Northwestern's national arrival

Sylvan Lane on the Northwestern-OSU buzz, and what it means for the new-look Wildcats.

The buzz on campus is so prevalent, that if you walk along Sheridan Road, you might actually be able to hear a faint hum amongst the sounds of students chatting and the wind of Lake Michigan rustling the still green leaves of Evanston's trees.

Or, it at least seems that way. The first week of classes is ending at NU, but talk is centered squarely on Oct. 5th's homecoming game against Ohio State.

Predications about the final score, a potential College Gameday appearance and whether or not Ryan Field's goal posts will be on land or in water after the game are almost impossible to avoid.

If Northwestern football hasn't arrived on the national stage, maybe I don't know what that means.

Of course, the Wildcats have come nowhere close to accomplishing what they and their fans believe they are capable of, if for no other reason than they're only four games into what will be a very challenging season.

As meaningful and as sentimental as the Gator Bowl win is, it merely represents a stepping stone for a team looking to propel itself to a level few people thought was possible for an elite private university in the modern era.

And by all rights, Northwestern may get blown out of the water on Oct. 5th, depending on whether or not the offense can maintain momentum and the defense can hold strong against what may be the best passing attack it faces all season.

But then again, maybe the Wildcats will play up to their opponent, find the consistency that's evaded them all season long and upset a potential national title contender while the entire nation watches.

Either way, the result of the Ohio State game doesn't matter quite as much as Northwestern's divisional games. And while a win or loss against the Buckeyes might shake up the Top 25, how the Wildcats do in their conference or division will still be more important than how they do in the polls.

The important part of next week's game is not necessarily what happens on the field, but what's been happening amongst the student body, the fans and the national college football interest at large.

In all likelihood, College Gameday will come to Northwestern, and the game will be broadcast during primetime on ABC regardless.

On a Big Ten campus where a galling number of students know nothing about the school's football team, or couldn't care less about it, the national attention the Wildcats are getting is being matched by that of the students it represents, which is no small feat.

It was 2011 when I sat in my freshman dorm lounge with a few friends and watched the then 3-5 Wildcats upset No. 10 Nebraska in Lincoln on a decrepit tube TV. The joy and pride that filled the room quickly turned to shock, confusion and disappointment when student after student filed past, completely unaware of and uninterested in what happened, despite our best efforts to explain what this meant to the team.

Two years later, there are few students who aren't at least aware of how important Oct. 5th's game can be.

Now that Northwestern has been deemed worthy enough to appear on the national stage in such a prominent role, it's up to the team to prove why it belongs there. Before they do, it's important to relish the opportunity.


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