I’d like to send out a special thanks to Max Kaplan, our fearless researcher, who put together some great stats on our Big Ten “when it was 11 teams” conference which I thought might be of interest. We’ve broken down each school’s record over five, ten and sixteen (using 1995 as the starting point – of course!) year increments. We’ve done so to illustrate conference records, overall records, bowl appearances and essentially everything you need to know to equip yourself with ammo in the inevitable defense of our fair name.
The bottom line is that as a program, we’ve been on a whole, the epitome of average. Granted, we all know that there have been extreme peaks (three Big Ten titles) and valleys (see: end of Barnett era and early 2000s not named 2000) that are a much rockier road than our overall mediocre average. Plus, the Cardiac ‘Cats stats are missing, which, if we weren’t as good in close games, would paint a much worse picture. Several of you sent me this SB Nation stat geek fest post which addresses this point. Candidly, I shyed away from it because I didn’t completely understand all of the metrics. Let’s get on with the stat-heavy post.
LAST FIVE YEARS (Since 2006) – OVERALL
This is conveniently the “Fitz era” snapshot which many of you can recite chapter and verse. While we know Fitz’s overall record is 34-29, many don’t know his Big Ten record is a sub .500 18-22. We all are compassionate enough to have an asterisk next to 2006 since the 4-8 season was an absolute shell shock in the picking up the pieces triage in the wake of Randy Walker’s tragic death. Let’s take a look at the programs and their overall ranking during this time period, along with some interesting notes that will likely go a long way to either reinforcing general program perceptions and/or offer some actual facts to bring to light some misperceptions (it’s a bad day for your Illini colleagues!).
I’m not sure if Northwestern’s 34-29 record coming in 7th was a surprise or not to you. I thought we’d be fifth or sixth. Michigan jumped out as a bit of a surprise because of how extremely down they’ve been the past few years, but then you realize the same overall record RichRod had last year (7-6) ended in termination, while Fitz (7-6) was able to earn a 10-year contract. Obviously that is completely out of context, but you get the point. Despite the apocalyptic past few years at Michigan, they still outperformed NU in the Fitz era thanks to Lloyd Carr’s final seasons carrying the way. The above records look like the annual preseason prognostications of late, almost to a tee, if you move Michigan down below Northwestern. The most alarming stat to me was the horrible Top 25 performances by so many teams, but most notably Michigan State at 3-14 during this span. I was equally surprised by a 6-10 mark by Wisconsin. Northwestern’s Top 25 record is nothing to brag about (4-10), but there is one piece of fun Wildcataganda – “During the Fitz era, Northwestern has won as many Top 25 games as Purdue & Illinois combined (insert Minnesota OR Indiana in place of Purdue depending upon fan you are talking to). You can swap out Illinois for Michigan State in this equation as well.
Big Ten Conference Only Records Since 2006
Have you started to realize how much Ohio State is truly in a league of their own? Geesh. Just look at that. The 18-22 mark by Northwestern in Big Ten play in the Fitz era is nothing to pound the chest about, but the logjam between 4-7 in the above is what was most noticeable to me. Only three losses separate Michigan State and Iowa from Northwestern. Illinois and Purdue’s marks, only two behind NU in the W-L column also somewhat stunned me. I had both of them pegged for worse records during this stanza.
Big Ten Overall Records for Past 10 Years (Since 2001):
Whenever you play Wildcataganda, it always is more fun to pin it to five year intervals that are decade starters/finishers. “Since 1995…Since 2000…Since 2005…” are much better than “the past 10 seasons” at this point. However, to be fair, I thought it was worth a look. You and I know that if we had added 2000 then NU would be exactly 68-67 since the start of this century, but that’s for another day. In the above rankings since 2001, I was somewhat surprised by Penn State cracking the top four teams as the early 2000s were none to kind to the JoePas. I also was somewhat surprised by how close Iowa and Wisconsin are for bridesmaids honors in the Big Ten back-up band to Ohio State. I was most surprised by Michigan falling to number five over this long of a stretch which just goes to show you how quickly a couple of seasons can really sandbag a generation’s worth of work. Again, the poor Top 25 play by Penn State, Michigan State and Wisconsin really stood out. It stings to see NU below .500 in this ranking.
Big Ten Conference Only Over Past 10 Seasons:
I’m not sure what I expected here from NU but the 10-game under .500 total conference mark isn’t pretty. One thing of note was the fact our non-conference record during this decade-long span of games was 25-18, which to me, was surprisingly bad. Of course, we were 0-5 in bowl games, so the actual regular season non-conference mark was 25-13 which seemed more accurate in terms of what I expected. Of course, then I tried to instantly reel off the non-conference losses – Arizona State, TCU, Nevada, Duke…then I stopped. Why endure the pain? The most painful point here is that we are one of only four teams to not claim a share of a Big Ten title during the ten year stretch. Ugh.
Big Ten Overall Since 1995
The moral of this story is that not even the two Big Ten back-to-back champion seasons can catapult a 16-year span. It’s great to see a longevity stat that has NU on the right side of average, but I again expected us to have more distance between the W/L totals. No secret here that our atrocious bowl record is sandbagging us as we’ve gone 10 games OVER .500 in regular season play since 1995 (98-88). I was shocked by Sparty’s nearly similar bowl ineptitude (had no idea). And this is the telltale stat for the Illini fans. I always scream that they don’t get the cellar treatment we got for so many years and yet they are 46 games UNDER .500 since 1995 – 46!!!!!!!!!
Big Ten Conference Only Since 1995
Yes, NU has put up a plus .500 record in Big Ten play over the past three seasons (13-11), but the above stat box really does have Wildcataganda all over it. Consider that 15 of the 60 wins came in 1995 and 1996 and the 45-67 since then isn’t nearly as rosy a picture. However, we did earn them and they count just as much now as they did then, but this is the one category – Big Ten record over a substantial time – that will be the perception driver. As you can see, getting over 50% in this category and you are essentially an upper tier program. It also has the most oomph when you say it. Team X is ranked Y in the Big Ten in conference record over the past Z years. No non-conference “X” factor, you’ve got to be solid for a long time to crack the upper tier here. To me, this is the one that is the true barometer of success for the program. Of course, AFTER we finally end that damn bowl drought.
So, what sticks out to you on this stat-filled day?
LTP Tickets – Purple Pledge
Kudos to GTom for pushing a new Wildcat parent to lock and load on four season tickets. We’ve got a long way to go, but we’re THIS close to eclipsing the 10% to goal mark. We set a goal of 500 NEW season tickets through the friends of LTP and we’re not quite yet at 50. We’ve got a ton of ground to make up and we’re closing in on t-minus 90 days to kickoff, so let’s start cranking it up folks!
Army To Big East?
As we keep an eye on our 2011 opponents, this post by ESPN.com’s Brian Bennett caught my eye. Army and Navy are rumored to be potential expansion targets for Big East football as the quest to quilt a hodge-podge completely-different-football-from-basketball-league continues. The push is to get a 12 team conference to retain BCS status and generate more TV revenue and of course the cherry-on-top of a championship game. Army is a 2011 Wildcat opponent and will venture to Ryan Field in 2015.
Small Makes Ohio State Transgressions Big Again
For the love of God, can someone please make the Ohio State drama stop. Above you see a generation of rarified mastery in Big Ten play as the Buckeyes are so far out in front of the rest of the pack they’ve become the default brand of the Big Ten in our on-field reputation battles. Now, we’re all collectively hoping to bury them. The latest national headline grabber is former WR Ray Small (2006-2010) offering up a tellall to the Buckeyes’ student newspaper. As you can see in this ESPN.com report Small makes no secret about the car deals and the players’ decisions to take advantage of the love they were given. This is heading down an ugly path quickly.
Big Ten Doings
- Gene Wojciechwoski goes to bat for Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany who recently took the stand that the cost of living adjustment gap for student-athletes needs to be adjusted. It equates to an annual $3000 proposed stipend – $8.22 per day (year-round) to address the growing “actual sticker price” difference of going to college on a “full ride”.
- Michigan freshman WR DJ Williamson has decided to transfer adding to the list of players leaving with the regime change.
- Wisconsin is still very much in the hunt for the services of NC State QB transfer Russell Wilson who is also considering Auburn.
Dillo Day Means Lacrosse Final Four
Northwestern’s infamous Dillo Day is this Saturday, an annual rite of passage at the Evanston campus. While students let loose on the lakefront with a slew of bands and brew, the women’s lacrosse team will be vying for a sixth national title. The Final Four action begins tomorrow afternoon in Stony Brook, NY as NU faces North Carolina in the national semifinal. BW3 in Evanston will be hosting an official “Watch Party” for the weekend’s games starting with the ‘Cats game at 6:30 pm ct tomorrow. Here is the official release from Northwestern and Buffalo Wild Wings:
“This weekend, Buffalo Wild Wings will be your host for the official Northwestern Lacrosse NCAA Championship watch party. Join fellow Wildcat lacrosse fans at Buffalo Wild Wings in Evanston this Friday to watch the Wildcats take on North Carolina in the National Semifinals. The semifinal match will be shown on the big screen Friday at 6:30 p.m. Should the Wildcats win on Friday, you can come back to Buffalo Wild Wings to see them play in the National Championship at 3 p.m. on Sunday. Come down and support the ‘Cats as they go for their sixth National Championship.”
Buffalo Wild Wings is located at 1741 Maple Avenue in downtown Evanston.