Who would have thought that Wisconsin vs. Northwestern football would be a top-20 showdown? What’d we learn from the Wildcats’ win?
If high-scoring football games are what you enjoy watching, this Northwestern vs. Wisconsin game was not for you. This matchup was your typical old school Big Ten game. Low-scoring, trying to establish the run, field position, smart coaching and clock management were all featured. This game also had a few turnovers which we will get more into later.
Both teams struggled offensively throughout much of the game. Graham Mertz and the Badgers offense put up 468 yards of offense last week, but only were able to put up 366 this week. Yeah, you might say it’s only about a 100 yard less, but if you watched the game it felt more like 200. It really came down to Wisconsin not being able to pick up huge chunk plays on offense like in previous weeks.
Northwestern also came into the game playing well on the offensive side of the ball. The Wildcats are led by transfer quarterback Peyton Ramsey, plus have a running back duo in Isaiah Bowser and Drake Anderson. Both running backs had a rather quiet afternoon as Northwestern only ran for 24 yards as a team.
The offenses on both sides may have not been crisp, but credit has to be given to both teams on the defensive side of the ball. Both teams have very good and respected defensive units. Need some proof? Go back and look at the first nine possessions of the second half. All those nine possessions ended with a punt. Five punts from Northwestern, and four punts from Wisconsin.
Last week I mentioned how Paul Chryst seems to not get enough credit overall. Well, it is about time to include Pat Fitzgerald in that same group too. Like Chryst, Fitzgerald does not get the the same five star recruits like other schools around the country to come play at Northwestern. But year after year, Fitzgerald always seems to have Northwestern competing in the Big Ten.
Last year was not pretty for the Northwestern football program finishing 3-9. But since 2015, the Wildcats are 44-26 under Fitzgerald. The Wildcats just play with a lot of confidence that they can compete with anyone in the country. The players get that confidence from their head coach week after week. That confidence was put on full display in the game today. This was Northwestern’s first top-10 win since 2011 when they defeated Nebraska.
Wisconsin still has a chance to win the Big Ten West, but will need some help. Wisconsin has to not only win out the rest of the way, but now needs two losses from Northwestern.
The remaining teams on the schedule for Northwestern are Michigan State, Minnesota and in-state rival Illinois. Those teams currently have a combined record of 5-9. Northwestern should be favored in those games, but it is 2020 so anything can happen.
Here are three takeaways from this Big Ten matchup.