Wildcataganda Stat Pack – That Team From South Bend

It has become common knowledge among college football blogs that we have recreated the start of football at Northwestern to be September 2, 1995. On that day we slung our rock at the mighty Goliath of football, Notre Dame, and as a 27-point underdog upset the Irish 17-15 beginning the most magical sports season not only in Northwestern history, but one of the most amazing rides in all of college sports – alltime.  It’s pretty fair to look at that date as the beginning of the beginning for Northwestern and the exact point in time where Notre Dame’s mystique quotient started to to trend to the other side of the axis.  I’ve often wondered, just what the two programs have looked like from that point, and surprisingly it wasn’t as stark as I thought – or had hoped.

The Irish hold an 18 game margin over Northwestern in the W-L column having gone 116-79 since the start of the 1995 season. Northwestern has just managed to creep over the .500 mark with a 98-97 record.  Both programs would rather throw out the bowl appearances as Northwestern, with its loss to Texas Tech, has tied Notre Dame’s all-time bowl losing streak mark at eight.  Both of these infamous stretches have happened for the Irish and the ‘Cats since 1995.  The two teams have gone a combined 2-18 in bowl games since the start of the 1995 season! Yikes.  Let’s take a look at the year-by-year records:

NU vs ND Since 1995

It just goes to show you the place where both programs have come from that there is somewhat of a surprise at the W-L discrepancy between the two programs.  I believe many folks would’ve expected it to be almost dead even between Northwestern and Notre Dame – those truly in the know – but I guess it is all relative.  Those 7-5 marks which were major image blows to Notre Dame are still considered a decent season at Northwestern.  I, for one, was shocked at the disparity.  If you stick to just regular season only games the winning percentage improves for both teams, but the W-L discrepancy barely moves as  Northwestern is 98-89 since 1995 and Notre Dame is 114-71 during the same stretch.  So, let’s dig in a little further.

Notre Dame gets crucified for playing a pretty soft schedule and essentially having a golden path to bowl stardom by beating up on the service academies mixed in with a MAC team here or there on top of the annual USC loss combined with a sprinkling of Big Ten match-ups that usually include Michigan, Purdue and  Michigan State and of course their Boston College series.  The USC and Michigan match-ups comprise nearly half of the ranked opponents they’ve played, but you might be surprised to see that Notre Dame has faced 62 Top 25 opponents since 1995 and Northwestern….drum roll please…..61. 

Notre Dame has gone 23-39 versus said ranked opponents and Northwestern, well, once again, below the Notre Dame bar at 21-40 against Top 25 teams.  We know Northwestern’s bowl record like chapter and verse by this point, but I thought it was worth pointing out Notre Dame’s bowl history since 1995 as it may shed some positive light on what will happen after the eighth loss in a row – a record we now share – continuing to pull the two programs toward the same line on the graph.  Let’s take a look:

  • 1995 season – 9-3 – Orange Bowl vs Florida State – L
  • 1997 seeason – 7-6 – Independence Bowl vs LSU – L
  • 1998 season – 9-3 – Gator Bowl vs Georgia Tech  – L
  • 2000 season – 9-3 – Fiesta Bowl vs Oregon State – L
  • 2002 season – 10-3 – Gator Bowl vs NC State – L
  • 2004 season – 6-6 – Insight Bowl vs Oregon State – L
  • 2005 season – 9-3 – Fiesta Bowl vs Ohio State – L
  • 2006 season – 10-3 – Sugar Bowl vs LSU – L
  • 2008 season -7-6 – Hawai’i Bowl vs Hawai’i – W
  • 2010 season – 8-5 – Sun Bowl vs Miami – W

Again, somewhat surprising that they’ve had two Fiesta Bowl appearances AND a Sugar Bowl appearance since the start of this century.  However, this is about Wildcataganda, so let’s try and help out Wildcat Nation with some tips on how to angle the argument in our favor.  There are two approaches, first, if you want to show equality among the programs and some history, 2003 is your friend:

  • Since 2003, Northwestern is 53-47 while Notre Dame is one win better at 54-45.  This is a good “historical” data point that we can build on in 2011, especially should Notre Dame lose early in the season and NU wins early in the season as we’ll have the same or better “W” totals.
  • Since 2003, Northwestern is 53-42 in regular season play.  Notre Dame is…drumroll…52-42. That’s right, during the past eight seasons, Northwestern has won more regular season games than Notre Dame.  THAT is the barroom bet stat right there my friends. 
  • Since 2003, Northwestern has also beaten more ranked opponents (9) than Notre Dame (8). 

The second strategy in Wildcataganda against Notre Dame is to use the Fitz era as the barometer – well, kind of.  2007 is your best friend in the Northwestern vs Notre Dame.  Obviously, it is a touchy one, as the 2006 season was a wash with the tragic passing of Coach Walker and that was indeed Fitz’s first year. However, after this upcoming season 2007 becomes the baseline for “the past five seasons”.  Check this out:

  • Since 2007 Northwestern is nine games over .500 with a 30-21 mark. Notre Dame is 24-26 since 2007.  Obviously, there are plenty of ways to have fun with this one. Northwestern has won six more games than Notre Dame since 2007 is likely your strongest.
  • Since 2007 Northwestern is 30-18 in regular season play while Notre Dame is 22-26 during the same span. Again, Northwestern has won eight more games than Notre Dame in regular season play since 2007 is a nice go-to barroom stat.
  • Since 2007, Northwestern beat four ranked opponents while Notre Dame has only one victory over a ranked team during  that same span. 

So, there you have it. While the overall stat pack comparing Northwestern and Notre Dame is not nearly as favorable as I would’ve liked or thought, you at least have some relevant recent stats to trot out to the uninformed masses this summer at the backyard BBQs.  LTP would like to thank the resourceful Max Kaplan for compiling all of the stats for this feature.

Speaking of Summer BBQs…

The ticket counter has been stuck. Who will be next to add to the new season ticket board? I’m thinking of upping the ante and getting some sweet prizes to add to the mix to the Wildcat Brand Ambassador of the year.  I know anonymous pride may not be enough, so give me a week or two to finalize a dandy LTP prize for this year’s biggest mover and shaker on the season ticket board.

  • Jim

    One quibble. I’m not sure where you got the idea that ND plays MAC teams mixed in “here or there.” Notre Dame does not have MAC teams mixed in here or there. I believe ND has played 1 MAC team in its history – Western Michigan, 2011.

  • I think that the more relevant measure is something like reputation/buzz and where it is headed. Northwestern’s “brand” has gone up greatly since 2 September 1995. Notre Dame, not so much. Even if NU’s W-L numbers since 1995 were not as strong as ND’s, the perception is that NU has progressed in the past 10-15 years – ND’s reputation has gone down.

    NU football is good, but not great – yet. Consistently going 7-6, 8-5, or even 9-4 will get you fired at some football schools (Alabama, Auburn, Ohio State, etc.). However, I’d prefer to see NU football in its current state (good football and clean program) than for NU to “sell its soul” to win a few more games per year.

    I take pride in the way that NU athletics (not just football) conducts themselves. I can tell people that I was an athlete at NU and get respect for not just NU’s athletic performance, but the way the program is conducted as well as the killer academics. I wonder how OSU athlete alums are feeling now…

    Go Cats!

  • Lake The Posts

    @jim -indeed. I meant to write MAC-level aka non-AQ level opponents. Thanks for the correction!

  • Consider victories over ranked opponents. ND’s win over Utah last year (then #15) was their best win over a ranked opponent since 2003!

    NU has notched more wins (and played more games) against ranked opponents since 2007

    ND has put up a 24-26 record against sub-par, non-ranked opponents.
    NU has put up a 30-21 mark against tougher, ranked opponents – including many top-10 games.

    We will get the real evidence when the Purple flies triumphant in South Bend in a couple years!!

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