Last week, Northwestern finalized its schedule along with the rest of its counterparts in the Big Ten. The final addition to their schedule was a game against Howard on October 7th at Ryan Field. This will be the two private institutions' first meeting, but Howard is stepping into familiar territory.
The Bison have played in three Chicago Football Classics at Soldier Field, with the last one happening in 2018. This game, along with, Howard's appearances in both the MEAC/SWAC Kickoff and HBCU NYC Classic point to the Bison becoming a big city attraction.
Howard kicked off the millennium with back-to-back appearances in the Chicago Football Classic against Jackson State. In 2000, 43,364 fans showed up to Soldier Field to see the Tigers beat the Bison 34-16. 214 rushing yards allowed the Tigers to race to a 20-3 halftime lead. Also of note, the fans were "treated" to one of the most inefficient passing performances in years as both schools combined to complete 21 of their 66 passes, with Howard quarterbacks only completing 13 of their 41 aerials.
The next year, the Tigers would halt the Bison's payback attempt with a 27-17 victory. The passing games stole the show this time as neither school ran for over 60 yards and instead combined for nearly 600 yards through the air. A 27-3 Jackson State lead was too much to overcome even though the Bison scored two second-half touchdowns.
The Bison would not appear in the classic again until 2019, when "The Battle For the Real HU" went westward. The Bison let what was a 20-13 game at halftime slip away in a 41-20 loss. The quarterbacks took center stage as Deondre Francois threw for 217 yards and four touchdowns on only 20 passes, while Caylin Newton threw for 284 yards and two touchdowns of his own. Arguably, a bigger story than the events on the field was the attendance, as the Chicago Football Classic drew a paltry 19,425 fans and has not been played since. However, the classic is eyeing a return on Labor Day Weekend of 2023.
The game is historic as it is Northwestern's first game against an HBCU. It contributes to a big year for HBCU football in the Windy City. Howard and whichever schools participate in the Chicago Football Classic will benefit from a recruiting and admissions standpoint by appearing in a city with little HBCU exposure.
There is so much more than meets the eye in Howard's matchup against Northwestern in 2023. While it may seem unlikely, the Bison's desire to shake the ghosts of three previous Soldier Field losses may give them the motivation they need to hang around with and even upset Northwestern.
Did you know that in addition to writing, Omar also runs a weekly college football awards podcast with his best friend Jackson Danner and other podcasts discussing college football? Check them out on YouTube and Spotify.