Can Northwestern Actually Win the Big Ten?

No. Of course not. Don't be stupid. Even NU fans with the rosiest glasses couldn't believe that. They're simply not going to beat Ohio State in Big Ten championship, should it come to that. But even the most pessimistic of fans (literally me) of NU must admit not even the Wildcats could find a way to lose the Big Ten West. NU would need to lose two of the next three weeks against bottom dwellers Michigan St., Minnesota, and Illinois. Let's analyze.

NU's defense is extremely athletic. Blake Gallagher took home Big Ten defensive player of the week honors after 14 tackles, a sack, forced fumble, and fumble recovery against UW. He becomes the second NU linebacker to take home the honor this season after Chris Bergins did the same in week two. UW's offense was depleted and the officiating was really really bad but the defense made outstanding plays. Only one of the Mertz interceptions was a bad throw. The other two were outstanding plays by an athletic defense. The fumbles, both by Mertz and Groshek, were great defensive plays as well.

So with that in mind, how is a Michigan St. team that has scored 7 points in its last two games going to score? They won't be able to. A victory over Michigan St. would mean NU would have to lose both against Minnesota and Illinois. Minnesota lost to both Maryland and Iowa but was rescued by a pass interference call against Purdue. Any self respecting NU fan would understand the Minnesota will not be an easy win. And despite the actually unbelievable offensive outburst from Illinois over Nebraska this week, the Fighting Illini will be huge underdogs when they come into Ryan Field mid-December.

My biggest hope, of course, is to run the table, beat Ohio St., and become the third Big Ten team to play in the CFP.

My best guess is that NU blows one of the next three games, keeps it close against Ohio State for two and a half quarters, and ends up in the Gator Bowl getting beat by a second tier SEC opponent.

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