There have been many surprises through the first four weeks of the college football season. Alabama has already been handed its first loss, to Ole Miss. Auburn and Oregon, two potential playoff teams, have fallen to 2-2. But, one of the biggest surprises in all of college football so far is coming from a team here in Chicago. The Northwestern Wildcats are 4-0, and aren’t looking back.
Many college football fans are surprised to see Northwestern at 4-0. Many 4-0 teams usually start this way because they start off the season with an easy schedule, but Northwestern’s schedule wasn’t exactly a piece of cake.
Their first matchup was at home against a very talented Stanford team, that has potential to be a top 15 team this year. Northwestern’s defense shined, only allowing Stanford to six points, which lead to a very good first win.
In their second game, they easily got past a bad Eastern Illinois team. Then, In their second real test of the year, their defense shined again, beating a Duke team on the road that won nine games last year. In their fourth game, they beat a very under the radar Ball State team, that has made numerous bowl appearances over the past couple of years.
There are several reasons why Northwestern has been doing this well. The main reason is their defense. Northwestern has allowed an average of 8.8 points per game, which is third among all FBS schools. Northwestern is also top 20 in total yards allowed per game, passing yards allowed per game, and fumbles recovered. Coach Pat Fitzgerald thinks this is the best Northwestern defense he’s seen in years. “This is the best we’ve looked as far as I can remember,” Fitzgerald said. “We just have to keep moving forward.”
Another reason Northwestern has been doing so well is their rushing attack. Justin Jackson, Northwestern’s starting running back, has 516 yards through the first four games, ranking ninth in the nation among FBS running backs. “He’s one of those guys, he just gets tougher every time he gets the ball.” Coach Pat Fitzgerald said, after their win against Ball State. Justin Jackson is already a top 20 running back in college football, and he’s only a sophomore. He’s definitely one of the main reasons Northwestern has started off the season as well as they have.
When people think about the Big Ten West in college football, they usually think Wisconsin or Nebraska, but this year, I think Northwestern will open some eyes, and possibly win the Big Ten West and compete in the Big Ten Championship Game.