We’re still nine days away, but for a game like this, the anticipation started a long time ago. When the Wildcat football team takes the field against Ohio State on Oct. 5, it’s safe to say that it will be the biggest regular-season game in head coach Pat Fitzgerald’s tenure.
This is not a ploy to build hype where it’s unwarranted. Here are some reasons why we feel this game is one of epic proportions.
Media attention – Shannon Lane
This may be the only time any football-invested Northwestern student will ever say it, but we need Ohio State to win at home this weekend against Wisconsin. Hold on; hear me out.
It’s all working toward the goal of getting College GameDay to make the trip out to Evanston on the morning of Oct. 5.
ABC already announced that the Northwestern-Ohio State game will take over its national primetime slot at 7 p.m. CST. If you were at last weekend’s game, you heard ESPN Radio's Mike and Mike will broadcast live from Deering Meadow the Friday before the game as well. Mike Greenberg, half of the duo along with Mike Golic, is a Northwestern graduate and will be the Homecoming parade grand marshal that same Friday. The 5 a.m. start time to the radio broadcast is early, but we go to Northwestern; we never get enough sleep anyway.
With the exception of a matchup between No. 16 Washington and No. 5 Stanford on Oct. 5, there are no other games featuring ranked opponents that weekend, making its other prospects less enticing.
Barring an Ohio State loss against Wisconsin and/or a win by either Washington or Stanford, GameDay will almost definitely come to campus.
So for just one day, we should all swallow our purple pride, secretly don scarlet and gray and hope for Ohio State to eke out a win against the Badgers.
After all, the bigger they are, the harder they fall.
Home-field advantage – Luke Srodulski
This game is all the more exciting for the program simply because of the venue. Even if College GameDay doesn’t swing by, this matchup will still be epic. There’s no game to focus on this Saturday, which only adds to the anticipation.
The addition of Fitzerland, The Wildside’s student tailgate, raises the hype even higher. Add to that the fact that Homecoming is that day, and there’s no reason the entire city of Evanston won’t be at the game.
Attendance at Ryan Field has already been on the upswing, and it doesn’t seem to be coming down anytime soon. 38,033 were in the crowd for the Wildcats’ win against Syracuse, the largest home opener crowd for NU since 2001.
Last year, the most noteworthy crowd was at the Nebraska game, where Ryan Field was covered in Husker red. This year, with all the support the team has been getting, it’s safe to say that purple-clad fans will be rocking the stadium on that Saturday night.
Unseen hype – Luke Srodulski
While the football world has become accustomed to seeing the Buckeyes top the polls, Northwestern is new to this stage. The Wildcats’ No. 17 ranking in the AP poll is the highest they have been in the regular season under Pat Fitzgerald.
This media attention wouldn’t be at the level it is without the players piling up the wins on the field. The ‘Cats are currently on a streak, and not the kind they've been recognized for in the past. Rather, it’s a seven-game winning streak dating back to last season, and people are beginning to take notice.
It also helps to bring back an All-American. Star running back and return man Venric Mark hasn’t played yet this season apart from a quick appearance in the season-opening win over Cal, but the “lower-body injury” that has hampered him appears to have subsided.
Mark began practicing once again this week, and if the hype for this game wasn’t high enough already, maybe a Venric return touchdown will do the trick.
A formidable foe – Ben Sanders
Northwestern’s tough opponent is what makes Oct. 5 so special. The Buckeyes have reached a BCS bowl game a record-tying eight times and won a total of seven national titles.
The ‘Cats have a poor track record against this perennial superpower, to say the least. Since 1964, Northwestern has beaten the Buckeyes a whopping two times, the last being in 2004, when Pat Fitzgerald was the linebackers coach.
Although this matchup has clearly been one-sided, there is reason to be excited and hopeful. This could be the game where Northwestern delivers a huge blow to the “little brother” label it’s been fighting for a long time. It’s an opportunity for the Wildcats to show the Big Ten and the nation that they’re for real.
Imagine the look on Ohio State coach Urban Meyer’s face if the ‘Cats are able to pull off this upset. Picture the fans wearing red and white (and there are sure to be plenty of them) having to leave Ryan Field knowing that their national title hopes are in jeopardy.
For years, the Northwestern football team hasn’t been thought of as a threat to the rest of the Big Ten and the nation at large. This test against Ohio State will be a chance for the ‘Cats to prove they must be taken seriously, and if they can pull it off, it will be a wakeup call to every analyst and pundit who thought of this team as a mere afterthought.