Sometimes I feel like I'm alone in my Northwestern hate. Here, I'll give you an example. On this two game home stand, I wanted to beat Northwestern way more than I want to beat Indiana. See what I mean? Your nearly unanimous reaction to that statement means that I'm pretty much alone in my Northwestern hate.
Why Northwestern hate? Well, two main reasons:
1) They're pretty much the only team that hates us back. Indiana fans... want to beat Purdue and still see Kentucky as a "rival". Missouri fans... hate Kansas. Iowa fans... want everyone to know that Iowa basketball has been totally underrated over the years and just because they lost to Northwestern State that one time doesn't mean they're some lowest-rung-on-the-ladder team I mean have you ever heard the name Roy Marble??
2) Northwestern has kind of dominated us this past decade. Yes, that Northwestern.
Here are the ugly statistics to back that up (which I tweeted yesterday):
Basketball all-time vs. Northwestern: 135-42.
Last 16 meetings: 8-8
Football all-time vs. Northwestern: 55-52-5
Last 16 meetings: 4-12
And to take that further, let's just look at the last 5+ years of basketball. Since Chris Collins took over in Evanston before the 2013/14 season.
Northwestern: 100-94, one NCAA Tournament appearance
Illinois: 99-99, zero NCAA Tournament appearances
(The reason Illinois has four more games played: Northwestern went 1-1 in the NCAA Tournament over this period; Illinois went 3-3 in the NIT.)
I haven't looked, but given that we have won 700 more games than Northwestern in the history of the two programs (1787 to 1087), I can nearly guarantee you won't be able to find a 200-game period where their record was better than our record. Like, ever.
I should pause to clarify something. The point here is not "look how good Northwestern has been under Chris Collins". They're putting the finishing touches on a perfect Bell Curve. Wins under Collins: 14-15-20-24-15-12. And then next year, with these three seniors gone (62% of their scoring), maybe 9-10 wins? Their stock has matched The Bluth Company at "don't buy".
So my point is not "Northwestern has passed us". They'll never pass us. My point is this: we're 8-8 in head-to-head basketball games recently, and 4-12 in football games, and even though we appear to be on an upward trajectory in basketball while they're dropping further, the current reality is a "never forget" thing for me. This cannot. ever. happen. again.
I mean, if we just go by head-to-head matchups since 1950 (a good marker for major conference teams since it weeds out games in the 20's when they were playing with actual peach baskets and such), Illinois is 87-27 against Northwestern in basketball games. We were 79-19, but we've somehow gone .500 against them the last 16 games. We were also 51-40-5 in football matchups. But now they're three wins away from tying the series.
The other thing I tweeted the other day in the midst of my "how was this Northwestern game in any way close?" freakout: this win broke a 739 day winless streak vs. Northwestern (football + basketball). Seven hundred and thirty nine days since we had last beaten our in-state rival. Which is, OK, fine, whatever, but it's the second time in five years we've gone through a streak like this. My tweet from February 2017:
It had been 710 days since we beat Northwestern in either football or basketball. Thank you, gentlemen. May it never happen again.
-- Robert (@ALionEye) February 8, 2017
"May it never happen again"? It happened again immediately following that win. The moment I tweeted that was the beginning of another streak.
This is why the Northwestern game means more to me than the Indiana game. This is why I check the Big Ten scores to make sure Northwestern lost, something my 90's-self used to do for Iowa. This is why their current collapse, on the heels of all that national fawning two years ago right now, is so tasty.
Basically, for me, it's this: I used to not care about Northwestern, but then they went and had a better decade than us in the 2010's, which was death to my "Northwestern? Who cares?" and brought about true hatred in my heart. Our battle with Rutgers and Oregon State for "worst P5 athletic department in the 2010's" means that we can no longer dismiss Northwestern with a hand-wave. As impossible as it would be to convince someone in a coma since 1990, Northwestern has a significantly better football program now and has played us dead-even in basketball the last five years (if not slightly ahead). This is our current reality.
Which I don't want to get lost. Yes, things are hopeful with this basketball team, mostly all freshmen and sophomores, looking for their eighth win in their last 13 games, but the moment we go claiming we're "back", we'll lose it and be right back down with Northwestern in the basement. The mistakes of the last 15 years led us here. This is how low we've sunk, and it will still take a Herculean effort to climb out of this hole. Until it's fixed, this is our current status.