Northwestern, following the completion of its 10-3 season, fell sharply in both major polls but remained in the Top 25 when the final AP and Coaches Polls were released Tuesday.
After suffering a 45-6 defeat at the hands of Tennessee in the Outback Bowl on Jan. 1, the Wildcats fell 10 spots (from No. 12 to No. 22) in the Coaches Poll and 11 spots (from No. 12 to No. 23) in the AP Poll. Despite their big win, the Volunteers did not move from their spot in either poll and stayed at No. 23 in the Coaches Poll and No. 22 in the AP Poll.
The Top 25 finish is just the fourth time the program has been ranked after a season and it is the first time since Northwestern was ranked No. 17 following the 2012 season. The Wildcats' season-high ranking of No. 12 was the program's highest mark since 2000, when the team reached that same rank.
Northwestern beat two teams ranked in the Top 25: Stanford, ranked No. 3 in both polls, and Wisconsin, ranked No. 21 in both polls. Pat Fitzgerald's team also lost to three programs ranked in the final polls: Iowa, ranked No. 9 in the AP and No. 10 in the Coaches Poll, Michigan, ranked No. 12 in the AP and No. 11 in the Coaches Poll, and Tennessee.
In 2016, the Wildcats will face No. 4 Ohio State and No. 6 Michigan State, along with division foes Iowa and Wisconsin.