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All the things that had to go right

Northwestern is in the Big Ten Championship, and it’s all your fault.

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NCAA Football: Nebraska at Northwestern Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

The Northwestern Wildcats will represent the West Division in the Big Ten Championship Game.

That is ridiculous. Even I, a Noted Northwestern Shill, can admit that.

But worse yet, it’s all your fault.

Let’s review, first, the silly reasons that you’re annoyed about this phenomenon:

  • Northwestern lost all three of its non-conference games—a home blowout by the Duke Blue Devils followed by a stupid loss to Akron featuring three Zips defensive touchdowns, and a 10-point loss to the #3 team in the country.
  • Northwestern is the 38th-best team in the country, according to Sagarin, and the 78th-best in the country, according to S&P+.
  • The Big Ten West is the 6th-best division in NCAA football, behind (in order) the SEC West, SEC East, Big Ten East, Pac-12 North, and Big XII.

None of these things, in and of themselves, disqualify the ‘Cats from attending Indianapolis. The non-conferences losses are infuriating, unacceptable, and embarrassing, but they notably do not count for shit in the Big Ten, save conference pride, which I don’t think I have, last I checked.

The ratings? Meh. Northwestern plays close games and slows the pace of the game down. I don’t think they should rise from 78th to, say, 30th overnight, but I think they’re closer to Sagarin than to S&P+ (though we’re required to love the former at SBN. I’m conflicted).

The division? I give not one fig if the West is good or bad—it’s full of terrible teams with terrible fans in terrible stadiums with terrible bands, and I hope they all go 0-12 every year. As long as my team is the last standing, I am comfortable with it.

Plus, on the other side, think of Northwestern! We have to play a team that lost to Purdue! At Purdue!

What a black eye on the conference, Jim Delany.

On the other hand—and I’ve said it before—this is all your fault, fan of other B1G West team. Let’s review, game by game, what you did to give us Division Champion Northwestern:

Sindelar starts for Purdue

This feels like eons ago, doesn’t it?

Jeff Brohm opted for the junior Sindelar over senior David Blough in the season-opener at Ross-Ade Stadium, and...well, it didn’t last.

Sindelar completed 18 of his 30 passes for 190 yards, but threw three interceptions against just a single touchdown. Blough, who completed 12 of his 16 passes in a much more measured, controlled passing attack, was much more successful in moving the ball against the Wildcats, and eventually he won the starting job for good.

Here’s how their seasons shaped up:

  • Blough: 283/425 (66.6%), 3521 yards (8.3 YPA), 25:8 TD:INT, 151.8 rating
  • Sindelar: 26/44 (59.1%), 283 yards (6.4 YPA), 2:3 TD:INT, 114.5 rating

If only you would’ve realized your mistake sooner, Jeff. You could’ve prevented Division Champion Northwestern.

Michigan State forgets to update its pass defense

Michigan State has the 14th-best total defense in the country! Michigan State has the 22nd-best passing defense (by efficiency allowed) in the country! Northwestern has the 113th-most efficient passing offense in the country!

In a game shortly after Northwestern lost Jeremy Larkin, though, the ‘Cats completely dominated the Spartans through the air.

Clayton Thorson racked up 373 yards—then a season high!—through the air on 31/47 passing (66%, 7.9 YPA) for 3 TDs, 2 INTs, and a 145.2 passer rating. The Spartans were positively picked apart by Northwestern’s speedy receivers across the middle and underneath, and a completely-blown coverage allowed Kyric McGowan to scamper 79 yards for a touchdown. Sparty took an ugly 29-19 loss at home. In the postgame Dantonio expressed frustration at Northwestern’s execution, while DC Mike Tressel chalked it up to Thorson hitting throws in tight windows...

...only it gets easier and easier when those windows are there every year. Northwestern feasts on linebackers flexed out in coverage and soft defense on slants, and Michigan State provides it in spades. Case in point?

  • MSU pass D vs. NU: 66% completion, 373 yards, 3 TD, 2 INTs allowed
  • MSU pass D vs. Everyone Else: 58% completion, 230 YPG, 1.1 TD/gm, 1.2 INT/gm

Try a new playbook next year, Mork! Mix up those coverage schemes! With your help, you could prevent Division Champion Northwestern.

Nebraska just shits themselves in the last 90 seconds

This one feels the least likely to repeat. But had Nebraska not shat the bed with a minute and a half to go, they could have prevented Division Champion Northwestern.

Whatever Rutgers was know, I don’t know what happened here either.

But Northwestern turned in what I’m sure S&P+ rates as a 14th-percentile performance or something, and they still won, thanks to the ol’ RUTM with Isaiah Bowser being just good enough to work against Rutgers.

Coan and wisconsin can’t make headway

Northwestern manballed wisconsin.

I still don’t get it, to be honest with you.

We’ll chalk it up, though, to the fact that Jack Coan was making his first start of his college career in the notoriously unforgiving confines of Ryan Field, where you can hear a suburban Wilmette mother across the street scolding her child for opening a window and letting all that racket in.

Coan looked uncomfortable and struggled to hand the ball off to Jonathan Taylor, resulting in some hilariously-derpy fumbles that, of course, Northwestern fell on. Another gift for Northwestern, another escape for the ‘Cats.

No one is, of course, sad that of all teams, wisconsin failed to prevent Division Champion Northwestern.

Iowa fails to use talent again or something


On a bitterly cold day in Iowa City, the ‘Cats got the benefit of the Iowa Hawkeyes completely losing their mind and failing to go to the well that kept giving sweet, sweet tight end receptions—Iowa “played down” to Northwestern in what was probably, definitely, surely the Wildcats’ Super Bowl (and there’s fatigue for Iowa—it was their 4th or 5th Super Bowl of the season!), and the punt battle that broke out could’ve swung either way.

Of course, we know the way that it swung—14-10, Northwestern, as Hawkeyes running backs coughed it up twice in the fourth quarter, gift-wrapping the ‘Cats a Big Ten West title in Kinnick.

Had you called a game with even a semblance of imagination or attention to what was working, Iowa, you could have beaten the ‘Cats and prevented us from reminding you that you could’ve stopped Division Champion Northwestern.

Anyways, Kirk is 8-10 vs NU and 5-8 vs Fitz but shhh.

I can easily see any of those six wins swinging the other way.

In some alternate universe, those bounces or late comebacks or starting quarterbacks or tight end neglects don’t work in the Wildcats’ favor, and they’re staring at a 2-10 (2-7) campaign. We’re left to wonder what could have been; fans of Purdue, Michigan State, Nebraska, Rutgers, wisconsin, and Iowa are left to rue their missed opportunities and the gifts they gave Northwestern.

So, Ohio State fans, if you’re upset at not having a bigger name to beat in the Big Ten Champion, now you know who to blame. Big Ten observers, if you’re wondering just how we got to this point, think of it as a series of practical jokes, each more elaborate than the next, until you realized that fuck, Northwestern’s actually gonna do this, huh?

Make no mistake—Northwestern earned this, and I will go to my grave insisting that. They went 6-0 against the Big Ten West, running their incredible conference winning streak to 15 of their last 16 conference games (and 11 consecutive divisional wins).

They can take anything short of a 70-23 or 59-0 beating at the hands of Ohio State, and they won’t even be the worst Big Ten Championship participant (though obviously we’d all love it if they exceeded those performances).

We can acknowledge those positively while still recognizing that, in six of those games, a lot went right to get the Wildcats to Indianapolis.

All those things had to go right.

And they did.

It’s all your fault.