Beyond the Gridiron: NU vs. Illinois State

    Unless you’re from around here, chances are you were confused when you saw Illinois State as the opponent for Saturday’s football showdown against the ‘Cats. Beyond the Gridiron continues its series to give you some background information and trivia so you can seem “in the know” when watching the game featuring the public school from Normal, Ill. Let’s see how they compare to our ‘Cats.

    School Size (undergraduates)

    Northwestern: 8,637
    Illinois State: 18,389
    ADVANTAGE: Illinois State
    Normally I’d be partial to the smaller school, but when you’re based in Normal, Ill., I’m sure you appreciate the company. 99 percent of ISU’s students come from in-state, so this one comes down to a matter of preference.

    Local Town

    Northwestern: Evanston, Ill.
    Illinois State: Normal, Ill.
    ADVANTAGE: Northwestern
    This one was pretty close in my mind, just because I like the name Normal. But, it’s pretty clear that the nice suburban town on Lake Michigan, near Chicago, is the better choice than one in the middle of Illinois. That’s not to say there’s nothing in Normal, as State Farm Insurance holds its corporate headquarters nearby in Bloomington, but it’s hard to compete with Chicago.

    US News Rankings

    Northwestern: 12
    Illinois State: 156
    ADVANTAGE: Northwestern
    This one is definitely a cheap shot, but it’s always nice to stroke that NU ego a little bit.


    Northwestern: Founded in 1851
    Illinois State: Founded in 1857
    While Northwestern has those all-important six years and has made the most of…every other year, Illinois State is proudly the oldest public university in the state. I would’ve given the edge to NU, but some guy named Abraham Lincoln drew up the legal documents for ISU’s founding.

    Famous Alumni (Journalists)

    Northwestern: J.A. Adande, Michael Wilbon, Mike Greenberg, Brent Musberger, Christine Brennan
    Illinois State: Richard Roeper
    Northwestern gets this one because of sheer volume of journalists it has produced over the years, even though Roeper is pretty hard to beat.

    Famous Alumni (Entertainment)

    Northwestern: Stephen Colbert, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, David Schwimmer
    Illinois State: John Malkovich
    ADVANTAGE: Northwestern
    Pretty hard to argue this one for ISU…Colbert has been a rock star in the past decade and Louis-Dreyfus and Schwimmer starred in some of the most successful sitcoms of all time.

    Biggest Residence Halls

    Northwestern: Foster-Walker Complex
    Illinois State: Watterson Towers
    ADVANTAGE: Illinois State
    Foster-Walker houses a solid 627 students, but it pales in comparison to the Watterson Towers. According to, the 28-floor ISU dormitory is the tallest in the world. Fully equipped with a food court, elevators, and what would be one-quarter of the NU undergraduate population, it pretty much provides everything you would want in one building.

    Prominent Teams

    Northwestern: Women’s Lacrosse
    Illinois State: Forensics
    ADVANTAGE: Northwestern
    Illinois State puts in a strong effort with its forensics team, which won the National Forensic Association team championship in 1995, 1999 and 2000, but it pales in comparison to the domination of the Northwestern women’s lacrosse dominance over the past decade.


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