Western Promises

Photo by Dave Reid.

Oh, how long it’s been since I’ve written about football. Too long. And there’s still a long summer in the way of me “covering” football next season.

But hey, while the offseason is long and torturous, we still get some news from time to time. Take, for instance, the Big Ten’s announcement that the divisions would be realigned and renamed.

On April 28, the Big Ten announced that it would be doing away with the Legends and Leaders divisions beginning in 2014, as well as a nine game conference schedule beginning in 2016. All it took was adding two East Coast schools that don’t fit in with the conference and bring nothing to the table.

Thanks, Rutgers and Maryland. That can be your one contribution to the Big Ten – putting an end to the farce that is the current setup.

Now the Big Ten will be going with a straight-forward East-West split. In the East will be Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State, and Rutgers. In the West will be Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Purdue, Wisconsin, and Northwestern.

Balanced divisions appear to have been traded off for simplicity, as the East appears to be a gauntlet compared to the West. In the East we have the traditional powerhouses Michigan, Ohio State, and Penn State, as well as on and off again power Michigan State. In the West, the traditional power is… Nebraska. Wisconsin has been on top of the Big Ten for the past three years, though last year that was by default.

So what does this mean for us? Northwestern, by the grace of geographic location, has ended up in what’s perceived to be the weaker of the two divisions. Our toughest competition looks to be Nebraska and Wisconsin, and maybe Iowa if they can get their shit together (though let’s hope they don’t, because Iowa sucks).

I like to believe that we’re not included in the discussion of “weakest division.” Thought we’ve been weak in the past, our recent consistency has definitely elevated our national perception. It doesn’t really matter, though. Results trump perception, and if our results continue to be good, we’ll come to be known as the Best in the West.

After a stellar 2012 campaign, the future looks bright in my eyes. Though it’s still two years off, I believe that the West is ours for the taking. Wisconsin will still be in a transitional period after hiring Gary Andersen this past offseason, and Bret Bielema’s departure may indicate a weakening program. Nebraska is a wild card. Though traditionally strong, it’s hard to say in a given season whether they will actually live up to expectations.

Minnesota, Purdue, and Illinois are Minnesota, Purdue, and Illinois. For those unsure of what that means, it means that they are not good, and should not be a problem for us, knock on wood. It’s unsure whether Iowa will continue its steady fall from grace, not long ago they went 11-2 with an Orange Bowl win. Last season they went 4-8. Personally, I like to see Iowa suffer, so let’s all hope that they continue to decline.

Maybe I’m looking at the future with purple colored glasses, but I really like our chances in the new Big Ten. This is not your granddaddy’s Northwestern program. This is a Wildcats program that is rising fast. Recruiting is better than it has ever been and we’re getting more national recognition. As long as Fitz is at the helm, and keeps doing what he’s been doing, I’d say the future looks bright for Northwestern football in the West.

We’ve been given a good opportunity. We have the weaker division to go up against. We don’t have to face Ohio State and Michigan every year. And, now that we’re in the West, our name might just make a little more sense.

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