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A bunch of reasons why Northwestern will almost certainly beat Cal

Cal was really really bad at football last year. Northwestern was okay. This, plus Northwestern's undying hatred of fellow nerds and Haakon, Crown Prince of Norway, lead me to believe Northwestern will beat the hell out of Cal.

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The day approaches. Northwestern is mere hours away from beginning its football season. And although we're excited for a new year, especially to douse ourselves with mouthwash to erase the lingering vomit taste of the 2013 season, there's a little part of us that's naturally apprehensive.

We have never seen the 2014 Northwestern Wildcats play. We have never seen the 2014 Cal Golden Bears play. What if NU starts its season off on a bad foot? What if a Wildcats team that lost its starting running back, best wide receiver, and starting defensive tackle for the season isn't as good as we hoped? What if the players are too frenzied from their unionizing effort to even think about football, even five months later? What if we lose, starting the season 0-1 and sending us careening down a path to football hell?

Stop your worrying, friends. I'm here to tell you that Northwestern will almost certainly clobber the ever-loving crap out of Cal, and here's why.

1. Cal is aggressively bad at football

Remember how awful the 2013 football season was for Northwestern? They lost more games than they won. They only won a single conference game in eight tries. They kept losing in gross, disappointing ways that sapped our will to watch. It was an disappointment, far below the standards we've come to expect as Northwestern fans over the past few seasons.

It was a walk in the park compared to Cal's season, a vicious maelstrom of suck that Northwestern hasn't experienced in over 20 years.

We could spell this out in simple terms: Cal went 1-11 in Sonny Dykes' first year as head coach, 0-8 in conference play. Their lone win was against Portland State, a .500 FCS team, and that was kind of a squeaker -- Cal trailed 30-27 in the fourth quarter before scoring ten unanswered. Northwestern won 500 percent more games than Cal last year.

We could also spell this out in more complex terms. Look at Bill Connelly's preview of Cal, a team he placed in 12th place, alone in the fourth, bottom tier of the Pac-12. Look upon the full extent of their crappiness, and despair.

Cal was horrendous at defense, 124th in points allowed and yards allowed out of the 125 teams in the FBS. They were in the bottom five in points per trip within the 40-yard line, and they were dead last in allowing big plays and dead last in sack percentage on passing downs. The 44 points allowed against Northwestern was actually better than their average of 45.9.

Cal was horrendous at offense. Although Dykes is hailed as an offensive mastermind and plays an up-tempo Air Raid -- Bear Raid! -- style that was tremendously successful at Louisiana Tech, his first year didn't go spectacularly even in his area of expertise. The team's yardage numbers look decent -- nearly 4,000 passing yards, 10th in the nation -- but that's just because the sheer number of plays they ran, second in the nation. They ranked 103rd in offensive efficiency. QB Jared Goff averaged just a smidge under six yards per passing attempt -- that's bad -- and the team didn't seek to establish -- nor did they establish -- a run game. Essentially, they very quickly ran a lot of bad plays, at which point your speed kinda becomes a detriment.

Cal was even horrendous at special teams. They had the least efficient punting game in the country, and were one of the worst teams in the country on both kickoffs and kick returns.

There were mitigating factors -- a slew of injuries, a new head coach with a system the team wasn't built for, a true freshman quarterback -- and Cal could be much better this year. They could be healthier, better prepared to play Dykes' system, and Goff could be a better quarterback. But the thing they're improving from is a football abomination. At best, they will be very bad.

As such, I think Northwestern will beat the hell out of Cal.

2. Northwestern always wins openers


As such, I think Northwestern will beat the hell out of Cal.

3. We take our nerd-battles seriously

Cal is a really, really good school. I don't think I'm egregiously horn-tooting by saying Northwestern's a pretty good school, too. When people from good schools talk to each other, they have to argue and bicker until its eventually decided whose school is better. I'm not sure why this is a big deal; everybody knows that whoever can pee the longest went to the best school. (Harvard's pee-distance facilities are incredible.)

However, sometimes there are non-pee methods of figuring this out. Like the US News and World Repot college rankings. We use these because the only reason US News and World Report exists is to rank colleges -- have you ever read, like, an article in there? Do they offer World News and reports on the US, or just vice-versa? -- and since that's the only reason they exist, they are probably great at it. WE WILL HEAR OF NO OTHER RANKINGS.

Anyway, they rank Northwestern No. 12 and Cal No. 20. I guess what I'm trying to say is: in spite of being tremendous nerds, Cal fans are still not as smart as Northwestern fans. Real bummer of a double-whammy.

However, sometimes we decide school-betterness via football. In those situations, Northwestern is dominant. Since 1995 -- A YEAR WE PICKED FOR NO PARTICULAR REASON -- the Wildcats are 15-3 against schools such top-20 US News and World Report schools (8-2 vs. Duke, 3-1 vs. Rice, perfect records vs. Cal, Notre Dame, and Vanderbilt.) 15-3 is a really good record.

As such, I think Northwestern will beat the hell out of Cal.

4. The boys are back in town

Northwestern lost some talent this offseason. Kain Colter, last year's starting QB, is now a wide receiver with the Vikings. Starting running back Venric Mark decided abruptly he'd rather play for West Texas A&M to be closer to his family.

It ain't no thang against Cal. Colter only threw one pass last year against Cal, with Trevor Siemian -- now our full-time starter -- taking over and leading NU to the win after Colter got concussed early. Mark only had 29 yards on 11 carries, struggling with injuries for a lot of the game, while Treyvon Green -- again, now our starter -- had 129 yards on 15 carries with two touchdowns.

Northwestern beat Cal last year with Northwestern's backups. Those backups are now the starters, and they'll get the season off right.

Also, Collin Ellis had two pick-sixes. We should talk about that more.

Anyway, these are players who make me think Northwestern will beat the hell out of Cal.

5. This video

As such, I think Northwestern will beat the hell out of Cal.

6. Haakon, Crown Prince of Norway

Although I no longer run this blog day-to-day, I still remember the reasons I founded it: Firstly, to cheer about Northwestern sports, secondly, to warn the world about the upcoming disaster that is the potential reign of Haakon, Crown Prince of Norway.

As we all know, the Kingdom of Norway is the most beautiful and bounteous land in all of Scandinavia. I cannot in words describe the grave danger that will befall the Kingdom of Norway should Haakon, Crown Prince of Norway arise to the throne.

There are very rare occasions when the two purposes of this blog intersect, so I was able to keep my thinkpieces about the threat posed by Haakon, Crown Prince of Norway separate from my Northwestern sports posts. However, since Haakon, Crown Prince of Norway is, of course, a Cal grad, on this occasion we write about both.

Last year I wrote an imaginary dialogue of Pat Fitzgerald's pre-game speech to the Wildcats. Although it was merely hypothetical, sources within the Northwestern sports department that what I wrote was, in fact, a word-for-word prediction of the actual pre-game speech delivered by coach Fitz before Northwestern's win. I'll reprint it here:

Guys, I know we're pretty rared up to beat Cal here. We've been waiting all year. And our chance to make our legacy starts here.

Team: YEAH

But let's get serious for a moment. Guys, flip it on.

(Suddenly, the lights switch off, and an overhead projector whirs into action. After a few seconds, it shows that screen every overhead projector ever shows when turned on. But soon, it begins projecting an image onto the wall:

It's a picture of Haakon, Crown Prince of Norway. The room is filled with gasps. Someone shrieks. Traveon Henry stands up, points at the picture, and stammers for a few seconds before fainting out of shock.)

Kain Colter: Not Haakon, Crown Prince of Norway!


(Venric Mark vomits onto Mike Trumpy, and leaves the room)

Ibraheim Campbell: Coach, this is outrageous! You can't expect to show us a picture of Haakon, Crown Prince of Norway, and expect us to focus on the task at hand!

Fitz: There's a reason I'm showing you this. Haakon, Crown Prince of Norway, is a Cal grad. Those men on the opposite sideline? They stand for everything Haakon, Crown Prince of Norway stands for. They're going to give you their all today, and if they're victorious, that means everything. That means that what this man (points to picture) believes in is right.

This game isn't just about football. This game isn't just 60 minutes to determine whether we're 1-0 or 0-1. This game isn't about the Rose Bowl, or me, or you.

This game is about the future of Norway. Now boys, are you with me? Or are you with Haakon, Crown Prince of Norway?


I imagine coach Fitz will have some sort of Haakon, Crown Prince of Norway-themed speech again this year, and if we know one thing about the Northwestern Wildcats, it's that when Haakon, Crown Prince of Norway is the opponent, they will not lose.

As such, I think Northwestern will beat the hell out of Cal.

7. Mascot fight

You're probably thinking I'm off the rails here -- how could a puny feral cat, barely larger than our housecats, beat a golden bear?

The answer is simple: while a bear is a godless killing machine, a golden bear is a bear that is made out of gold. This is inanimate, and therefore cannot best an animal in a fight. (Some would argue that the inanimate object's inability to die would make it the eventual winner. I would argue that we will change this, week-by-week, depending on how it fits our needs.)

The Golden Bear is the top prize at the Berlin International Film Festival, which, while prestigious, is not particularly threatening. The team itself is named after the California Grizzly Bear, which was occasionally called "golden," and which is also extinct.

I think Northwestern wins this mascot fight on all fronts. And as such, will probably beat the hell out of Cal.

These are some of the many reasons Northwestern will most likely beat the hell out of Cal. Now you are aware