Last Wednesday, I sat in a dentist's chair for almost four hours. Sounds lovely, doesn't it? It's safe to say Northwestern had a similar experience against Michigan last Saturday. Except that instead of strong narcotics to help deal with the pain, the Wildcats had to just endure whatever wrath Pat Fitzgerald felt was appropriate. If I had to choose again, I'd still pick the dentist's chair.
I tried to stay semi-coherent on Saturday so I could watch the game and remember anything important that happened. Luckily, nothing really did. The Cats were down 14-0 before they knew what hit them. The one thing I can't forget is when Fitzgerald chose to attempt a field goal instead of trying to convert a 4th & 1 from the UM 25 to keep the drive alive. Cats kicker Jack Mitchell missed the 42 yard attempt, and that was that. Northwestern's offense never saw the Michigan side of the field for the rest of the game.
It's hard not to question the call there, even if Mitchell converts the FG. At best it puts you down 14-3, and the Wolverines get the ball back again. UM then scored on it's next possession, making it 21-0. Would 21-3 have been any better?
So now the upcoming game against Iowa. Nothing but positive thoughts about that, right? Let me quickly check last year's score...oh. Iowa 48, NU 7. Okay, not great, but that's only one game, right? Let's look at the all-time series record...24-49-3. Dang, that's not any better. Sarcastic statistics aside, the Cats are 5-9 against the Hawkeyes under Pat Fitzgerald. Not terrible, considering everything else.
One loss doesn't put this season in jeopardy. Two losses might. As crazy as that sounds, a loss this week would likely knock NU out of the Top 25 in the AP and Coaches polls. Currently, they sit 20th in the AP and 21st in the Coaches. There has been a lot of weekly movement at the bottom of the polls this year, and a lot of teams are trying to squeeze in. Voters won't be kind to the Cats if they lose again this week.
What to do then? Forget last week.
Northwestern still has Justin Jackson, and they still have the good defense. Iowa is a good team, but they aren't Michigan. Whatever anger you still have left from the beating you took, take that out on some poor soul in a Hawkeyes uniform. Or if it helps, remember that Hawkeye is "the other" Avenger. Do you really want to lose to the Avenger that most people forget about? (Super Hero Hot Take!) Anyways, I digress.
I think the Cats will win this weekend, become bowl eligible, and get back on track. It won't be an easy win, but I can't see that defense having another bad outing.
Maybe I'm being too hard on the team for losing one game. They've had such a good season so far, you don't want to see it derailed by one bad game. There won't be any (legal) narcotics at my disposal this weekend if the Cats get dragged up and down the field again. If the team starts off slow again, they might be the ones longing for the dentist's chair.