Friday, November 14, 2008

Michigan and Northwestern - Battle of the Academic Titans

Go for TWO: Go for 2 exclaim the Michigan fans – two wins in a row, that is.

Northwestern plays Michigan Saturday in the Big House in a battle of the Academic titans of the Big Ten. Of course, the Big Ten actually has 11 schools, so how stellar can the conference be?

Be that as it may, U.S. News ranks Northwestern # 12 and Michigan # 26. In the two measures that really matter though, Michigan is rated a 4.4 versus 4.3 for Northwestern in professional reputation. More significantly, the London Times study of the world’s great universities ranks Michigan as #18, the highest ranked public university in the world, and Northwestern # 29. We` know the Brits are always so much more sophisticated than the former colonists, so I go with the London Times.

Northwestern is a great national university, but its strength is concentrated in the Midwest. Michigan is truly national in its reach. After all, both my youngest son and myself attended UM.

Michigan has several famous grads in Hollywood, including James Earl Jones, Lucy Liu, Selma Blair, and Lawrence Kasdan.

Northwestern though has long tentacles extending to Hollywood and New York. The grads include Claude Akins, Bonnie Bartlett, Richard Benjamin, Zach Bratt, Stephen Colbert, Robert Conrad, William Daniels, Mary Frann, Brad Hall, Marg Helgenberger,
Charlton Heston, Sherry Lansing, Cloris Leachman, Gary Marshall, Seth Myers, Patricia
Strauss, and Fred Williamson.

Of course, Michigan claims Gilda Ratner, Madonna as two of its most famous dropouts. But once again, Northwestern has Michigan beat with Ann-Margaret, Warren Beatty, Edgar Bergen, Karen Black, Cindy Crawford, Jane Curtin, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Megan Mullally, Jerry Orbach, Shelly Long, Tony Randall, and Leigh Taylor-Young.

Oh well, Michigan also has Arthur Miller. No Northwestern grad or dropout ever married Norma Jean Baker.

Michigan claims Mike Wallace and Raoul Wallenberg, one of the world’s great humanitarians who disappeared into the Soviet Gulag.

Let’s not forget the Stanford PhD dropout, Larry Page, whose only college degree is from Michigan.

If it’s red meat you want, then Michigan Law School claims Larry Elder, the always temperate Ann Coulter, and Branch Rickey as grads, along with Michael (I don’t like the Pledge of Allegiance) Newdow and Clarence Darrow.

Both Gerald Ford and Tom Dewey failed in their campaigns for the Presidency. Finally, Northwestern has no one to match Bill Ayres, Tom Hayden, Ted “The Unabomber” Kaczynski, Jack Kevorkian, and Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier. Technically Papa Doc only attended the School of Public Health for two semesters and didn’t graduate, so he’s not formally listed as an alumnus.

Northwestern is the historic doormat of the Big Ten. It leads the NCAA in the all-time loss record for Division IA football teams. It lost a record 34 straight games from 1979-1983. It last won a bowl game in 1949. Michigan has three Heismans to zero for Northwestern, etc., etc.

It’s OK for the Wildcats to win four straight NCAA women lacrosse titles, which is appropriate for a great academic institution. But it should never be competitive in football.

And yet, it won the Big Ten in 1995 and went to the Rose Bowl, where a Hollywood Sea of Purple watched Charlton Heston repart the Red Sea. Northwestern also shared the Big Ten Title in 1996 and 2000, and beat Michigan 54-51 in 2000, 17-16 in 1996, and 19-13 in 1995.

The world is a symmetrical upside down phenomenon this year with Northwestern 7-3 and Michigan 3-7.

Last week, for the first time this season both Michigan’s offense and defense played a complete game and trounced Minnesota, behind the second string QB and a freshman QB/WR Michigan was hoping to redshirt. He QB’d on six plays, ran six times, and gained 48 yards, showing a vision of what a running QB can do for Michigan.

Unfortunately, the thrilling victory did not move Michigan out of Northwestern’s historic perch in the Bottom Ten.

Northwestern may also have to play a backup, backup running QB, whose name is a scary Kafka.

Go Blue.

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