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Profiles of the Big Ten: Northwestern Wildcats

Much like the other Wildcats from Kansas State, Northwestern football historically had been somewhere between horrible and pathetic during most of their history.  Prior to 1995, the Wildcats had only been to one bowl game - the 1949 Rose Bowl, beating Cal 20-14.   From 1979 to 1982, the NWU Wildcats lost thirty-four straight football games.  But under Gary Barnett, the Wildcats broke free of futility in 1995, winning the Big Ten and earning a Rose Bowl berth, losing to USC 41-32.  In 1996, the Wildcats were co-champions and earned a Citrus Bowl berth, losing to Tennessee 48-28.

Gary Barnett returned to Colorado, and Randy Walker took over. In 2000, NWU faced off against Nebraska in the Alamo Bowl. In that game, there was a lot of pre-game trash talking coming from the NWU side during bowl festivities, and the Huskers didn't forget it. Up big in the second half, wingback Bobby Newcombe threw a 69 yard touchdown pass to Matt Davison en route to a 66-17 whipping of the Wildcats.

Randy Walker died suddenly in July 2006, and Pat Fitzgerald took over as head coach.  In 2008 and 2009, the Wildcats earned bowl bids, losing both in overtime. 2008, it was Chase Daniel connecting with Jeremy Maclin for the game winning touchdown. In 2009, Northwestern stormed back to tie Auburn in the final three minutes of the game, only to lose the game by gambling and failing to convert a fake field goal at the end of overtime.

Northwestern is the alma mater of Brent Musburger, arguably the most polarizing play-by-play announcer in college football. Musburger has the unique ability of calling a game that convinces fans of both teams that he's silently cheering for the other team.  Next time you're watching Bwent on an ESPN or ABC broadcast, play along with the Brent Musberger Drinking Game....but only if you are at home, and especially not in a car in Lincoln, Nebraska.

If Nebraska and Northwestern end up together in the Big Ten, conference officials may need to clarify the use of the initials NU.  Despite the official name of "University of Nebraska" and now "University of Nebraska-Lincoln", Nebraska has long been known by  NU.  Likewise, Northwestern has chosen to refer to themselves as NU...even though it's more logically known as NW.  On Twitter, the official athletic department Twitter feed chooses NU even though the University chose the more understandable NorthwesternU moniker.

On November 20th, Northwestern will move it's home game from Ryan Field to Wrigley Field.  Ironic that you would move a game against a cross-state rival to a smaller, neutral field, but considering the attendance problems Northwestern faces, the move makes sense. (But man...look at these prices! $50 for upper deck, and $150 along the sidelines??)  The first time Nebraska plays at Northwestern, the Wildcats should seriously think about moving the game to Soldier Field for the expected invasion of red.