Okay. So I was talking to my friend who is a surprisingly rabid Northwestern fan (CHICAGO'S BIG TEN TEAM!!!), and he had something of a week two overreaction ("But we're Northwestern! We NEVER get to have week two overreactions!") by saying that Northwestern could go 11-1 with their only loss coming on November 17 to Michigan State in East Lansing.
Oh, yes. We need to talk about this.
First, let acknowledge a few things:
The Syracuse win was uncomfortable but huge nonetheless. Yes. It was a win in that "I'm glad it's a non-conference win but our defense is going to struggle so I don't feel too good about it" sense. But it was huge. Winning against what now looks like a very decent (maybe even good) 'Cuse team that put up a fight against USC is pretty huge, and you don't get any closer to going to a bowl game by starting 0-1. Syracuse win: huge. (That's four uses of the word "huge.")
As huge as the Syracuse win was, the Vandy win was bigger. No question. Do not dispute this. Not only did N'Western's defense step up in a big way, but they successfully shut down a Vandy team that were turning heads against South Carolina. Let me guess... huge? Yes, but for so many other reasons. Vandy's SEC, and you have to think that Skip Bayless is all like "DAMN YOU WILDCATS DAMN YOUUUUUU!"
Okay. Things acknowledged? Check. Let's look at the schedule:
at Syracause (W!!)
at Penn State
You look at that and there is a legitimate chance for Northwestern to go 7-0 until they face Nebraska on October 20. Indiana, South Dakota, and BC are so blatantly winnable it's nauseating to think how the 'Cats could lose those games. Penn State is 0-2 and is all like "Wha... happened...?" And Minnesota could pose some problems if they run the table in their non-conference and have some momentum when N'Western visits them at home.
Now on to what my CATS FOREVA bud said: Nebraska's loss to UCLA is a shocker but means that against great offenses they are not invincible, Iowa doesn't look good and could (nay, will?) be significantly worse this year than anyone deemed possible, Michigan hur hur lost to Alabama and double hur hur struggled against Air Force, and Illinois got shredded by an Arizona State team that was mediocre last year, making Todd Graham look like a genius and Tim Beckman look like an overenthusiastic tool.
First, let's all do ourselves a favor and not overlook BC and Chase Rettig.
Miami pretty much did for one half and then realized "Oh sh*t we actually have to play these guys" enough to put the game away. Frank Spaziani's job is on the line at BC and the whole team will be looking to knock off a BCS school just to prove they can. N'Western shouldn't lose to BC but DEAR GOD IF THEY DO someone's going to have to break open the purple vodka early this year.
The only other game that despite the hur hur struggles looks pretty rough is Michigan. The Wolverines may be having some issues finding their footing now because it's early in the season and they just got walloped by Bama and immediately had to prepare for a triple option offense (not exactly the easiest task), but by November 10 they should be more than ready, and the Wildcats haven't exactly had the most success in the Big House.
Okay, fine, so the 'Cats lose to Michigan. So... 10-2?
Not so fast, my friend.
Even the most realistic person should consider that while Northwestern has the ability to go 7-0, the toughest part of their schedule is pretty much in the second half. And this assumes that Minnesota poses no problems.
My issue is that I seriously think the Wildcats are going to go 7-0 and then people are going to be upset when they finish 8-4 or 9-3. "B-But... we were 7-0!!!" You might recall that this was kind of addressed in the comments/discussion area of a fan post I wrote a while back. At that time most people were predicting 7 wins overall and a loss to Vandy and/or Syracuse. How the world has changed.
Barring a complete defensive or offensive meltdown, the Wildcats are going to a bowl game. Book it. I know it's still early, but seriously... Indiana? South Dakota? F**king BC!??! Unless Penn State or Minnesota gives Northwestern problems (which I don't see happening), it's becoming a pretty safe bet.
Double seriously, Penn State? Lost to effing Ohio. Walk-on kicker. Walk-on QB. Walk-on RB. And that's not even going into their depth issues.
Think about it. That situation versus Colter/Siemian and Venric Mark. O'Brien versus Pat Fitzgerald.
Minnesota could be legit if they whip Western Michigan and Syracuse, but they squeaked by UNLV in triple OT and then destroyed FCS New Hampshire. They won't play a BCS-conference opponent until the 'Cuse.
And Nortwestern, btw, just played two.
That's seven wins, people. Bowl eligibility.
Here's my revised predictions for N'Western:
at Syracause (W - Locked.)
Vandy (W - Locked.)
BC (W - Locked.)
South Dakota (W)
at Penn State (W)
at Minnesota (W)
at Michigan (L)
at MSU (L)
That's 9-3. And I'm doing my best to keep a level head.
Unless all those teams post-September show up in a big way... it's lookin' pretty good for Ol' Fitz.
My concern? What happens if the Wildcats go 7-0. Fans need to stay grounded and remember that the easier part of the schedule was the first half. True, the toughest part of that was the first two games, which Northwestern just won. Don't think that just because Northwestern can go 7-0 with this schedule that suddenly means 12-0 is possible. Let's keep our cool and be realistic.