Pat Fitzgerald intense-o-meter: Northwestern vs. Michigan

David Banks

The Northwestern Wildcats head to Ann Arbor to play the Michigan Wolverines, who may or may not have Denard Robinson available after he missed last week's game with an elbow injury.

So it's back to the football grind, plus basketball, plus this is a pretty swell time of year, huh? Northwestern plays Michigan in what some might describe as an "interesting" football game this weekend, so let's talk about it.

We still don't know whether Denard Robinson will play on Saturday - last week, he was a game-time decision thanks to an elbow injury - but quite frankly Devin Gardner looked alright in his surprise start. I thought Michigan would be one of the best teams in the conference preseason, and although they've lost more games than Northwestern this year, it's hard to say they aren't: they've lost to two Top 5 teams that are still undefeated, and blew a game against Nebraska in which their staring quarterback got injured.

Let's take a look at the meter!

Pat Fitzgerald INTENSE-O-METER reading:7.7

Symptoms include: can microwave pop-tarts just by putting them in his mouth, which is really inconvenient when you actually think about the logistics of how you want your pop-tarts microwaved

Last week:8.2

There's three potential roads the rest of Northwestern's season could take: the Wildcats could win out, putting them in a position to be an at-large BCS team or in the Big Ten Championship game. That's unlikely. They could also lose out and be a disappointing 7-5. That's even more unlikely, just on account of Illinois.

What will probably happen is Northwestern will take one or two of the next three and go to one of the better Big Ten bowls. Nate Silver would probably give this possibility like a 90 percent chance of happening. For whatever reason, this has me a little apathetic about this week, when Northwestern is randomly ranked in the BCS but going into Ann Arbor as an underdog. The potential of a Northwestern Big Ten Championship run is almost mathematically dead, which sort of sucked out a lot of the enthusiasm I had earlier in the year.

Still, this is a pretty big game. A chance to go into the Big House and get the... er... upset? is fun. I'm hoping Denard plays and comedy ensues, after he threw for over 300 yards - but three picks - in his only career matchup against Northwestern thus far.

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