2009 record: 4-3 (1-2)
2008 record: 9-4 (lost to Missouri in the Alamo Bowl)
2008 Sagarin: 44
2009 Sagarin: 100 (IU is #90)
Coach: Pat Fitzgerald (4th season, 23-21)
Series: Northwestern leads 42-34-1
TV: noon, Big Ten Network
Blog: Lake the Posts, Sippin' on Purple
I was surprised, when the Big Ten increased the total of protected "rivalries" to eleven, (ensuring that every school has exactly two protected games), that IU was matched with Illinois rather than Northwestern. First, the Purdue and Illinois campuses are less than 100 miles apart, closer than any Big Ten campuses other than Michigan and Michigan State. Second, of course, is that IU and Northwestern are the historic cellar-dwellers in the conference. Famously, IU has a losing record against all Big Ten teams, including the University of Chicago. At the end of the Mallory era, however, the Hoosiers were close to taking the all-time lead against Northwestern. Through 1993, IU trailed Northwestern 34-31-1 in the all-time series. Since then, however, IU has gone 3-8 against Northwestern and now trails the all-time series by a comfortable but not insurmoutable margin.
Most Hoosier fans, most college football fans in general, remember the 1995 Wildcats. It's no exaggeration to say that Northwestern's 1995 team created one of the greatest stories in the history of college football. Other than, say, Vanderbilt winning the SEC, it's impossible to imagine a story more shocking than Northwestern's 1995 season, which began win an upset of Notre Dame and concluded with an 8-0 run through the conference and a Rose Bowl loss to USC. The story has been told many times by tellers more eloquent than me, so I'll set that aside. In 1994, one of NU's very early glimmers was a win at IU. At the time, IU owned a 9-game winning streak over Northwestern, and all of the games had been decided by 17 or more points. IU was 5-1 and had been in the top 25 early in the season. Bill Mallory, in his eleventh season as IU's coach, held a 62-57-3 record. NU dominated the Hoosiers 20-7, and the IU program has never been the same. IU limped home with a 1-4 record to finish 6-5, Mallory was fired after going 5-17 over the next two seasons. As I said, in the 10.5 seasons prior to that game, IU had won 52 percent of its games. In the 15 seasons since and including that game, IU has won 31 percent of its games.
The last five IU-Northwestern games, dating to 2002, have been decided by 7 or fewer points, including two overtime losses for IU. Northwestern won in 2002, 2003, 2004, and 2007, and IU upset NU in 2008. Lake the Posts, a fine Northwestern blog, detailed the last ten matchups. It's a good reminder of how snakebitten IU had been in this series until last year.
I'll have more to say about the 2009 Wildcats as the week continues.