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Ohio State vs. Northwestern: Are the Wildcats Ready to Become Elite?

Kain Colter

Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

It’s hard to see the Ohio State Buckeyes losing a game this year. In fact, they are looking better and better by the week. Beating the Wisconsin Badgers last week, the Buckeyes asserted themselves into conference title favoritism with an overwhelming statement win. The game wasn’t close throughout, but the fourth quarter got a bit interesting. This week, the Buckeyes must travel to Evanston, Ill., to take on the No. 16 Northwestern Wildcats.

Northwestern has been one of those Big Ten teams that can beat anyone, anywhere. Recently, the Wildcats have grown into a conference power and that success can be attributed to Pat Fitzgerald who has turned the conference kittens into contending Wildcats.

Coming off an 10-win season and a Gator Bowl victory, the Wildcats have become everyone’s favorite underdog in the conference.

Fitzgerald has been the savior of this program. A former Northwestern linebacker, the fiery head coach took over the head coaching position in 2006 and turned Northwestern football around. Reaching just four wins in his first season, Fitzgerald received some criticism and people thought that he might not be the guy for the job — not the right guy to take the Wildcats back to the Rose Bowl.

Six seasons of at least six wins and 50 wins later and some people consider his one of the best coaches in the conference. After their first bowl win under Fitzgerald in 2012, the Wildcats are looking for a program-defining win on Saturday against the Buckeyes.

With a win, they will become favorites to win the tough Legends Division and make their first ever Big Ten title game appearance.

Can they win? Yes. Will they win? Only if Trevor Siemian and Kain Colter have the game of their lives while the Northwestern defense plays its best game of the year.

It will be tough, but if anyone can surprise the Buckeyes this season, outside of the Michigan Wolverines, it’s going to be the Wildcats. It’s time for this program to become an elite Big Ten football program — we all know the whole “at least we have basketball season” excuse doesn’t work for Northwestern.

For the first time in a while, missing out on a Rose Bowl will be a disappointment for the Wildcats.

Related: Northwestern Wildcats’ Dual Quarterback Threat Could Be Trouble for Ohio State Buckeyes’ Defense

Ohio State vs. Northwestern: Game Preview With TV Schedule

Connor Muldowney is a columnist for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @Connormuldowney, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google. You can also reach him at muldown5@gmail.com.