No. 4 – Northwestern Wildcats 2-3 (1-1)
Last Week: 5
Sure, Northwestern is 2-3 with a loss to FCS-Illinois State, however they’re coming off an impressive win over Iowa in Iowa City, a team they’ve struggled against in the past. Besides, they beat a respectable Duke team a couple of weeks ago, nearly took down Western Michigan in week one and were a couple of big plays away from upsetting Nebraska.
If a couple of things went differently, Northwestern could be 4-1 and a top-25 team. That’s the difference for them this year, though — big plays and calls haven’t gone their way.
The story remains the same for the Wildcats following a win over Iowa. Their defense has been stifling, only allowing 19.8 points per game — 31st in the nation. On the other hand, their offense relies heavily on Justin Jackson, only topping 25 points once this season. It won’t change in 2016, but they might have found a way to win with their strange game plan.
Clayton Thorson has been shaky his whole career, however he’s coming off two straight games in which he completed at least 60 percent of his passes. Not to mention Austin Carr has arguably been the best wide receiver in the Big Ten up to this point. The Wildcats want to run, but if their passing game helps open up lanes for Jackson and relieves pressure off their mediocre offensive line, they have a chance to turn their season around.
Northwestern only has one-loss in the Big Ten in 2016. That being said, with Michigan State, Ohio State and Wisconsin left on their schedule, they only have an outside chance of being a true contender in the Big Ten West.
Northwestern will have a tough road to become bowl eligible but it’s safe to say that they’re one of the best two-win teams in the nation. They’re not great, although don’t be deceived by their 2-3 record.