Northwestern wants you to notice them. Well, at least the fans do. Pat Fitzgerald probably does not really care. His focus is on the team and going 1-0 this week.
For fans though and those outside the program, little things like making the top-25 matter. They give the program instant credibility and force the media at least to give Northwestern its proper due. Marketing-wise, attention and notice that comes with a top-25 ranking moves the needle. And that is still something the guys in the marketing department care deeply about.
The Wildcats are not quite in the top-25 of the major polls. Despite being the only team in the nation with three wins over BCS-conference opponents, Northwestern does not quite have the respect (granted, GameDay has made the Northwestern game part of the program’s Saturday Selections at the end of the show). Among the bloggers who vote in BlogPoll, Northwestern has squeezed in at No. 23, so at least the bloggers are giving them notice (in fairness, I have the team at No. 25, so I am guilty of underranking NU, I guess).
Not helping is that Northwestern is not blowing out opponents or creating highlight plays. The one ESPN game was as much marked by Trevor Siemian’s amazing pass play to Demetrius Fields and his amazing catch to defeat Syracuse as by the 20-point lead NU lost in that game. Since then, the Wildcats have had games won with gritty, physical play and won in typical Cardiac Cat fashion. That will not create the highlights that the media and “coaches” rely on when they fill out their ballot.
This week will be the week to create some highlights. But not the week to get notice.
Sorry South Dakota, you do not quite have the same ring to your name as others. And unfortunately that is something that still matters in the polls. And the polls, unfortunately, still play a role in getting notice in the crowded college football space.
Maybe there is some precariousness about getting on the Northwestern bandwagon. We do it too because we know from watching this team that Northwestern is liable to lose any game on the schedule. That is why the focus should be fully on South Dakota (even if it is difficult for the fan base to get the same kind of excitement for this game as for the last three).
Notice is coming though.
My good friends at the re-launched Delany’s Dozen talked a bit about how Northwestern is gaining respect and maybe, just maybe, ready to take on the role as shining light int he dark NCAA landscape. And even Rodger Sherman of Sippin’ On Purple is tempting the fates and asking the question about how long NU can remain unbeaten.
Those, of course, are outlets that should be paying attention to Northwestern. It is getting the story out to the national media and getting recognition for what they have accomplished.
Perhaps, the best way to do that is to do what Northwestern has done these last three weeks: