Ryan Field in Evanston, Illinois is known as the “Wrigley Field” of college football. It doesn’t quite have the history of the Cubs, but boasts a very classic and old school stadium atmosphere. For a while now, NU has been calling themselves Chicago’s Big Ten Team. Attempts to market this slogan are popping up around the city, and the evidence is beginning to show with more rumps in the seats in Evanston. Perhaps because Chicagoans are slowly realizing that Northwestern is true Big Ten football. It’s the real deal, especially lately.
The Chicago Cubs just won the World Series – a 108-year streak without this feat. Ryan Field celebrated by flying the W atop the towers rising over the upper deck. The NU band played “Go Cubs Go” to an all-crowd sing along. Breaking streaks like this are always cause for major celebration. Another streak was on the line as well. It’s not quite 108 years of suffering, but the Badgers have not experienced success in Evanston since 1999. Today, that W flag would also stand for Wisconsin.
Often regarded as the Big Ten’s wildest and thrilling venue, Camp Randall Stadium never disappoints. Once a Civil War training site, this massive structure is crammed in a beautiful residential area among dorms, frat houses, campus buildings and bars. The Camp is the perfect college venue with views of the state capital and Madison’s surrounding lakes (Mendota and Menona). The walk up Breese Terrace right before kickoff is one of my favorites as herds of red and white walk in the shadows of Camp Randall’s upper deck. The frat houses along this side are spilling over with college kids and extracurricular activity. As this side heats up, the band is finishing their pre-game concert at Union South on the Randall Avenue side. From here, they march proudly into the stadium under the iconic Camp Randall arch while creating a path through awestruck fans.
Two weeks ago, overtime claimed Wisconsin a victim at Camp Randall. Tonight, the Badgers would enter overtime again while facing their FIFTH Top 10 opponent this season.
Camp Randall Stadium is one of the most raucous stadiums in the nation. When Ohio State visits, turn up the volume from rowdy to ridiculous. This will be the eleventh game I have seen between the Buckeyes and the Badgers, and the contests are always a national event. This one was no different as College Gameday set up its stage on Bascom Hill to highlight the game’s magnitude.
This is a classic example of a place where sports dominate the entertainment category. On gameday, you might hear announcers joke that “you can leave the keys in your tractor” because everyone in Iowa is at the game. Pre-game tailgating is fantastic and the buzz on the streets in Iowa City is all about the team. Many fans point out visiting colors and start their battle cries and chants. Walking up to Kinnick Stadium, you see a beautiful brick façade that lines the outside. Rows of corn greet visitors to the main entrance along with a statue of Hawkeye hero and 1939 Heisman trophy winner, Nile Kinnick.
A less than appetizing start for both Northwestern and Iowa had many questioning the relevance of this game. Both squads had suffered losses to FCS division teams and it appeared as though mediocre was the mark to make this year.
Finally, it paid off. Wisconsin’s insistence on scheduling a high profile opening game reaped some benefits. After falling short to LSU in 2014 and Alabama in 2015, the Badgers chalked up a victory in the highly anticipated rematch against LSU at historic Lambeau Field. Underdog status be damned. The Badgers are for real.
A cup of coffee and an el train ride separate Chicago’s northside from Evanston, Illinois where the venerable Ryan Field awaits its fans in purple. Fitting that the el train that takes passengers up to Northwestern University is the purple line. Filled with Wildcat fans and a few despondent Purdue fans, the el carried patrons ready for an early kickoff on a unseasonably warm November day.
For Wisconsin fans on Halloween, no amount of candy could possibly match the treat of runningback Corey Clement’s return to the field. He brings an entirely different element to the Badger offense – one that would serve more as a trick than a treat for Rutgers.
More than 74,000 visited Camp Randall Stadium today, but it was patchy amongst the bleachers. Halloween is an over-the-top event in Madison, and those festivities coupled with an annoyingly chilly rainfall colored the crowd with a more dispirited hue.