By: Andrew Bowen
After Northwestern’s 29-12 loss to Minnesota on Saturday, the Wildcat’s chances of making the cut for a bowl game with 6 wins looks slimmer. And while Northwestern could theoretically make a bowl with five wins, with bowl selection looming, each loss earlier in the season is more heavily scrutinized.
One of the ‘Cats’ losses, a 9-7 loss vs. Illinois State, is an objectively bad games for a team coming off a 10-win season and a bowl appearance in the 2015 campaign. Illinois State is a bad FCS team, currently sitting at 6-5.
But another early season loss, Northwestern’s 22-21 nail-biting loss to Western Michigan, is not. In fact, while there’s no such thing as a “good-loss,” the ‘Cats loss to Western Michigan just may come close.
Currently ranked number 14 in the AP Top 25, Western Michigan is one of two undefeated teams in the FBS with a record of 11-0. They have steamrolled opponents: winning each game by an average of 26.1 points. The Alabama Crimson Tide, currently ranked number 1, boast an average margin of victory of 28.9 points.
Western Michigan also boasts a top-10 offense nationally, averaging 43.8 points per game led by the seventh-best receiver in the nation in Corey Davis, who has 30 more receiving yards than tenth-ranked Austin Carr this season despite having 5 fewer receptions.
Northwestern’s defense was also able to hold the Broncos’ offense to only 22 points in their game; the lowest point total Western Michigan has scored all season.
Northwestern’s game against the Broncos was not only their closest, but a winnable one for the ‘Cats as well. A fumble by Clayton Thorson at the Western Michigan 1-yard line ended what looked like a potential game-winning drive for Northwestern.
Justin Jackson as well had himself a big game, as he ran for 124 yards on the day on 23 carries, a typical load for the workhorse back.
Despite their 11-0 record, critics believe Western Michigan to be overrated in the rankings due to their mid-major conference and weak strength of schedule (The Broncos rank 124 in terms of strength of schedule). However, Western Michigan has trounced the teams it has played; beating every team they were supposed to and upset Northwestern and Illinois.
Overall, the ‘Cats game against Western Michigan was one of Northwestern’s better losses. Western Michigan is ranked and boasts one of the best records in the country. While other blemishes on their record might keep the ‘Cats up at night, Northwestern can keep their heads high knowing they lost to one of the top football teams in the nation.