Friday, November 10, 2017


We live in overtime now. The strictures of regulation football no longer exist to constrain the Northwestern Wildcats; they start now at the 25 yardline, the clock no longer moves, there is no longer field position or quarters or movement of the sun across the horizon. Here in this dimension beyond time and space and logic and reason the Northwestern Wildcats are unstoppable, indomitable, also receiving votes.

Northwestern has won three consecutive overtime games, a feat that has literally never been done by any other team. This record reminds me of the people who decide that they're going to break the record for skijumping off a mountain into a basejump and then landing on a jetski and that is also on fire in that sure they are doing something unprecedented but it's only because no one else in their right mind would even think to do it.

I just watched the movie McConkey, which details Shane McConkey's
career from extreme skiing to BASE jumping and then combining
them with wingsuit flying after designing a mechanism to release his
skis midair and you learn that like 90% of extreme skiing stunts exist
because of Roger Moore

The Wildcats are 6-3 and ranked #25 in the Playoff Poll even though no rational person has explained to me why the Playoff Committee, which solely exists to pick the top four teams in the country after entire college football season including the Lucrative Conference Championship Games have finished, has a full set of rankings going down to #25 weeks beforehand other than to thrust us further into a chaotic world where we now have three sets of more or less meaningless top-25 ranking systems between warring factions of Playoff Bureaucrats, reporters, and graduate assistant coaches who are all as we speak publishing their own newspapers and pamphlets attacking each other.

Literature sent to discerning college football bloggers by
various rankings including the Playoff Committee's
"Have You Gone Mad?" and the Coach's "A Diffent
Against the Affociated Preff"

Northwestern is bowl eligible. Their previous overtime victories came against teams that spent last Saturday opening a black hole in the Big Ten, creating a swirling vortex that may well suck the entire conference out of the playoff picture and has already destroyed the entire Big Ten East. Michigan State, which fell to Northwestern in an insane three-overtime denouement that ended only when their quarterback panicked after fumbling, grabbed the ball, and Rex Grossmanned it into the ripped and bloody hands of Nate Hall, outlasted Penn State in a seven-hour rain epic where the Spartan Stadium field might as well have turned into quicksand for the Nittany Lions and devoured the entire team. Iowa annihilated Ohio State from the surface of the Earth. No one knows how it happened. The Buckeyes went into Kinnick Stadium and got rampaged upon by a team that had spent the entire season treating the scoring of a twentieth point like Moses searching for the Promised Land. They dropped 55 on them. They did a fake punt, a religious desecration in the House of Ferentz. The result was so baffling that football archaeologists have begun excavating Kinnick stadium in search of proof.

Both of those teams would have prime playoff positioning now, with Michigan State able to seize control of the East with a win against the Buckeyes and Iowa heading into a showdown with Wisconsin except they made the mistake of traveling to Ryan Field to get overtimed and now I want nothing more for them to win out, for them to miss any chance at playoff glory under the triumphant cackle of Northwestern's Generic Wildcat Growl #15 sound effect.


When Thorson's hail mary got batted down, I relaxed knowing that the game had shifted from hostile Memorial Stadium to the Realm of Overtime, a fissure in time-space where the laws of football no longer exist and Northwestern becomes a dominating football force.
The game featured much of what Northwestern has brought to bear against the Big Ten-- tough run defense, an offense that moves in fits and starts like an old pull-to-start lawnmower, Justin Jackson. This week, the Wildcats got a tremendous performance from Kyle Queiro, who picked off Tanner Lee twice and nearly ended the game on a third that just slipped out of his grasp. Pat Fitzgerald added to his increasing museum of avant-garde clock management by basically running out the clock for no apparent reason at the end of the first half when the team had a decent shot to at least give Charlie Kuhbander a better shot.

Once again Northwestern played well enough to win; a team that does nothing but go to overtime has, in fact, discovered how to be literally the exact amount of better required to beat another team.

when you win three straight games in overtime

Nebraska fans have reached their breaking point. They demand that Mike Riley be fired, removed, and arrested, and 90% of Nebraska football sportswriting is just Scott Frost fanfiction where all Hypothetical Scott Frost dialogue has been hastily repurposed from the 1997 film Batman and Robin.

STANDAHDT," says the lede from the Lincoln Journal-Star
in a column entitled "The Ice Man Hiredeth: Eighteen
hypothetical columns about hiring Scott Frost"

It is impossible to tell how good Northwestern is. Part of that is the chaotic nature of college football, where all rankings and formulas are ridiculous because the entire season is 12 games of unpredictable chaos dictated by an oblong ball and dependent on the emotions and consistency of teenagers and grown adults who have decided on a career path that depends a lot on yelling and also blowing whistles at people. The Wildcats, left for dead after a listless victory over a putrid Nevada team and a complete dismantling at the hands of what turned out to be a fairly crappy Duke team, now have six wins and will be favored in their three remaining games. It is not impossible that they could somehow win nine games or for them to lose all three or to play Purdue to so many overtimes that they manage to cross over into Sunday when they are still going for two-point conversions and Ryan Field is converted into an Overtime death cult where fans cut the North stands tarp into robes and demand more overtime periods to slake their overtime lust.


Purdue is here. Purdue under Jeff Brohm, which has transformed itself from the hapless punching bag of the Big Ten with its sinkhole-riddled field and despondent fanbase of train spotters watching a postmodern art installation of football despair to an actual, frisky, scary team that let's not get ahead of ourselves here they still lost to Rutgers.
Purdue and Northwestern is the essence of an 11:00AM Big Ten game, one to be played and forgotten as soon as humanly possible, and the lunatics in charge of college football television have moved it for some reason to a night game. Night football, prime time, national broadcast on ESPN2 no doubt under the strictures of some arcane Big Ten/ESPN contract that prevents them from moving it to ESPN: Handball where all channel descriptions are written in English phonetically but in Cyrillic. Under the lights, where Northwestern and Purdue will inspire millions of college football fans in the Chicago area to stand around anxiously as bar staffs fumble around complicated satellite television systems to get the Notre Dame game while Purdue Pete peers ominously from the preview box.

Purdue actually has to apply for a waiver to allow Purdue
Pete to be used at night. Here is what Purdue Pete originally
looked like before it was destroyed, buried, resurrected,
buried again and burned, resurrected again while taking a
human host who transforms into Purdue Pete when in
proximity to certain brands of train engine, and finally
defeated in combat by Ross and Ade, who trapped it in
a concrete slab from which it has only escaped four times

Purdue comes in with a much-improved defense and a coach who likes to do things like call reverse flea flickers while scanning a playbook taken from NFL Blitz. The Boilermakers, though, will be without one of their quarterbacks after David "That Name Again Is Mister" Blough suffered a gruesome ankle injury against the Illini. Elijah Sindelar will take over as starter, although Brohm had been rotating both this season in order to sow chaos and terror among opponents. Northwestern will hopefully be able to figure out how to beat Brohm's squad instead of the usual method of intimidating Purdue by wearing helmets, repeatedly confusing Purdue's linemen by convincing them of radical changes to the rules of football moments before the snap, and doing nothing and watching the entire Purdue football team walk one by one in to an open manhole.

Northwestern sits as a consensus top-30 or so team in all the rankings and will probably be ranked should they keep on winning through the soft part of their schedule. But there are no guarantees with this team, which has risen to stonewall some bizarrely good teams and struggled against decidedly mediocre ones, with the status of those teams constantly fluctuating through this insane Big Ten season. The Wildcats have been riding a razor's edge for the past three weeks where a single play could have beaten them in all three previous games, and Purdue hasn't rolled over for anyone. They're on their way up. But all I can say to them is that if the Boilermakers want to win this game in Ryan Field under the towers and the weird, emaciated blow-up Wildcat tunnel and night sky they need to do one thing: for their own good, they had better not let the game go into overtime.


Staniel said...

"Pat Fitzgerald added to his increasing museum of avant-garde clock management..."

To be fair, most of those management pieces are on loan from the Andy Reid collection.

Anonymous said...

+1 for mr. plow reference

Dfarman said...

definitely + 1 for "that name again is Mister" Blough