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Thursday, June 27, 2013
Northwestern fans make nonleague picks

By Adam Rittenberg

Recently, we asked you to pick the nonconference opponent you'd most like to see your favorite team play in the near future. You could pick a team already on the upcoming schedule or one that inexplicably hasn't been added.

This has been a fun exercise so far, and the response has been terrific. We'll round out the responses with Northwestern fans weighing in on their team's future schedule.

Here we go ...

Austin from Washington, D.C.: I'm a Northwestern alum, and though this may not have the headliner status of other matchups, I'd love to see NU take on NIU. Given their close proximity and in-state affiliation, I feel like these two teams have the makings of a great rivalry. The last time NU and NIU went head-to-head it was a one point game, and frankly with Jim Phillips serving as their old, our current AD, I feel like this could be viable as well!

Rajiv from Irving, Texas: I am a Northwestern alum and I think we have done a good job securing matchups that are good for our program (Stanford, ND, etc.). With the loss of the bowl games in Texas, it would be good to see the Wildcats play Texas, Baylor or TCU. I would love to see a series against UCLA as well, how exciting would it be to play in the Rose Bowl twice in one season!

Jim from Smyrna, Del.: I'm a Northwestern alum and Wildcats fan. I'd love to see the 'Cats have an annual match with either Stanford or Duke. We're rivals in the classroom, so it would be good to continue that rivalry on the field every year.

Brad from Philadelphia: As a Northwestern fan, my thoughts on non-league games: 1) I like the "academically compatible" concept -- Notre Dame, Duke, Wake Forest, Stanford, Cal, Virginia, UNC, Rice, Georgia Tech, Tulane, but not Vandy after their cowardly booting of NU off their schedule. The entire non-con schedule could come off that list each year and be well-balanced. I'd be fine with it. 2) That said, I'd like to NU to play one national-level team not on that list occasionally; UCLA, Washington, Texas, Georgia, Pittsburgh. 3) Army and Navy are always nice, tho not Air Force, thank you. 4) MAC teams as the occasional filler.

Dave from Chicago: I love that Northwestern has increased scheduling against its academic peer group - other schools that actually expect an athlete to wander into a classroom occasionally. Some of those are probably a better fit on the field (Stanford [hopefully], Vanderbilt) than others (Rice) but overall I like the philosophy. One random game I'd love to see is Ole Miss. There's absolutely no reason those two schools should play one another. They don't share anything culturally or geographically and I don't think either really recruits the other's backyard. However, by all accounts Ole Miss has never lost a tailgate. I take them at their word, but I'd love to see for myself. Most bucket list game day experiences come with a healthy dose of butt-kickin' (Alabama, LSU, Oregon off the top of head) but I think in most years this would be a competitive game. One added bonus for the Cats is that I assume the Rebels would see the series through to its conclusion instead of chickening out via fax if they happened to lose a couple in a row the way another SEC school operates.

Andrew from Irvine, Calif.: I wanted to throw my hat into the debate over an ideal nonconference schedule for the Wildcats (If it is not too late). Obviously, I LOVED getting Notre Dame back on the schedule. I would love for NU to play them every year. Another upcoming matchup I really like is Stanford. If NU played any combination of Notre Dame, Stanford, Vanderbilt, and Duke plus a mid-level opponent such as NIU or Navy every year (2 very solid ?mid-level? teams) I would be quite happy. One team that I think NU should explore putting on the schedule is Auburn; a rematch of an absolutely epic Outback bowl. I know Kafka and Dunsmore aren't walking through that door anytime soon, but neither is Demos (I really do feel bad for that guy). Overall though, Fitz and crew seem to get it when it comes to scheduling (like most everything else). They are playing high caliber schools that mirror NU's athletic and academic prowess. The most important thing is to keep beating them.

S.H. Tan from Singapore: As a Northwestern alum, I would love to see the team adopt the following 3-tier schedule every year: 1 game against a peer institution and direct recruiting rival , something like an "Egghead Bowl" - Stanford, Vanderbilt, Cal, Duke; 1 game against Northern Illinois - an in-state rival recently on the rise, or a MAC game to raise our profile in the Midwest footprint; and 1 game in the recruiting hotbeds of Florida, Texas or California - South Florida, TCU, Houston.

Alan from Los Angeles: I'd like Northwestern to play Stanford, Notre Dame and UCLA. We've already scheduled the first two, so thanks, Jim Phillips!

Lorenzo from Boulder, Colo.: My preference is for schools that have a somewhat similar profile, rather than just geography. So here they are: Stanford and BC. Stanford has great academics, and Palo Alto area is a great place to visit. BC has a similar size of student body, located near a major city, and Boston has a lot of pluses. A third choice is purely selfish: Colorado. Have only been able to see NU play on TV for a few years. Boulder is a great town...and it's nice to see land that isn't flat, but goes up.

Stephen from Chicago: I am a Northwestern fan/alum who grew up in Michigan.-I am super excited about the renewal of the Northwestern/Notre Dame rivalry (yes rivalry, it was once a Trophy Game). The two private schools of the Mid-West should play-Part of me is sad to see the Michigan/Notre Dame rivalry go, but with Notre Dame snubbing the Big Ten, I might not be that sad.-Very excited to see Northwestern/Stanford. Two more private schools that used to be punching bags I think makes a great match-up.-I think it would be fun for the two Willie the Wildcats to face each other (NU/K-State). There would be so much purple on the field.

T.J. from Elkhorn, Wis.: As a Northwestern fan, the dream non-conference schedule is full of nerds -- Duke, Vanderbilt, Notre Dame, and Stanford. If we have to keep one "non-BCS" school on the schedule, lets make it Northern Illinois (closest major school). But the school I am most excited for if I have to pick is Stanford (and it would have been even before Harbaugh and Luck revived the program).

My two cents: As you can see in the responses, Northwestern's actual future scheduling closely reflects what its fans want to see. That's good news for Phillips. The upcoming series with both Stanford and Notre Dame certainly seem to be well received, and for good reason. Northwestern also has games set against programs like Cal and Duke. Wildcats fans want to face more academically oriented schools with good programs. It's a reason why Vanderbilt's decision to back out of games in 2013 and 2014 struck such a chord.

I like the suggestions for both UCLA and Washington, as both are improving programs located in major cities where Northwestern fans either live or would want to visit. The Northern Illinois issue has come up for years as the two programs last played in 2005 and have no plans to do so in the future. Phillips came to Northwestern from NIU and helped build the program there, but Northwestern, while scheduling other MAC programs, has steered clear of the Huskies. Is NIU legitimate enough for Northwestern to schedule and not worry about the backlash from a loss? The teams used to cross paths in recruiting a decent amount, although not so much any more. Adding Northern Illinois makes sense, especially because the Huskies face so many other Big Ten programs (Iowa, Wisconsin, Purdue, Nebraska). Dave, you're absolutely right that Northwestern and Ole Miss have nothing in common, and while I understand your desire to see the tailgating scene in Oxford, I'd rather see Northwestern play a higher-profile SEC team. Rajiv, I agree that it makes sense for Northwestern to schedule an opponent in Texas because the Wildcats have had so much success in the Houston area with players like Venric Mark.

More fan nonconference picks:

Nebraska
Michigan
Penn State
Michigan State
Ohio State
Wisconsin
Iowa
Minnesota
Illinois
Indiana

Purdue