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Syracuse vs. Northwestern: Our Non-Rival Rivalry

If rivalry is defined as two schools that play each other often and have an emotional, vested interest in beating each other, I'd say that somehow, the Northwestern Wildcats make the cut.

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

There was a jarring stat posted on Twitter following last night's 41-13 decimation of Pitt by FSU:

First of all, that's great news for Pitt. Second of all, how the hell are you supposed to kickstart any kind of rivalry with a schedule like that?

It's one of the issues facing the Syracuse Orange in the ACC. Rivalry is such a big engine for generating interest in college football games. It drives fan interest, attendance, passion and on-field results. Right now Syracuse can look at Boston College and Pitt...and maybe Virginia Tech...and that's about as far as ACC rivalries go. And none of them are "circle the date on the calendar" type rivalries.

The point is, we have to take'm where we can get them. And oddly, the one school on our schedule most likely to feel like a rival when we play them will be from the Big Ten. The Northwestern Wildcats.

No one outside of the fanbases would probably ever say Syracuse and Northwestern have a rivalry brewing, and to be honest, many inside the fabases might not say it either, but, look at the recent history.

  • The two schools have played three times since 2008 with the Wildcats holding a 2-1 advantage. The last two contests were high-scoring and close (37-34, 42-41).
  • The game has been dubbed The Prose Bowl due to the famous broadcasting & journalism alumus that both schools can boast. For better (Bob Costas, Mike Tirico) or worse (Mike Greenberg, Darren Rovell).
  • The 2009 victory, earned with a game-winning field goal by then-walk-on Ryan Lichtenstein, was the first win of Doug Marrone's tenure as head coach.
  • The 2012 loss was marred by a dubious penalty against Syracuse late in the game, giving Northwestern extra time and a chance to beat SU in the waning moments.
  • The all-time series, which dates back to 1940, is now tied 5-5.

None of that is world-shattering or national news-worthy. But, for the purposes of trying to generate a visceral reaction from Syracuse Football fans, it gets the job done.

Yes we want to beat Georgia Tech and Maryland and Florida State. But they're all abstract things at this point. Conference foes for a conference we haven't even played a game in yet.

But Northwestern...this will be the fourth time we've played them in six years. Go look at that crazy stat about how often FSU and Pitt will play at Pitt over the next couple decades. There's a good chance that, between 2008 and 2025, we will have played Northwestern more times than half the teams in the ACC. That's madness.

I don't know if we'll keep playing Northwestern beyond this season. They show up on a rogue 2019 schedule that's out there. SU doesn't have them on the official future opponent page, but then again, we haven't announced many future opponents. My guess is that we'll keep seeing Northwestern every couple seasons just because it seems to make sense for everyone.

If rivalry is defined as two schools that play each other often and have an emotional, vested interest in beating each other, I'd say that somehow, the Northwestern Wildcats make the cut right here and now. Other than BC, I don't think there's a team that makes me want a victory for the purposes of hatred besides NU. I can draw a line from the previous games to this one and it affects the way I root for Syracuse because of it. I just don't have that with 90% of the ACC yet.

So, Northwestern, please know that we hate you and we look forward to the opportunity of ruining your day.