By all accounts, Northwestern University had one of its best football seasons ever. The Wildcats ended up 8-1 in conference, ranked 19th in the country, and most importantly, won the Big Ten West Division earning them a spot in the Big Ten Championship Game. NU finished the football season winning the Land of Lincoln Trophy by defeating in-state rival University of Illinois. But of course, Wildcat Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald has more on his mind than just the Illinois Championship.
“Every year our goal is to win the Big Ten West, and we’ve gotten over that hump. And now we’ve got an opportunity, obviously, to take the team to the Rose Bowl, and if that doesn’t motivate you then I don’t know what does,” Fitzgerald said after the match-up with Illinois.
Up next, the Wildcats will be playing in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship. It will be NU’s first appearance in this annual game. Their opponent, Ohio State, is no stranger to the big game. Northwestern will be an underdog against the Buckeyes. A big one. Ohio State only lost one game all season, and with their recent win over Michigan, the Buckeyes should be ranked in the top 4 of the country. However, the only team that beat Ohio State this year was Purdue, which is a team that Northwestern beat 31-27. So these Wildcats should not be counted out.
The NU students and fans believe in the Wildcats. Northwestern sold out its allotment of tickets to the Big Ten Championship; more than 10,000 seats in roughly 48 hours. Not only that, there is a caravan of 58 buses carrying more than 3,400 Northwestern students to Indianapolis. The school estimates that nearly half their undergraduate students will be in attendance. With that kind of support, Northwestern might not just be “Chicago’s Big Ten Team” but also “Indianapolis’s Big Ten Team”!
Turning Lucas Oil Stadium into Ryan Field South will have a factor in the game. If the Wildcat players can block, tackle, catch and run…the fans will bring the energy from the stands. That energy should make its way to the players on the field. If Northwestern can pull off the upset victory, Northwestern’s impressive season will become magical.
And even if the Buckeyes win the game, the season will still be considered a success for Northwestern.