there's the 62-24 loss to Middle Tennessee. Yes, there's the 68 points they gave up to North Texas. YES, THEY LOST 28-7 TO FCS CENTRAL ARKANSAS. But there's the signs of life: their last three losses - 21-18 to Louisiana-Monroe, 29-23 to Florida Atlantic, and 24-20 to Arkansas State - those are close games right there. 

That, sirs, is not how you lose.

Squeakers do not a 34-game losing streak make. I want to act like it was difficult for me to find a stretch of games in which Northwestern was not mildly competitive in looking at their historical record, but, I immediately flipped in the media guide to NU's 1981 season, where they were shut out in five of six straight weeks (losing by at least 30 each time), then lost 61-14 to Michigan State and 70-6 to Ohio State.

THAT! THAT is how you lose, boys.

Western Kentucky, you think you've got what it takes to lose like we did? Well, you don't. You have too much skill to be us. You're downright competitive. 

The Hilltoppers fired their coach midway through last season, so you can tell they're devoted to eventually winning a game. Looking at their schedule, it won't come easy: Western Kentucky hasn't taken it easy with scheduling, and their out-of-conference is Nebraska, Kentucky, Indiana, and South Florida - all BCS teams. (Indiana, could you do a favor for your Big Ten comrade hear and take the dive? This record is important.) But they can win a game in-conference. Pre-Snap Read has the Hilltoppers at 118 - fellow Sun Belt member North Texas manages to come in below them. A win is not impossible.

If they go 0-12 this year, they open up next season with Kentucky and Navy in the hypothetical 33rd and 34th games in their losing streak, so things would look bleak for our hopes. Western Kentucky has to win a game this year for us to hold on to our record. It's vital.

Until Western Kentucky ekes out a win - preserving NU's seemingly unbreakable record for at least three more years - we here at Sippin on Purple will cast a keen eye on our brethren in Bowling Green. We're rooting for WKU to pull out that win as hard as humanly possible. Because that record is ours, and we have no intention of sharing it.

Go Hilltoppers!


photo via wikimedia commons