EVANSTON- The Northwestern Wildcats look like a team that could position themselves for a run at the College Football Playoffs.
College football fans and analysts could easily laugh at the notion at first glance. Why would Northwestern be one of the top four teams when Ohio State is going to run the table and be number one seed?
Northwestern would be in with Ohio State as long as the Wildcats only lose 1 game (the Big Ten Championship). There is already a distinct possibility that two big Ten teams will be in it. It looks like it could be the Buckeyes and Spartans. However, Northwestern is certainly speeding along. The Wildcats may not be the small object in the car mirror much longer.
The format allows two teams from the same conference to be in the college football playoffs.
The measuring stick is the Big Ten Conference. There are several 3-1 teams on the schedule including this Saturday’s game against the Minnesota Golden Gophers. One major test is Michigan (3-1) with their defense ranked second best in the nation on Oct. 10. The two big tests in the final weeks include Penn State Nittany Lions (3-1) on November 7th and the Wisconsin Badgers (3-1) on November 21st.
The other major hurdle is the fact that Big Ten Powerhouses Ohio State and Michigan State rank number one and two in the nation. Northwestern’s saving grace is the fact that both teams will have their epic battle in Columbus, Ohio on November 21st. The outcome of the game will help Northwestern either way as long the Wildcats hold up their end of the bargain.
The Wildcats started off the season with the unlikely upset over Stanford 16-6. Northwestern followed up that win a 41-0 annihilation of Eastern Illinois and a narrow 19-10 win over Duke. Ball State put up a fight against the Wildcats but Northwestern prevailed 24-19.
The Wildcats offense hasn’t blown anyone away yet. The strength of the Northwestern is their defense which ranks 11th overall. The run defense ranks 37th giving up 128.3 yards per game. The pass defense ranks 10th giving up 137.8 yards per game.
Many college football fans are likely skeptical of the Wildcats due to the fact they had 3 close wins. However, a defense that plays this brand of football is a threat to go through the season with one loss at most.
At this rate, Northwestern has a chance to advance to the Big Ten Championship, likely against the top ranked Ohio State Buckeyes. The Wildcats are number 16 in the media poll and rank 17 in the coaches poll.