Northwestern, come on down.
The Wildcats have been flying under the radar all season long — well, not all that long, considering the league started in late October — in the shadows of Big Ten kingpin Ohio State and, until Saturday, Wisconsin. Heck, even struggling Penn State and Michigan, who now have two wins between them since the Wolverines’ skin-of-their-teeth escape of Rutgers in three overtimes, have captured more attention.
But no more.
Those brainiacs from Evanston, Ill., spanked the Badgers on Saturday, thanks to a strong defensive effort that sparked five takeaways. Never mind the Cats ran for only 24 yards. A win’s a win.
And so Northwestern climbed into my top 10 for the first time at No. 9, jumping from No. 16. Pat Fitzgerald’s team took Indiana’s spot on my Associated Press Top 25 ballot, sending the Hoosiers back a couple of spots to No. 11 after a valiant comeback try against the Buckeyes. The Wildcats are sitting pretty at 5-0 with a clear path to the West Division title in the Big Ten.
The rest of the poll experienced very little shakeup with 18 games postponed or canceled this weekend.
Iowa State made the other biggest jump in the rankings, rising to No. 12 after crushing a sinking Kansas State club devoid of offense. Oklahoma is one notch below at No. 13 after dominating rival Oklahoma State in a a Bedlam game that was never close. The Sooners have played so well, they’re making a belated (and probably hopeless) bid for a College Football Playoff berth if they can get to and win the Big 12 championship for the sixth straight year.
The Cowboys plummeted to 20th, one spot below idle Texas.
Liberty, a narrow loser to North Carolina State, dropped out of my top 25, replaced by North Carolina. Memphis, Auburn, UCF, Army and unbeaten Nevada got serious consideration.
Here’s my Top 25:
- Notre Dame
- Ohio State
- Texas A&M
- Iowa State
- Coastal Carolina
- Oklahoma State
- North Carolina