It has been a very good day forNorthwestern and the seemingly endless number of sports scribes who spent time on the Evanston campus. The Wildcats rolled over Wisconsin at Ryan Field, 31-17. The three other Big Ten West teams that entered today with one loss all doubled their total. Wisconsin obviously stumbled, Iowa fell to Penn State on the road, and Purdue was beaten by Michigan State and a guy named Rocky Lombardi.
As a result, Northwestern sits atop the division, two games ahead of all others in the win column. Destiny is completely within their control. Win out and earn the school’s first trip to the Big Ten championship in Indianapolis.
This would certainly be a remarkable accomplishment for Pat Fitzgerald. Consider that Michigan has never made the game. Consider that Iowa, Nebraska, and Penn State have each made one appearance.
Remaining on the conference schedule are road trips to Iowa and Minnesota before a season finale against Illinois. The Wildcats also have a chance to knock off Notre Dame next weekend to improve their national standing.
Beating Iowa would mean they could lose either of the final two and still win the division. Iowa must also play Purdue in West Lafayette. In short, Northwestern has a clear path.
It hasn’t been pretty. Fitzgerald’s side lost at home to Akron. They blew a 17-0 lead against Michigan. They were embarrassed by Duke. The Big Ten wins have tended to be tight in nature. Northwestern needed an overtime miracle to get past Nebraska. They held on for a 3-point win over lowly Rutgers and a 4-point victory over Purdue.
But a win is a win. And the Wildcats have five of them in conference. They sit pretty as we enter the home stretch.
Who saw that coming?