Wildcats big surprise at top of Big Ten leader board after three weeks

by Sarah Mitchell

Talk about the unexpected.
With the Big Ten football season well underway, Northwestern (5-1, 3-0 Big Ten) sits atop the conference standings while Wisconsin (3-3, 0-3) rests at the bottom.
Ohio State coach John Cooper tried to explain the unexplainable.
“It’s college football,” Cooper said. “We don’t have the monopoly over here in the Big Ten. It’s happening all over the country.”
After two conference road wins over Wisconsin and Michigan State, Northwestern returned home Saturday and disposed of another Big Ten foe. The Wildcats delighted the home crowd with a 52-33 win over Indiana.
On the other end, the Badgers dropped their third consecutive conference game, losing 23-7 to Ohio State.
Following their win, a group of Buckeyes players danced on the red “W” painted at midfield of Camp Randall Stadium. Somebody needs a reason to celebrate in Madison.
“I can’t say it’s been easy. It’s been difficult for everyone,” Badgers coach Barry Alvarez said. “There’s a lot of season left. We certainly haven’t checked anything in yet.
Like Cooper, Alvarez tried to make sense of the race.
“There’s a great deal of parity,” Alvarez said. “That’s why you play the games. That’s why college football is so great. It’s not predictable.”

Iowa wins
Oct. 7, 2000, was not a typical day in Iowa. For the first time since Sept. 18, 1999, the Hawkeyes chalked one up in the win column.
In front of its home crowd, Iowa defeated Michigan State 26-24, snapping a 13-game losing streak. The win was the Hawkeyes first conference victory since Oct. 10, 1998.
“We’re obviously happier this week than we have been the past couple of weeks,” Hawkeyes coach Kirk Ferentz said. “We’re pleased with our team because they hung in there.”
History, however, predicted the Iowa win. The Spartans have not won at Kinnick Stadium since 1989.

Players of Week
Somebody needs to stop Wildcats running back Damien Anderson. For the second consecutive week, Anderson was named the Big Ten’s offensive player of the week.
The junior rushed for a career high 292 yards on 36 carries (8.1 yards per carry) with four touchdowns in Northwestern’s defeat of Indiana. Along the way, Anderson set or tied 10 school records, becoming the first Wildcat to ever post back-to-back 200-yard games.
Iowa swept the other conference awards. Hawkeyes linebacker Aaron Kampman was chosen as defensive player. The junior posted 16 tackles against the Spartans and was credited with the blocked field goal which led to Iowa’s game-winning drive.
Hawkeyes wide receiver Kahlil Hill took special teams honors. Hill recorded 129 return yards against the Spartans, including a 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.

Sarah Mitchell covers football and welcomes comments at [email protected]