Well, here we are folks. The college football season is underway, and the Big Ten is watching from home. For how long? Who knows. Saturday was supposed to be the first game of the league’s conference-only schedule, when Northwestern would take on Penn State.
Instead, it passed as just another weekend day.
Although some may have already found another school to adopt for the season, the rest of us will miss the Cardiac ‘Cats, and the thought of donning anything else but purple doesn’t sit right.
But a lot of things in 2020 don’t sit right. And considering how much more interesting game days become when you have a team to follow, we’ve put together a (non-exhaustive) list of potential teams Northwestern fans (and Inside NU) could adopt this fall.
One could easily make the argument Vanderbilt is the Northwestern of the SEC. Vandy’s status as a small, private university in a Power 5 conference with its historic ineptitude on the gridiron is already enough to liken the two schools. Vanderbilt, like NU, is a top 20 university according to US News and World Report, and has only four bowl game victories to its name. Ever.
The ‘Dores also finished last season with a 3-9 record and just one conference win. This fall, they are looking to rebound, but it will be tough. They play in a tough SEC East, sporting top 10 squads Georgia and Florida; and they’ve already faced some obstacles this offseason, from positive COVID cases halting practice to a number of starters opting out. Don’t expect too much if you decide to roll with Vandy, but if you want to throw things at the TV, look no further.
Another plus, though, is that the Commodores are in-state rivals with Tennessee. And per the 2016 Outback Bowl, we hate Tennessee.
On the surface, these Wildcats may not share many similarities with Northwestern beyond the team mascot. Look a little closer, though, and there is a lot that makes Kentucky an ideal team to root for.
Kentucky has never been a football juggernaut in the high-powered SEC, but like NU, it has been on the upswing during the past decade. UK has made four consecutive bowl game appearances, having won their last two (their last loss came to, yes, Northwestern). What really makes the two teams similar are their makeups.
This fall, Kentucky returns 78 percent of its defense that ranked 34th in SP+ last year. Furthermore, the unit is led by a talented linebacking core of NFL prospects. Sound familiar?
If that’s not compelling enough for you, its biggest unknown is how productive the passing offense can be. Senior quarterback Terry Wilson returns after suffering a season-ending knee injury in the team’s second game last year.
There are definitely shades of 2018 Northwestern in this Kentucky team if you are so inclined.
You know why this one’s here. One reason only. Former long-time Northwestern offensive coordinator Mick McCall is ISU’s new running backs coach. McCall, who served as the OC for the ‘Cats for eleven seasons, didn’t leave Evanston on the best note, with his offense finishing 2019 as the fourth worst out of 130 FBS teams.
However, McCall did lead the ‘Cats to some magic moments during his tenure at Northwestern, and we should certainly be rooting for him in his new position with the Cyclones. He won’t be calling the plays anymore, but god do we want it to feel like fall.
Regardless of whether or not you’re going to root for the Cyclones, you shouldn’t miss them in action against Louisiana-Lafayette next Saturday, in what will be the first game of a full weekend of college football. If we’re lucky, maybe we’ll get the chance to witness some good ol’ speed options on draws on third down. For old time’s sake.
TL;DR: if you want a sense of normalcy in 2020, the only way to do so is to continue rooting for a Mick McCall-coached offense.
They’re purple. They’re Wildcats. Their mascot is named Willie. It all lines up, except that Toto, we aren’t in Evanston anymore.
(In earnest, we’ll take NU Willie over KSU Willie 8 days per week.)
Who should you root for (and we follow)? Vote below, and sound off in the comments section and on Twitter.
What team should Inside NU adopt this season?
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