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Stats are for Losers, Week 1 (vs. Cal)

Your weekly look at the stats that matter, don't matter, and have no bearing on reality. If you read this, be assured that Fitz thinks you are a loser.

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Fitz responding to the press (likely deriding stats or recruiting rankings).
Fitz responding to the press (likely deriding stats or recruiting rankings).
Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Another season begins anew. As previously mentioned here, Northwestern is undefeated in season openers under Fitz, so let's explore in further detail:

NU has won 9 consecutive season openers (8 of those under Fitz) by an average margin of 16.2 points per game. Dating back to 1995, the 'Cats are 15-4 in the first game of the season. NU is 13-4 ATS during that span (2 of the games were against FCS teams and didn't have a Vegas line).

Northwestern was tied or ahead at halftime in all 15 of those games that they went on to win and was behind in the 4 games that they lost. In fact, NU was tied or ahead at the end of the first quarter in all but 5 of the games (which included the 4 aforementioned losses, plus the 2008 game versus Syracuse when NU pulled ahead for good in the second quarter).

Unfortunately for the Wildcats, the game is being shown on ABC (regional, ESPN2 reverse mirror) and NU has not fared well on the broadcast network recently, having lost their last 11 games on the network (by an average margin of defeat of 26.0). But, this will be the first time that NU is favored (current line, NU -11) when appearing on ABC since 2001 (game one of the 11 game streak). In the intervening span, NU was an underdog by an average of 12.9 points/game.

All-time, NU is 65-20-2 when opening the season at home with an average scoring margin of +11.3 points/game.

Northwestern QBs have had completion percentages above 60% in the last 11 NU season openers, including a highwater mark of 90.5% against Vanderbilt in 2010 (Dan Persa). The total completion rate over that span of games is 69.7% (with an interception rate of just 2.3%) while throwing for 19 TDs.

Back to the spread (NU -11), the 'Cats are 13-2 under Fitz when favored by double digits (FBS competition only), although NU lost the last such game (vs. Minnesota, 2013, when NU was a 12 point favorite). Northwestern's average scoring margin in those games is +12.5 points/game.

The O/U for the game is currently 61. Under Fitzgerald, NU has played in 13 games with an O/U of 60 or greater, and the 'Cats are 6-7 in those games (the last such game being NU's 2013 loss to OSU, which also had an O/U of 61). The 'Cats have averaged 32.4 points/game in these contests.

While NU is not currently ranked, the 'Cats received votes in both the preseason Coaches and AP polls. Meanwhile, Cal did not receive a vote in either. Under Fitzgerald, the Wildcats are 22-8 when receiving at least a vote in both polls and facing an opponent who did not receive votes in either poll.


Fitz was featured in an article from USA Today's Paul Myerberg about the increasing usage of statistics in college football. Yes, not only does Fitz think that stats are for losers, but he included the fact that NU follows over 40 specific stats nowadays.