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Northwestern wins Big Ten West title

The second in three years. Not bad at all.

Paul Sullivan: Northwestern took the bait, and now the 5-0 Wildcats must keep proving ESPN’s Joey Galloway wrong John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Update: Following No 16. Wisconsin’s loss to No. 12 Indiana, there are really, really no questions about who wins the West. Regardless of what happens next week, the ‘Cats are division champs.

Only in 2020 do you question an official press release that says Northwestern has won the Big Ten West.

The Wildcats (5-1) earned a berth in the Big Ten Championship game following Saturday’s early games as well as at least a share of the division title, per a conference release.

There has been some hesitancy to call the West for NU with the potential changing nature of the conference’s Championship Game eligibility rules. When the Big Ten announced the restart of the season, rules dictated that teams must play at least six games (with the average rounded up/down at .50) to be eligible for the conference championship.

After Ohio State-Michigan State went final, the total number of Big Ten games played by all teams reached 78, bringing the team average to 5.57. But with No. 4 Ohio State having only played five games and its final regular season opponent, Michigan, dealing with COVID cases, there’s been talk among B1G brass about changing the requirement so the Buckeyes can be eligible to win the conference and bolster their case to make the College Football Playoff.

It seems safe to say the conference wouldn’t issue an official release declaring the Wildcats champions of the West if it suspected the rules could be changed. A rule change would potentially make Wisconsin eligible again, since the Badgers could go 4-1 which would beat out the ‘Cats’ 5-2 record if NU lost to Illinois next week. Iowa, with two losses, couldn’t leapfrog Northwestern since NU won the head-to-head matchup in Week Two.

Northwestern will face the East Division winner (likely Ohio State) in the Big Ten Championship at 11 a.m. CT on December 19 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.