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Help us determine the best Northwestern football team of all time!

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For all of you out there that are feeling kind of empty this March, we’ve got a different kind of bracket coming your way.

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As we’ve mentioned on this site in the past week, the decision made by the NCAA last week to put a stop to college sports for the rest of the year was absolutely the right one, given the severity of the threat that coronavirus poses. That said, it still sucks that we’ve lost March Madness basketball in 2020.

There is nothing quite like filling out a bracket with nearly infinite combinations, then getting to watch those 67 games for three weeks in a row. Sure, the Northwestern men’s basketball team didn’t come close to qualifying for any kind of post-season tournament, but I’m sure many of you still planned on being glued to your couches during those fateful weekends.

And of course, for the women’s basketball team here at Northwestern, this was absolutely devastating. They were best basketball team in Northwestern history, male of female, full stop (more on that soon!). What they accomplished in not only qualifying for the tournament, but also winning one of the toughest conferences in America and having analysts debate whether they might be NATIONAL TITLE CONTENDERS is utterly unbelievable.

So how do we cope with this loss? Well, there are many brackets circulating throughout the Twitter-sphere, from tournaments where fans vote for the best college basketball team of the 21st century, to a divisive fast-food bracket. Naturally, I thought you guys, our loyal readers here at Inside NU, deserved your own bracket to vote on, so I constructed a field of what I think are the 16 best Northwestern football teams of all-time.

Yes, it’s not basketball. Why? Because that would be a waste of time.

The 2017 men’s basketball team is far-and-away the best mens’s team in the NCAA Tournament era, and ditto for this year’s women’s team. We’d just be kidding ourselves by voting and playing out a bracket when we all know what the outcome would be (though competition for #2 would certainly be intriguing in both cases).

But the football program? It’s established itself to the point where there actually is room for nuance in deciding who the best team in the history of the university.

Some basic info: I did not use any high-tech algorithm or model for this. The basis was me scrolling through college football reference pages and using my intuition and knowledge of college football history.

I also put most teams pre-modern era in the bottom seeds, as there’s obviously been an improvement in overall collegiate talent since then. However, they should not be dismissed. The ‘36 Cats were one win away from winning the national championship and even defeated the eventual national champions in Minnesota earlier that season. The 1943 team only allowed an average of three points per game in games they won. The 1959 team literally ended the longest winning streak in college football history!

But hey, the decision is still up to all of our readers. You’re the most devoted and passionate Wildcat football fans on the planet, and if anyone truly knows who was the greatest team to ever dawn the purple and the white, it’s you.

Below, you will find all eight first round matchups. Displeased with the seeding/selection? Have any further comments you’d like to share? Let us know below! But for now, let the voting commence.


Poll

1995 Northwestern vs 1971 Northwestern

This poll is closed

  • 98%
    ‘95 Northwestern
    (279 votes)
  • 1%
    ‘71 Northwestern
    (5 votes)
284 votes total Vote Now

1995 Northwestern: 10-2 (8-0), Highest Ranking: #3, Final Ranking: #8

Best Win: 17-15 @ #9 Notre Dame. Worst Loss: 28-30 vs Miami (OH)

1971 Northwestern: 7-4 (6-3), Highest Ranking: #20, Final Ranking: Unranked

Best Win: 14-10 @ #16 Ohio State,.Worst Loss: 7-24 @ Illinois

Poll

1936 Northwestern vs 2008 Northwestern

This poll is closed

  • 85%
    ‘36 Northwestern
    (229 votes)
  • 14%
    ‘08 Northwestern
    (39 votes)
268 votes total Vote Now

1936 Northwestern: 7-1 (6-0), Highest Ranking: #1 (three times), Final Ranking: #7

Best Win: 6-0 vs #1 Minnesota. Worst Loss: 6-26 vs #11 Notre Dame

2008 Northwestern: 9-4 (5-3), Highest Ranking: #22, Final Ranking: Unranked

Best Win: 22-17 @ Iowa. Worst Loss: 19-21 @ Indiana

Poll

2017 Northwestern vs 2009 Northwestern

This poll is closed

  • 89%
    ‘17 Northwestern
    (231 votes)
  • 10%
    ‘09 Northwestern
    (27 votes)
258 votes total Vote Now

2017 Northwestern: 10-3 (7-2), Highest Ranking: #17, Final Ranking: #17

Best Win: 39-31 vs #16 Michigan State. Worst Loss: 17-41 @ Duke

2009 Northwestern: 8-5 (5-3), Highest Ranking: Unranked, Final Ranking: Unranked

Best Win: 17-10 @ #8 Iowa. Worst Loss: @ Syracuse 34-37

Poll

2018 Northwestern vs 1962 Northwestern

This poll is closed

  • 44%
    ‘18 Northwestern
    (116 votes)
  • 55%
    ‘62 Northwestern
    (143 votes)
259 votes total Vote Now

2018 Northwestern: 9-5 (8-1), Highest Ranking: #20, Final Ranking: #21

Best Win: 31-17 vs #20 Wisconsin. Worst Loss: 34-39 vs Akron

1962 Northwestern: 7-2 (4-2), Highest Ranking: #1, Final Ranking: Unranked

Best Win: 18-14 @ #6 Ohio State. Worst Loss: 7-31 vs Michigan State

Poll

2012 Northwestern vs 1948 Northwestern

This poll is closed

  • 33%
    ‘12 Northwestern
    (83 votes)
  • 66%
    ‘48 Northwestern
    (166 votes)
249 votes total Vote Now

2012 Northwestern: 10-2 (8-0), Highest Ranking: #17, Final Ranking: #17

Best Win: 34-20 vs Mississippi State. Worst Loss: 28-30 vs Miami (OH)

1948 Northwestern: 8-2 (5-1), Highest Ranking: #3, Final Ranking: #7

Best Win: 20-14 vs #4 California, Worst Loss: 0-28 @ #4 Michigan

Poll

2015 Northwestern vs 1940 Northwestern

This poll is closed

  • 41%
    ‘15 Northwestern
    (102 votes)
  • 58%
    ‘40 Northwestern
    (141 votes)
243 votes total Vote Now

2015 Northwestern: 10-3 (6-2), Highest Ranking: #12, Final Ranking: #23

Best Win: 16-6 vs #21 Stanford (finished #3). Worst Loss: 6-45 vs Tennessee

1940 Northwestern: 6-2 (4-2), Highest Ranking: #17, Final Ranking: #8

Best Win: 20-0 vs #14 Notre Dame. Worst Loss: 13-20 @ #6 Michigan

Poll

1996 Northwestern vs 1959 Northwestern

This poll is closed

  • 91%
    ‘96 Northwestern
    (224 votes)
  • 8%
    ‘59 Northwestern
    (20 votes)
244 votes total Vote Now

1996 Northwestern: 9-3 (7-1), Highest Ranking: #11, Final Ranking: #15

Best Win: 17-16 vs #6 Michigan. Worst Loss: 27-28 @ Wake Forest

1959 Northwestern: 6-3 (4-3), Highest Ranking: #2, Final Ranking: Unranked

Best Win: 45-13 vs #2 Oklahoma. Worst Loss: 0-28 @ Illinois

Poll

2000 Northwestern vs 1943 Northwestern

This poll is closed

  • 55%
    ‘00 Northwestern
    (135 votes)
  • 44%
    ‘43 Northwestern
    (110 votes)
245 votes total Vote Now

2000 Northwestern: 8-4 (6-2), Highest Ranking: #12, Final Ranking: Unranked

Best Win: 54-51 vs #12 Michigan. Worst Loss: 14-41 @ #20 TCU

1943 Northwestern: 6-2 (5-1), Highest Ranking: #8, Final Ranking: #9

Best Win: 13-0 vs #14 Great Lakes Navy. Worst Loss: 7-21 vs Michigan