2015 or 1995? Northwestern As B1G Title Material


Two decades ago, Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald helped the Wildcats to an improbable Big Ten championship and Rose Bowl run.

Recent past goes further into Northwestern’s rear-view mirror…

…while much days much longer ago feel so much more recent.

The ’15 season feels a little bit more like the ’95 campaign each time the Fitzgerald-coached Wildcats take the field. With Saturday’s rout of previously 3-1 Minnesota, Northwestern improved to 5-0 and, as of this writing, moved to No. 1 in the nation in scoring defense at just 35 points allowed.

In its Week 1 defeat of Stanford, Northwestern held the nationally ranked Cardinal without a touchdown — the first time a Wildcats team had accomplished such a feat since 1995.

Saturday’s blanking of a potential Big Ten West contender showed defensive prowess on par with the 35-0 beating of Wisconsin Fitzgerald’s ‘Cats through in October 1995.

With unanimous preseason favorites Ohio State and Michigan State still unbeaten, yet both struggling — Sparty barely escaped Purdue Saturday — why not Northwestern out of the Big Ten?

Well, aside from their still being seven games remaining on the Wildcats’ schedule, the recent past is a reminder to proceed cautiously.

Northwestern’s Week 6 showdown with Michigan at the Big House suddenly has huge implications, as the Wolverines blew out Maryland Saturday to move to 4-1.

Two surprising, ranked teams. Two intriguing, fiery head coaches. The possibility of College Gameday visiting Ann Arbor suddenly seems very real.

The last time Northwestern was on the Gameday and national game of the week stage, it endured a loss to Ohio State that sent the Wildcats into a tailspin throughout 2013 and 2014.

But then, in 1995, Northwestern marched into the Big House for a Top 25 matchup with then-No. 7 Michigan and left 19-13 winners.

Next week’s Northwestern-Michigan encounter will tell us a lot about the second-half of the Big Ten season.

Forget the next Friends, you can videotape it; fire up CFB Huddle on Netscape; turn your cordless phone’s ringer off for the week. Because it’s beginning to feel a lot like 1995.