Commentary: Purple Haze on October 11
by Jonathan Hodges
This coming Saturday marks one of the biggest games in recent history for
Northwestern as the 'Cats carry their 5-0 record (1-0 Big Ten) and #22 (Coaches'
Poll)/ #23 (Harris Poll) ranking into a big matchup against Michigan State (5-1,
2-0 Big Ten) who are ranked #23 (AP)/ #19 (Coaches')/ #21 (Harris) in Evanston.
The game time has been set for 2:30 PM ET and will be televised nationally on
ESPN2. But another development for the game is the "Purple Haze" grassroots
movement by NU students to get as many people to the game as possible and for
everyone to wear as much purple as possible to support the Wildcats. All of
this combined will yield probably one of the best game atmospheres at Ryan Field
since NU's 2005 matchup against Michigan (which was also the last time NU was
ranked and played another ranked opponent). (And as mentioned in HTP's
commentary, look forward to a performance of "Purple Haze" from NUMB in the
The matchup also has large Big Ten title implications as the
winner of the game has a legitimate shot at contending for the title along with
the current frontrunners of Ohio State and Penn State; in fact, MSU's next game
is against Ohio State. Although we have just scratched the surface of Big Ten
conference play so far, both NU and MSU will also be jockeying for bowl position
- and with NU well aware that one must win games to put itself into a bowl
(after being left out despite a bowl-eligible 6-6 record last year), this game
carries a lot of significance. Undoubtedly, bowl representatives will be in
attendance to observe the game atmosphere at Northwestern - a good showing would
definitely give NU a boost come bowl selection time.
attendance a huge priority for this game - after underwhelming results so far
this year (although slightly improved over last year's anemic numbers), NU could
definitely use a good showing on Saturday. The students seem fired up and
should pack the place, especially given the later starting time. But the
question is if the local "casual" fan base will come out for the game. One
couldn't ask for a better setup going into the game, and Northwestern is
beginning to garner some national attention. Now the question is if the 'Cats'
success thus far has garnered enough attention from local fans to get them to
Fortunately, from the attention standpoint alone, the Cubs made
a quick exit from the baseball playoffs and the White Sox seem poised to do the
same - leaving a lot of room on the nightly sports report and in the attention
span of Chicago sports fans for NU. With the Blackhawks and Bulls still in
preseason (and the playoffs half a year away), only the Bears will provide
another sports headline-producer in Chicago. So, this sets up another great
scenario for NU to "take over the town" as they did during the 95-96
But, as any NU fan knows, wins and getting fans in the seats is
not an "automatic" as the 'Cats have had recent success yet failed to fill Ryan
Field. So, I implore anyone reading this to bring as many Northwestern/Big
Ten/college football fans to the stadium on Saturday as possible AND to give
them something purple to wear. This is the first chance for NU to make a
real statement on a national scale - not just that the 2008 Wildcat team is
good, but also that there is good fan support behind them.
Yes, the team
should be approaching this game as they do any other - prepare, practice, and
execute. But, as fans, we should step things up to the next level to show our
support for the 'Cats and to show viewers across the nation that this team is
"for real" and has a large purple contingent behind it.
Previous jhodges commentary
is the primary content provider of HailToPurple.com. His commentary
and game analyses appear regularly during the season and occasionally
in the offseason.