A big part of my decision to apply to Northwestern University came from the school's legitimate Big Ten athletics. Although not a perennial powerhouse, the Wildcats proved over the past decade to be adequate in big-time sports like basketball and football, and outright dominant in sports such as lacrosse.
However, my brother attends the University of Florida, a school with legendary sports teams, creating a sibling rivalry almost lost from the start. Often when I dream of the day of UF's demise, I rest on the fact that at least NU does things the right way.
Under the tutelage of hall-of-famer Pat Fitzgerald, the Wildcats run a squeaky-clean program, and continue to increase their relevance in football while maintaining the school's strict academic standards.
The Gators just went through a four-year stretch under their previous coach with over 30 arrests on the team, and the university even kicked future NFL stars like Cam Newton and Janoris Jenkins off the team.
All of this brings me to Saturday's matchup between then-No. 2 Southern California and then-No. 21 Stanford.
USC entered the matchup as the favorite, and rightfully so. The Trojans began the season as the number one ranked team, only falling a spot due to the dominance of Alabama. Many in the media also picked USC as the team capable of ending the reign of the SEC in the national title game.
But the Trojans also entered the game as the bad guys. USC continually shows callous disregard for NCAA rules, just completing a 2-year bowl ban before this season and losing 20 scholarships as a result of improper benefits given to former Heisman winner Reggie Bush.
The Bush sanctions came on the heels of a recruiting scandal in basketball involving O.J. Mayo.
The Cardinal on the other hand entered as the underdogs, a year removed from high-school-valedictorian-turned-first-overall-pick in the NFL Draft Andrew Luck leading the team to the second-best season in school history.
So what happens in the game? Stanford wears down USC physically, scoring the game's last 14 points to notch a huge 21-14 upset. The Cardinal's victory pushed their win streak against the Trojans to four.
Stanford's ability to exploit USC's backup center and put pressure on quarterback Matt Barkley turned the tide of the game. The Trojans' depth on the offensive line became an issue after the 20-scholarship reduction, a healthy dose of poetic justice.
Too frequently in college sports, the public as well as schools themselves accept athletic departments bending the rules for more wins. That makes it so much more refreshing when teams like Stanford not only beat the bad guys, but prove that athletics can be done the right way.
If I went to USC or UF, would I still root for their teams? Hell yeah. But attending Northwestern forced me to appreciate teams that don't cut corners.
Stanford's win may not mean much in the long-term, but for me, they made a statement. You don't need extra cash or free cars to build a good football team. Sometimes, good coaching and proper recruiting does the job.
Sometimes, the good guys do win.