All Is Not Lost for Northwestern's Big Ten Title Hopes

Andrew CoppensContributor IOctober 14, 2013

MADISON, WI - OCTOBER 12: Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald of the Northwestern Wildcats talks to the defense on the sidlines during the game against the Wisconsin Badgers during the game at Camp Randall Stadium on October 12, 2013 in Madison, Wisconsin. (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)
Mike McGinnis/Getty Images

An 0-2 start to conference play, ranked no more—it seems like it's all doom and gloom in Evanston these days. 

But, I'm here to say cheer up to the purple and black faithful. Your season is far from over and so too are your Big Ten title game hopes. 

There's no way of sugar-coating what happened this past weekend in Madison.

It was about as bad as the Wildcats have played under Pat Fitzgerald (yes worse than the 70-23 beating they took in 2010 at Camp Randall).  

Maybe the performance from Saturday woke the sleeping giant from within the Wildcats? 

"I hope it gives our guys a punch right in the face," Fitzgerald said to Teddy Greenstein of the Chicago Tribune. "Wakes 'em up. It's hard to win Big Ten football games."

MADISON, WI - OCTOBER 12: Christian Jones #14 of the Northwestern Wildcats makes the catch and runs for more yards during the second half of play against the Wisconsin Badgers at Camp Randall Stadium on October 12, 2013 in Madison, Wisconsin. (Photo by Mi
Mike McGinnis/Getty Images

However, if there is such a thing as a silver-lining in this situation it's that all that Northwestern was looking to achieve is right in front of it still. 

Sure, an undefeated season isn't there for the taking anymore, but the main goal is still there—winning a Big Ten title, and amazingly the Wildcats still control their own destiny in that endeavor. 

The task ahead? Win six games in a row. Simple enough, right?

To be sure, the margin of error for the Wildcats is very slim, and that's putting it mildly, if they want to be in Indianapolis as a participant in the Big Ten Championship Game.

But it's far from an impossibility. 

Northwestern still has all five games against fellow Legends Division foes ahead of them and a season ending date with rival Illinois to round it all out. 

Coming into 2013 everyone knew the Wildcats' schedule wasn't going to be easy, but if this team hit bottom last Saturday, perhaps a home date with Minnesota will help in getting back on top?

That's who's on the schedule for the Wildcats this weekend and the performance of Fitz's crew will tell a lot about who this team is this year. 

After that it's dates with Iowa and Nebraska on the road, followed by home dates with Michigan and Michigan State to end the Legends Division run.

Let's also be honest about the Legends Division here—does anyone see a team that's head-and-shoulders above anyone else?

Every team in the division has some flaw or some big-time injury to deal with. So, why couldn't Northwestern still end up division champs? 

Come out unscathed from its next five games and Northwestern certainly will control its own destiny, despite two losses on it's hands. 

If ever there was a team or a situation that shows why division games are important it is what Northwestern will face over the next five weeks. 

So, cheer up Northwestern fans, all is not lost for your season.

In fact, everything you hoped to achieve at the beginning of the season is still right there for the taking. No need to feel sorry for yourselves, get that chin up, and who knows, you could still end up in Indianapolis playing for the silver football after all!


*Andy Coppens is the Big Ten Lead Writer. You can follow him on Twitter: @ andycoppens.