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An update on Northwestern's past opponents

Northwestern's losses haven't turned out to be as bad as they seemed at the time.

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Northwestern has their back to the wall, needing to win their last two games (very achievable) to secure bowl eligibility. But it seems that their losses haven't been as bad as they seemed at the time, particularly the non-conference defeats. Let's check in with each of Northwestern's past opponents and see how their seasons have fared.

California Golden Bears

Result against NU: 31-24 W

Current record: 5-5, 3-5 Pac-12

Cal is a much improved from last year's team that won exactly one football game and went winless in the Pac-12. QB Jared Goff is a total stud, and Cal's offense is fourth in passing yards and ninth in scoring in the country (we won't talk about their defense, however). They hung around with Oregon and almost completed a comeback from 31-2 to beat USC at the Coliseum. They're competitive in one of the best two football conferences in the country and if they can manage a win they'll be bowl eligible.

When Northwestern lost to 'Cal, people had no idea what to expect from the Golden Bears. The only real thing they had to look at was Cal's abysmal record in 2013. But Cal's better than anyone expected them to be, and remember, had NU not come out comically unprepared they would have won that football game. A loss is a loss, but the point is that it's not nearly as bad a loss as people made it out to be at the time. The same rings true for the next team on this list.

Northern Illinois Huskies

Result against NU: 23-15 W

Current record: 9-2, 6-1 MAC

Northern Illinois has established themselves as contenders in the MAC, currently in a three-way tie for first place in the MAC West with Western Illinois and Toldeo, whom Northern Illinois beat last week. They beat Ohio 21-14 last night (Tuesday night football is apparently a thing now), setting up a showdown with Western Michigan with a berth in the MAC Championship game most likely against Bowling Green at stake. It seems Northern Illinois football is bigger than one player, as their running game remains best in the MAC despite the loss of talisman Jordan Lynch. They're a lock for a bowl game, and back to back wins over Western Michigan and Ball State would get NIU to 11 wins.

Western Illinois Fighting Leathernecks

Result against NU: 7-24 L

Current record: 4-7, 2-5 Missouri Valley Football Conference (FCS)

Not going to sugar coat this one: Western Illinois is a terrible, terrible football team compared to Northwestern or any of Northwestern's opponents. NU played them coming off back-to-back losses, essentially in full crisis mode, and they played far from inspired football against the Fighting Leathernecks. It's a good thing Western Illinois was/is bad enough to lose to Northern Iowa, because Northwestern was playing truly awful at the time and could have easily lost that game had the opponent been...competent. But here at NU football, we'll take any win we can get :)

Penn State Nittany Lions

Result against NU: 6-29 L

Current Record: 6-4, 2-4 Big Ten

Penn State was 4-0 when Northwestern stomped on them in front of 100,000 people at their homecoming, but those in the know reminded us at the time that Penn State wasn't very good, and that's proved true. Their lone two conference wins have been against bottom dwellers Rutgers and Indiana, but what's interesting is their three losses to teams not named Northwestern have come by a combined 13 points, including a double-overtime loss to the current #6 team in the country, Ohio State. Still, 2-4 in the Big Ten is not what first-year coach James Franklin had in mind when he left Vanderbilt for Happy Valley.

Wisconsin Badgers

Result against NU: 14-20 L

Current record: 8-2, 5-1 Big Ten, #16 in College Football Playoff Ranking

When Northwestern stunned Wisconsin on that rainy October day, the Badgers didn't look like a team that would eventually catch fire and challenge for the Big Ten title. But that's exactly what the Badgers have done. They're 8-2 and pounded Nebraska last week, riding Heisman contender Melvin Gordon (who put forth an absolutely incredible effort, totaling 408 yards and four three quarters!) to an easy 59-24 win. If they can get by Iowa and Minnesota (no easy task), they'll represent the Big Ten West and take on Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship game.

Minnesota Golden Gophers

Result against NU: 24-17 W

Current record: 7-3, 4-2 Big Ten, #25 in College Football Playoff Ranking

Minnesota has a nice record, but that's mostly a product of a back-loaded Big Ten schedule- they finish their season with two games they'll be underdogs in: a trip to Lincoln to take on Nebraska, and then the season finale at Wisconsin. Remember, the 'Cats had every chance to win that football game- a 100-yard kick-off return from Jaylen Myrick killed all the 'Cats' momentum. I'm still not exactly sure how Minnesota is ranked in the top-25 after losing to Ohio State last week, but they are, and that looks good for Northwestern.

Nebraska Cornhuskers

Result against NU: 38-17 W

Current record: 8-2, 4-2 Big Ten, #23 in College Football Playoff Ranking

Nebraska came into last week's showdown with Wisconsin ranked #16, but got ran all over both literally and figuratively. They'd had a great season up to that point, with their only loss coming against Michigan State in a really close game. But last week's loss really hurt them, as Wisconsin now holds the head-to-head advantage and thus has the inside track to representing the West in the Big Ten Championship game.

Iowa Hawkeyes

Result against NU: 48-7

Current record: 7-3, 4-2 Big Ten

NU's 48-7 loss to Iowa was one of Northwestern's low points this season. Iowa has had a good-not-great year, with no real quality wins. They'll also be underdogs in lose their last two games, both at home against Wisconin and Nebraska, respectively. But it's not really fair for us to throw shade at a team that destroyed Northwestern as bad as Iowa did just 18 days ago.

Michigan Wolverines

Result against NU: 10-9 W

Current record: 5-5, 3-3 Big Ten

Michigan has had a remarkably average season, which is why you've heard so much about how bad they are- Michigan football simply doesn't accept average. They absolutely need to beat Maryland at home this week to make a bowl game (their fan base will FLIP if they don't), as their chances of beating an Ohio St. team that's in Playoff contention on the road in the seasons finale are hovering around zero. Brady Hoke is likely toast after this year no matter how they finish it.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Result against NU: 40-43 L (still hard to believe)

Current record: 7-3

Notre Dame was once a legitimate playoff contender as team whose only loss was a controversial game against unbeaten Florida State. But things have turned south in South Bend, with the Irish on a two game losing streak with two tough games to play. They'll play host to #24 Louisville this week before heading to #19 Southern Cal in the season finale. There's a better-than-slim chance that Notre Dame ends this season that was once so promising 7-5.

Composite record of teams Northwestern beat: 25-16

Composite record of teams Northwestern lost to: 41-20

Composite record of all of Northwestern's opponents: 66-36