Can Pat Fitzgerald's Northwestern team continue to go 1-0 every week?
Jinx disclaimer: First of all, let me say that I don't believe this article is in any way a jinx. I am a firm believer that by the end of this season, the Northwestern Wildcats will lose a football game. Therefore, if and when Northwestern does lose, it will have been expected. If Northwestern goes undefeated, that would be nutso.
Secondly, I've firmly excused myself from the "can Northwestern go 7-0?" talk, because I'm most concerned with Northwestern winning every week, something which makes sense because Northwestern has yet to win a game comfortably yet despite three victories. Well, I guess I'm not asking that question in this article. Here's what I am asking:
Northwestern has been 3-0 before. In fact, in my four years in college, NU started out 5-0 twice, in 2008 and 2010. But rarely was Northwestern undefeated while the rest of its conference crashed and burned.
Right now, there are only three undefeated teams left in the B1G: NU, Ohio State, and Minnesota. Of these, you could argue Northwestern has the best chance of being the last with a "0" in the loss column. Let's take a look:Minnesota Golden Gophers
Upcoming schedule: Vs. Syracuse, @ Iowa, Vs. Northwestern
I think we can all agree that by the end of that game against Northwestern, there will be two or less undefeated teams in the conference, since somebody has to lose every football game. It's in the rules. However, I think Minnesota will have casually offed itself from this conversation before then. They beat Western Michigan by five points with their backup QB, which isn't an awful win, but going to triple OT against UNLV - Sagarin has them as the 140th best team in the country - that's worrisome. SBN's The Daily Gopher put Northwestern at No. 23 in its blogpoll while acknowledging Minnesota got no votes, and is now worried about stopping Syracuse's passing attack, which Northwestern proved is a valid concern. Minnesota may be undefeated now with a weak schedule, but I expect them to drop both of their next two games as they take on higher-quality teams without Marqueis Gray, who is out several weeks. Their matchup against Syracuse this week will show the disparity in talent between Northwestern and Minnesota.
Ohio State Buckeyes
Upcoming schedule: Vs. UAB, @ Michigan State, vs. Nebraska
Bruce Feldman called the Buckeyes the No. 10 most likely team to run the table, and if that's the case, they'll have to prove it in the first two weeks of the Big Ten schedule. MSU and Nebraska have already fallen, but we all know they aren't walks in the park. Braxton Miller is the truth for the Buckeyes, but they weren't perfect against UCF and needed a late go-ahead touchdown to beat Cal. They'll handle UAB, but I see them losing one out of those two games against elite Big Ten competition. After that, they'll probably cakewalk through the rest of their schedule until Wisconsin and Michigan in the season's final two weeks. OSU blog Land-Grant Holy Land has a nice optimist-pessimist piece on the team's chances three weeks in.
Upcoming schedule: Vs. South Dakota, Vs. Indiana, @ Penn State
Like I said earlier, I'm not taking anything for granted. Every week could be a loss. I like Northwestern's chances against South Dakota and Indiana, and Penn State will be a battle.
I suppose the point I'm trying to make is, within three weeks, its somewhat likely that the Big Ten will have no undefeated teams left. But if NU hangs tough and keeps the wins coming, it likely won't be long until the Cats get to sit on top of the Big Ten standings by themselves for a week or two.