The concept of Northwestern being a better road team than a home team among this readership hardly classifies as news. It has been somewhat well-documented Northwestern is 10-3 on the road since the start of the 2008 season in all games. When you dig a little further you find we are 7-2 in the Big Ten (3-1 non-conference) during that same span. On the flip side since 2008 at Ryan Field NU is just 4-6 in Big Ten play since the start of 2008. You can dress the Ryan Field home record up rather nicely by adding the 8-0 non-conference mark since the start of the ’08 season which makes the overall home field record 12-6 during that span. Of course, the overall 22-9 regular season mark since the start of 2008 season is the most impressive state-of-recent success program buiding stat out there. Let’s peel it back, shall we?
First, the Ryan Field home record. As stated it is 12-6 since the start of ’08. The non-conference 8-0 mark during that span is hardly the stuff to pound your chest about. The ‘Cats wins – in order – are – (2008) Syracuse, Southern Illinois, Ohio (2009) Towson, Eastern Michigan, Miami (OH) 2010 Illinois State and Central Michigan. ‘Nufff said. The last ‘Cats non-conference loss was the (I can’t believe I’m mentioning it) Duke debacle on September 15, 2007 (20-14 heartbreaker). For those of us in attendance during those games, we can attest the home field “advantage” played far less of a role than the quality of the opponent. The good news is that has all changed as Northwestern formally announced last night on NUSports.com that both the Iowa and Illinois games are soldout. Enter transition to how you can help – but first…
The Big Ten home record of 4-6 since the start of the 2008 season. Put another way, 2/3 of our 9 total regular season losses in the past 2.5 seasons have been Big Ten home games. Let’s hit the painful reminder button on the six losses:
- 2010 – #7 Michigan State 35-27, Purdue 20-17
- 2009 – #12 Penn State 34-13, Minnesota 35-24
- 2008 – #12 Ohio State 45-10, #23 Michigan State 37-20
Obviously, four of the six losses during that span are ranked teams. We were ranked by one poll heading in to the Purdue game and I believe favored only in the Purdue game of the six (need to double-check that Minnesota opener in ’09). If you’re a fan of historical trends, then you’ll love the fact we’re 2-2 in Big Ten home games in ’08 and ’09 which would mean winning our next two would be consistent with the trend (a stretch of epic proportions I know – not the wins – the trend having relevance). The four Big Ten wins during that time?
- 2009 – #17 Wisconsin 33-31, Indiana 30-28
- 2008 -Illinois 27-10, Purdue 48-26
OK, not exactly world beaters based on opponent, and of the above I’d give both the Wisconsin and Illinois games a slight home field advantage as the crowds were pretty jacked in those games and in particular the Wisconsin upset you could feel the team feeding off of the energy. Again, these were both late afternoon games that went in to the night which helped contribute to the electricity (and directly contradicted by this year’s Purdue egg-laying).
Now, let’s get to the Wildcataganda of the 10-3 road record since the start of 2008. In reverse order, here is every win and loss:
2010 - W @Minnesota 29-28, W @Rice 30-13, W @ Vanderbilt 23-21
2009 – W @ Illinois 21-16, W @ #4 Iowa 17-10, L @ Michigan State 24-14, W @Purdue 27-21, L @Syracuse 37-34
2008 - W @ Michigan 21-14, W @ #25 Minnesota 24-17, L @ Indiana 21-19, W @ Iowa 22-17, W @ Duke 24-20
If you want the definition of the ‘Cats playing to the level of the opponent, look no further than behind the 10-3 road record. Think about this. Northwestern over the course of 2 and a half seasons has only 3 losses inclusive of every Big Ten game. Those three losses are to a bad 2008 Indiana team, a bad 2009 Syracuse train and an average Michigan State team. While we certainly won our fair share of super tight games, you realize how in reach 12-1 on the road could be since the start of 2008. The 10-3 overall road record is somewhat ridiculous when put in to national context. The company NU is in for total road wins since the start of the 2008 season reads like a BCS bowl bid party:
1)Boise State 15-0
7)TIEDNorthwestern 10-3, Texas 10-1, Oregon 10-4 and Georgia Tech 10-5
Your cynical and calling Wildcataganda on me. I get it. My first instinct when unearthing this gem in the NU game notes (Kudos Mike Wolf and team!) was the fact it was slanted by NU playing more non-conference road games than other BCS schools. Again, remember that this includes opponents ALL road games. The ranking is nearly the same when you rank by win percentage. Check it out:
1)Boise State 15-0 (100%)
2)Alabama 11-1 (91.7%)
3)Texas 10-1 (90.9%)
4)Florida 9-1 (90%)
5)TCU 12-2 (85.7%)
6)Utah 12-3 (80%)
7)Missouri 7-2 (77.8%) – note – remarkable Mizzou has had only 9 total road games since beginning of ’08!
8)Northwestern 10-3 (76.9%)
9)USC 12-4 (75%)
10)Cincinnati 12-4 (75%)
I don’t need to tell you the above is veritable cornucopia of Wildcataganda. Did you know since the start of the ’08 season Northwestern has only 1 less road win than Alabama? Go ahead – mix and match and reposition to your heart’s content. “We’re tied with Texas and Oregon for road wins (10) since the start of the ’08 season”.
I can geek out all day on this stuff, but I’ve yet to provide a rationale explanation for the success. Could it be we feed off of packed houses, the underdog mentality and relish the “us against the world” approach? Are there too many distractions the week of home games? Is it simply the match-ups within the given year? Is it simply random? I’d love to go in-depth with Dan Persa, Fitz and other players as to their theories on this. The white elephant in the room is that Ryan Field hasn’t been much of a home field advantage.
Yes, Saturday was electric at Ryan Field. However, the embarassment of 18,000 Spartan fans actually becoming a nuisance on third down situations in our own building is unacceptable. Big time recruit Miles Shuler gave the NU official visit rave reviews and cited the win would’ve been the icing on the cake and made the weekend a “10″ (he ranked it an 8.8). He walked away extremely impressed, loves Fitz, loves the coaches and loved the gameday experience (see my rationale on I’ll take a full house with 60/40 NU vs a 95% NU but 20,000 empty seats recruiting theory). I would argue while I can’t explain the road success, I can say that a packed Ryan Field could contribute to .5 – 1.5 wins per year. A series of key third downs that cause communication problems for opposing QBs. A timely delay of game or false start penalty (I believe we caused one on Saturday). The intangible of incredible momentum and energy feeding of the players off of the crowd. It matters. Big time.
Finally, here is the call to action. Over-the-top kudos to Jim Phillips and Northwestern for getting the university to invest in his vision. As mentioned above, we sold out the Iowa game and the Wrigley game – no matter how you slice it – our last two home games of the year. Yes, I’m convinced it will be a true home game at Wrigley, but that’s not the point. It is October and Northwestern is formally pushing for season ticket reservations for 2011 NOW. I’m told the 2011 schedule is coming out extremely soon, but due to the Big Ten reorg, the trickle down effect of the Rice home game needing to move meant serious shuffling. Now that we are sold out the rest of the season at home (see how I did that?) NU obviously wants very much to flaunt the schedule for new season ticket holders. We know Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State, Minnesota and Eastern Illinois are set (and in terms of name power to new season ticket holders – likely in that order despite Michigan’s fall from grace). We need to work together NOW to ramp up ticket sales.
Imagine Michigan State winning the Big Ten and going to the BCS. Now imagine they can only get 5,000 tickets for 2011. Imagine Saturday being nearly all purple because every reader here simply recruited 1 new season ticket holder to buy a pair. When I launched this blog in 2007, this was the dream. A program that went bowling every year and made runs at Big Ten titles. We’re still in the build, but we’re getting closer (I think?). It is extremely rare for us to have built up the momentum to a point we we can say “all home games the rest of the way are sold out” and if we can somehow beat Indiana and Penn State to return home 7-2, dear God is this a once in a generation opportunity to finally reclaim the magic of Ryan/Dyche from ’95-’98. Those home close games go our way, the program continues to rise and life is grand. I can taste it.
I’m trying to work with NU to figure out a way how I can use LTP to make this happen and directly tie it to new sales. Stay tuned, but in the meantime, I need you to step up and become a salesperson to just one NEW buyer of 2 season tickets. Let’s do it…