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The football history of Stanford vs. Northwestern

Stanford and Northwestern will face off for the first time since 1994. The teams have matched up only six times before, with Stanford leading the series 3-1-2. (DON FERIA/isiphotos.com)

As the Stanford football team heads to Evanston, Ill. this Saturday to begin its season against Northwestern, we take a look back at the football history between the two schools.

Stanford and Northwestern have probably faced each other in more academic competitions than football ones, as there are only six recorded football match-ups between the schools.

As is the case with most non-conference teams, Pac-12 Stanford and Big Ten Northwestern have played all of their games as pairs in consecutive (or at least very close) years. These series have taken place in the years 1933/34, 1957/58 and 1992/94, and Stanford holds the series edge with a record of 3-1-2.

1933 and 1934

The ’30s were a strange time for college football. The Associated Press hadn’t begun polling writers to name a national champion (a practice that started in 1936), so there were actually three to four supposed national champions every year. The Stanford-Northwestern games were about as interesting as one might expect in an era when there wasn’t a clear champion. The 1933 game ended in a 0-0 tie while Stanford prevailed 20-0 in 1934. The Stanford Cardinal Indians lost in the Rose Bowl both years, first to Columbia and then to Alabama.

1957 and 1958

The matchups in the ’50s were a tad more interesting. In 1957, Stanford beat the Wildcats 26-6 in a season in which Northwestern ended up with an abysmal 0-9 record. The year after that, the roles were reversed, as Northwestern beat Stanford 28-0 in what would be Stanford’s last year in the Pacific Coast Conference.

Also, fascinatingly enough, there was a tight end on the ’57 and ’58 Stanford teams named Jim Ukropina. If that last names sounds familiar, that is because Jim Ukropina is the great uncle of current Stanford kicker Conrad Ukropina.

1992 and 1994

1992 was an exciting year for Stanford football, as head coach Bill Walsh had just returned to Stanford after winning three Super Bowls with the San Francisco 49ers. Walsh commanded the team to a 10-3 record that year, including a 35-24 win over Northwestern. Stanford later won the Blockbuster Bowl on New Year’s Day and ended the season with a No. 9 national ranking.

The 1994 campaign was not as promising, as Stanford could not keep up with a talented Pac-10 conference and ended up with a 2-6 conference record. However, the Cardinal did manage to tie Northwestern with a score of 41-41 in their first game of the season. That game was actually one of the last ties in college football history, as the NCAA Football Rules Committee introduced overtime in 1996 to get rid of ties.

2015 and 2019

A new chapter will be added to the series this Saturday as Stanford opens its season on the road. To complement this game, Northwestern will head west in 2019 to play Stanford, bringing the total number of matchups between the two schools to eight.

Contact Sandip Srinivas at sandips ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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