I am not going to sugarcoat it.
In today’s world, where chaos seamlessly unfolds after each period of chaos, perhaps nothing may have felt more therapeutic than an 11 a.m. game at Ryan Field today.
I take that back.
A whiteout at Beaver Stadium is pretty hard to beat.
According to the controversial Big Ten schedule released just days before the postponement of the 2020 fall football season, Northwestern was aligned to compete in a football game against the Penn State Nittany Lions in Happy Valley today.
Alas, it probably would not have been a whiteout with no more than 20 percent of Beaver Stadium’s capacity filled, but it would have been Northwestern playing Big Ten football. The ‘Cats very well may have lost by 20+. Or for all we know, an unsung Wildcat hero may have broken out and led Northwestern to a win in State College, resembling something eerily similar to Anthony Walker’s first career game for the Wildcats where he led the ‘Cats to a thrilling victory over Penn State with a pick six.
(4:30 mark for the pick six)
Of course, in the Wildcats first 2020 schedule version, prior to the 10-game conference-only slate, Northwestern was slated to play in East Lansing today. Fitz, seeking vengeance for all NU/Chicago Bears fans, would have had an opportunity to spoil the Spartan debut of former Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker.
And let’s not forget the last time the Wildcats traveled to East Lansing.
Coming off of three consecutive losses to the likes of Duke, Akron and Michigan, the Wildcats were in desperate need of a victory against the 20th ranked Spartans. Clayton Thorson, throwing for 373 yards, made the improbable happen in a must-win game for the Wildcats. The rest is history.
Northwestern somehow willed its way to an overtime victory against Nebraska the following week, thanks to a Thorson-led 99-yard drive with under two minutes remaining in regulation.
Northwestern went on to win out the remainder of its regular season Big Ten slate, earning a matchup with Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship.
Well, back to reality.
Here we are, on Sept. 5th, 2020, with the headlining game of the opening CFB week featuring either Eastern Kentucky and Marshall, Middle Tennessee State and Army or SMU and Texas State. Take your pick.
Whether or not it had to be this way, we will never know.
But, as National’s pitcher Sean Doolittle put it, “sports are like the reward of a functioning society.”
Major League Baseball is the only professional sports league in the midst of completing a non-bubble season. The NFL is gearing up to attempt the same mission. College football is a bit different than both though, due to student-athletes’ status of amateurism.
Still, the Big Ten has not modeled a functioning society since the pandemic struck. And, truthfully, more than every other power five conference (including the Pac-12), the shared incompetence and lack of unity throughout the Big Ten illustrates the primary reason why we are not watching our beloved Wildcats open its 2020 season on this gorgeous fall day.