Walking away from Ryan Field on Saturday, I (Henry Bushnell) was brainstorming content ideas in reaction to Northwestern's win over No. 21 Stanford. I texted Josh Rosenblat telling him that if both Nebraska and Wisconsin were to lose. We were going to do a roundtable answering the simple question: "Is Northwestern the favorite in the Big Ten West?"
His response was probably one you had when reading the title: "Yusss. [Flame emoji] takes all day." And it's true, to say Northwestern was immediately the division favorite would've been a pretty hot take. But given the other results, I told him, it was a question worth answering. Those other results fell into place. So here we are...
Is Northwestern the favorite to win the Big Ten West?
Henry Bushnell: So I was the one whose idea this roundtable was, and I think this is absolutely a fair and pertinent question after the Wildcats surprised Stanford, and after the three teams that I believed to be better than NU all faltered. In fact, some seem to think the answer is yes. But I'm not ready to go so far as to call Northwestern the division favorite. That's still Wisconsin. You can't judge any team, much less the Badgers, on 60 minutes against Alabama. But I'd put NU on the same level as Nebraska — perhaps ahead of the Cornhuskers based on schedule. If Northwestern heads to conference play at 4-0, then we might be able to start using the term "favorite."
"So if Northwestern gets past Duke" is a postseason related something I just thought to myself. https://t.co/9tqYbF1VEA— Steven Godfrey (@38Godfrey) September 6, 2015
Josh Rosenblat: No. But that's because there really is no favorite right now. Northwestern looked pretty good. Minnesota was no slouch against TCU. Nebraska... well they deserve it. Wisconsin played Alabama well for a half. Iowa looked fine against Illinois State. Defensively, Northwestern's unit was probably the second-most impressive behind Minnesota. I know Northwestern gave up just 6 points compared to the 23 the Gophers surrendered, but there's no denying that TCU's offense is far more potent than Stanford's. Offensively, no team was really that impressive, which gives Northwestern a chance to compete for the West championship. Right now, though, I'd put Northwestern slightly behind Minnesota but ahead of Wisconsin, Nebraska and Iowa.
Kevin Dukovic: No.
Thanks for the analysis Kevin.
Zach Pereles: No. I would still take Wisconsin and perhaps Nebraska over Northwestern. Playing one game — albeit one very good game — doesn't make you the favorite. I was not impressed at all by Stanford. The Cardinal looked tired, undisciplined and overall not what Stanford teams have normally looked like in the recent past. Remember when Northwestern dominated Penn State and beat Wisconsin last year and we were asking this same question? This is an even smaller sample size.
Additionally, there's no denying Northwestern got lucky in this game. Stanford dropped at least three picks and several more passes that were tipped just happened to find the ground. It was a terrific win, don't get me wrong, but I'm not a firm believer in this team until they get through the non-conference schedule at 4-0. Then, maybe. But not now.
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Ian McCafferty: Maybe? After Saturday I'm much more confident in this team then I was last week, but I don't think I'm confident enough to put them over Wisconsin outright. I do think they're currently the "favorite" non-Wisconsin team though. A "dark horse" so to speak. Nebraska didn't look all that impressive against BYU and the game was in Lincoln. Minnesota looked okay, but they don't have an offense. Illinois played Kent State, Iowa played Illinois State, and, well, Purdue is Purdue. I think the game at Camp Randall in November might very well decide the Big Ten West, but it's a little early for that. I'd like to see a little bit more of this offense before I commit to that idea. But, if the defense consistently plays like it did against Stanford, Northwestern will have at least a shot of going to Indy in December.
Michael Odom: No, but almost. Wisconsin is still a slight favorite over Northwestern. Prior to Saturday, I believed the Wildcats face a tougher conference schedule than Wisconsin, as Northwestern plays Michigan and Penn State whereas the Badgers take on Rutgers and Maryland (the rest of the schedule is identical). But, Rutgers and Maryland took care of business while the Nittany Lions and the Wolverines laid an egg on Saturday, so Northwestern might have an easier schedule. Regardless, a smackdown at the hands of Alabama doesn't mean much, especially not in Week 1. I'm going to need a couple more convincing wins before I'm sold on Northwestern going to Indianapolis.